Tales of Truth
Photo by Kiet Vuong.  Visit: http://www.robertbody.com
Below you will find various inspirational teaching stories.
The Three Fish

This is a story of the lake and the three big fish
that were in it, one of them intelligent,
another half-intelligent,
                 and the third, stupid.

Some fisherman came to the edge of the lake
with their nets.  The three fish saw them.

The intelligent fish decided at once to leave,
to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean.

He thought,
               "I won't consult with these two on this.
They will only weaken my resolve, because they love
this place so.  They call it home. Their ignorance
will keep them here."

When you're traveling, ask a traveler for advice,
not someone whose lameness keeps him in one place.

Muhammad says,
             "Love of one's country
               is part of the faith."
                         But don't take that literally!
Your real "country" is where you're heading,
not where you are.
Don't misread that hadith.

In ritual ablutions, according to tradition,
there's a separate prayer for each body part.
When you snuff water up your nose to cleanse it,
beg for the scent of the spirit.  The proper prayer is,
"Lord wash me.  My hand has washed this part of me,
but my hand can't wash my spirit.
                              I can wash this skin,
but you must wash me."

A certain man used to say the wrong prayer
for the wrong hole.  He'd say the nose-prayer
when he splashed his behind.  Can the odor of heaven
come from our rumps?  Don't be humble with fools.
Don't take pride into the presence of a master.

It's right to love your home place, but first ask,
"Where is that, really?"

The wise fish saw the men and their nets and said,
"I"m leaving."

Ali was told a secret doctrine by Muhammad
and told not to tell it, so he whispered it down
the mouth of a well.  Sometimes there's no one to talk to.
You must just set out on your own.

So the intelligent fish made its whole length
a moving footprint and, like a deer the dogs chase,
suffered greatly on its way, but finally made it
to the edgeless safety of the sea.

The half-intelligent fish thought,
                                "My guide
has gone.  I ought to have gone with him,
but I didn't, and now I've lost my chance
to escape.
                I wish I'd gone with him."
Don't regret what's happened.  If it's in the past,
let it go.  Don't even remember it!

A certain man caught a bird in a trap.
The bird says "Sir, you have eaten many cows and sheep
in your life, and you're still hungry.  The little bit
of meat on my bones won't satisfy you either.
If you let me go, I'll give you three pieces of wisdom.
One I'll say standing on your hand.  One on your roof.
And one I'll speak from the limb of that tree."

The man was interested.  He freed the bird and let it stand
on his hand.
                    "Number One: Do not believe an absurdity,
no matter who says it."

The bird flew and lit on the man's roof. "Number two:
Do not grieve over what is past.  It's over.
Never regret what has happened."

"By the way," the bird continued, "in my body there's a huge pearl weighing as much as ten copper coins.  It was meant
to be the inheritance of you and your children,
but now you've lost it.  You could have owned
the largest pearl in existence, but evidently
it was not meant to be."

The man started wailing like a woman in childbirth.
The bird: "Didn't I just say, Don't grieve
for what's in the past? And also, Don't believe
an absurdity? My entire body doesn't weigh
as much as ten copper coins. How could I have
a pearl that heavy inside me?"

The man came to his senses. "All right.
Tell me Number Three."

"Yes.  You've made such good use of the first two!"

Don't give advice to someone who is groggy
and falling asleep.  Don't throw seeds on the sand.
Some torn places cannot be patched.

Back to the second fish,
                      the half-intelligent one.
He mourns the absence of his guide for a while,
and then thinks, "What can I do to save myself
from these men and their nets? Perhaps if I pretend
to be already dead!
                             I'll belly up on the surface
and float like weeds float, just giving myself totally
to the water. To die before I die, as Muhammad
said to."
                So he did that.

He bobbed up and down, helpless,
within arm's reach of the fishermen.

"Look at this! The best and biggest fish
is dead."
              One of the men lifted him by the tail,
spat on him, and threw him up on the ground.

He rolled over and over and slid secretly near
the water, and then, back in.
the third fish, the dumb one, was agitatedly
jumping about, trying to escape with his agility
and cleverness.
                         The net, of course, finally closed
around him, and as he lay in the terrible
frying-pan bed, he thought,
                            "If I get out of this,
I'll never live again in the limits of the lake.
Next time, the ocean!  I'll make
the infinite my home."

From The Essential Rumi. By Coleman Barks with John Moyne.

The Three Fish     (Sufi)
The Disciples    (Sufi)
Two Travelling Monks   (Buddhist)
The Thief    (Buddhist)
The Necklace   (Hindu)
Khidr  and Moses  (Sufi)
Elder and Granddaughter   (Native American)
The Beggar and His Treasure   (Eckhart Tolle)
Eagle Chicken     (Anthony de Mello)
Untying the Ego    (Mother Amma)  
You Are That    (Hindu)
Shibli entered a profound mystical state and was placed in an
asylum as a madman.  As soon as they heard, his shocked disciples
come to visit him.
Shibli asked, "Who are you?"
"We are some of those who love and follow you."
Shibli began throwing stones at his students. They began to
run away, crying, "It's true. Shibli really has gone crazy."
    Then Shibli called out to them, "Didn't I hear you say that
you loved me?  You could not even bear a stone or two before
running away.  What became of that sincere love you claimed
you had for me?  Did your love fly away with a couple of stones?
If you had really loved me, you would have patiently endured
the little bit of discomfort I caused you."

Shibli, From Essential Sufism.

Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman.
Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across.
One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.

As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable
to hold his silence, he spoke out. "Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid
any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried

"Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side, while you are
still carrying her."

      Zen Story
There was one great master, a Buddhist master, Nagarjuna.  A thief came to him.  The
thief had fallen in love with the master because he had never seen such a beautiful person, such infinite grace.  He asked Nagarjuna, "Is there some possibility of my growth also?  But one thing I must make clear to you: I am a thief.  And another thing: I cannot leave it, so please don't make it a condition.  I will do whatsoever you say, but I cannot stop being a thief.  That I have tried many times--it never works, so I have left the whole sport.  I have accepted my destiny, that I am going to be a thief and remain a thief, so don't talk about it.  From the very beginning let it be clear."
   Nagarjuna said, "Why are you afraid?  Who is going to talk about your being a thief?
     The thief said,  "But whenever I go to a monk, to a religious priest, or to a religious saint, they always say, 'First stop stealing.'"
     Nagarjuna laughed and said, "Then you must have gone to thieves; otherwise, why? Why should they be concerned? I am not concerned!"
      The thief was very happy.  He said, "Then it is okay.  It seems that now I can become a disciple.  You are the right master."
       Nagarjuna accepted him and said, "Now you can go and do whatsoever you like.  Only one condition has to be followed: be aware!  Go, break into houses, enter, take things, steal; do whatsoever you like, that is of no concern to me, I am not a thief--but do it with full awareness."
        The thief couldn't understand that he was falling into the trap.  He said, "Then everything is okay. I will try."
         After three weeks he came back and said, "You are tricky--because if I become aware, I cannot steal.  If I steal, awareness disappears. I am in a fix."
          Nagarjuna said, "No more talk about your being a thief and stealing. I am not concerned;  I am not a thief. Now, you decide! If you want awareness, then you decide. If you don't want it, then too you decide."
          The man said, "But now it is difficult.  I have tasted it a little, and it is so beautiful--I will leave anything, whatsoever you say.  Just the other night for the first time I was able to enter the palace of the king.  I opened the treasure.  I could have become the richest man in the world--but you were following me and I had to be aware.  When I became aware, diamonds looked just like stones, ordinary stones.  When I lost awareness, the treasure was there.  And I waited and did this many times.  I would become aware and I became like a buddha, and I could not even touch it because the whole thing looked foolish, stupid--just stones, what am I doing?  Losing myself over stones?  But then I would lose awareness; they would become again beautiful, the whole illusion.  But finally I decided that they were not worth it."

From Awareness The Key to Living In Balance by Osho.
A lady had a precious necklace round her neck.  Once in her excitement she forgot it and thought that the necklace was lost.  She became anxious and looked for it in her home but could not find it.  She asked friends and neighbours if they knew anything about the necklace. They did not.  At last a kind friend of hers told her to feel the necklace round her neck.  She found that it had all along been round her neck and she was happy.  When others asked her later if she found the necklace which was lost, she said, 'Yes, I have found it.'  She still felt that she had recovered a lost jewel.

Now, did she lose it at all? It was all along round her neck.  But judge her feelings.  She was as happy as if she had recoverd a lost jewel.  Similarly with us, we imagine that we will realize that Self some time, whereas we are never anything but the Self.

From Be As You Are Teachings from Ramana Maharshi by David Godman.
At the place where the two seas meet, Moses met Khidr, one whom Allah had given knowledge of himself.  Moses asked Khidr, "May I follow you so that you may guide me by that which you have been taught?"
    "You will not be able to bear with me," Khidr replied.  "For how can you bear with that which is beyond your knowledge?"
     Moses said, "If Allah wills you will find me patient; I shall not disobey you in anything."
     Khidr said, "If you want to follow me, you must not ask any questions about anything, until I myself speak to you about it."
     The two set out.  They embarked on a ship and immediately Khidr bored a hole in the bottom of the ship.
      "What a strange thing you have done!" exclaimed Moses. "Have you bored a hole in order to drown the ship's passengers?"
        "Did I not tell you," Khidr replied, "that you would not bear with me?"
        "Pardon my forgetfulness," said Moses. "Do not be angry with me because of this."
        They continued on their journey until they met a young man.  Moses' companion killed this young man, and Moses said: "You have killed an innocent man who has done nothing wrong.  You have committed a wicked crime."
       "Did I not tell you," Khidr replied, "that you would not bear with me?"
            Moses said: "If  I ever question you again, abandon me; for then I would have deserved it.
        They journeyed on until they came to a certain city.  They asked the people for some food, but these people would not receive them as guests.  Finding a wall on the point of falling down,  Moses' companion repaired it.  Moses said to his companion, "If you had wanted, you could have asked payment for you work."
       "The time has now come when we must separate," said Khidr.  "But first I will explain to you the meaning of those acts which you could not bear to watch in patience.
       "The ship belonged to some poor fishermen. I damaged it because if it  had gone to sea it would have been captured by a king who was seizing every boat by force.
       "The young man was a criminal, who would have committed many crimes that would have brought sorrow to many people, including his parents.
       "As for the wall, it belonged to two orphaned boys in the city whose father was an honest man.  Beneath the wall their treasure is buried.  Allah decreed in his mercy that they should dig out this ttreasure when they grew to manhood.  What I did was not by my own will.
     "That is the meaning of my acts which you could not bear to watch with patience."

From the Quran, taken here from Catching the Thread, Sufism, Dreamwork and Jungian Psychology by Llewellyn Vaughan- Lee.
An old Cherokee is telling his granddaughter about a fight that is going on inside himself. He said it is between two wolves. One is evil: Anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.  The other is good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The granddaughter thought about it for a minute and then asked her grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one I feed."

-Unknown Author- Native American Story
A beggar had been sitting by the side of the road for thirty years.
One day a stranger walked by. 
"Spare some change?" mumbled the beggar.
"I have nothing to give you," said the stranger. Then he asked: "What's that you're sitting on?"

"Nothing, " replied the beggar. "Just an old box. I've been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.

"Ever look inside?," asked the stranger. 
"No," said the beggar. "What's the point, there's nothing in there."

"Have a look inside," insisted the stranger. The beggar, reluctantly, managed to pry open the lid.  With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.
I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even closer: inside yourself.

From The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
A man found an eagle's egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen.  The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.

   All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken.  He scratched the earth for worms and insects.  He clucked and cackled.  And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.

    Years passed and the eagle grew very old.  One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky.  It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings.

    The old eagle looked up in awe. "Who's that?" he asked.

     "That's the eagle, the king of the birds," said his neighbor.  "He belongs to the sky.  We belong to the earth-- we're chickens."  So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that's what he thought he was.  

From Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality
by Anthony de Mello
"There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that."

"Please, Father, tell me more about this Self."

"Yes, dear one, I will," Uddalaka said.
"Strike at the root of a tree; it would bleed
But still live.  Strike again at the top;
It would bleed but still live.  The Self as life
Supports the tree, which stands firm and enjoys
The nourishment it receives.
If the Self leaves one branch, that branch withers.
If it leaves a second, that too withers.
If it leaves a third, that again withers.
Let it leave the whole tree, the whole tree dies.
Just so, dear one, when death comes and the Self
Departs from the body, the body dies.
But the Self dies not.

"There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that Shvetaketu; you are that."

"Please Father, tell me more about this Self."
"Yes, dear one, I will," Uddalaka said.
"Bring me a fruit from the nyagrodha tree."

"Here it is, Sir."

"Break it. What do you see?"

"Nothing at all."

"That hidden essence you do not see, dear one,
From that a whole nyagrodha tree will grow.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that."

"Please, Father, tell me more about this Self."

"Yes dear one, I will," Uddalaka said.
"Place this salt in water and bring it here
Tomorrow morning." The boy did.
"Where is that salt?" his father asked.

"I do not see it."

"Sip here. How does it taste?"

"Salty, Father."

":And here? And there?"

"I taste salt everywhere."

"It is everywhere, though we see it not.
Just so, dear one, the Self is everywhere,
Within all things although we see him not.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that."

"Please, Father, tell me more about this Self."

"Yes, dear one, I will," Uddalaka said.

"As a man from Gandhara, blindfolded,
Led away and left in a lonely place,
Turns to the east and west and north and south
And shouts, 'I am left here and cannot see!"
Until one removes his blindfold and says,
'There lies Gandhara; follow that path,'
And thus informed, able to see for himself,
The man inquires from village to village
And reaches his homeland at last-- just so,
My son, one who finds an illumined teacher
Attains to spiritual wisdom in the Self.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.
He is the truth; he is the Self supreme.
You are that, Shvetaketu; you are that."

-From the Chandogya Upanishad

   There was a cowherd boy who took his cows to the meadows every morning and brought them back to the cowshed at the end of the day. One evening, as he was tying the cows up for the night, the boy found that one of them was missing her rope. He feared that she might run away, but it was too late to go and buy a new rope. The boy didn't know what to do, so he went to a wise man who lived nearby and sought his advice. The wise man told the boy to pretend to tie the cow, and make sure that the cow saw him doing it. The boy did as the wise man suggested and pretended to tie the cow. The next morning the boy discovered that the cow had remained still throughout the night. He untied all the cows as usual, and they all went outside. He was about to go to the meadows when he noticed that the cow with the missing rope was still in the cowshed. She was standing on the same spot where she had been all night. He tried to coax her to join the herd, but she wouldn't budge. The boy was perplexed. He went back to the wise man who said, "The cow still thinks she is tied up. Go back and pretend to untie her." The boy did as he was told, and the cow happily left the cowshed. This is what the guru does with the ego of the disciple. The guru helps untie that which was never there. Like the cow, due to our ignorance, we believe that we are bound by the ego when, in fact, we are completely free. We need to be convinced of this, however.

-Mother Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi)