A fountainhead of spiritual knowledge, the great sage Ramakrishna Paramhansa had a way of teaching disciples through earthy parables they could understand. One discourse went like this:
“Once, two friends were going along the street when they saw some people listening to a reading of the Bhagavata. ‘Come, friend,’ said the one to the other, ‘Let us hear the sacred book.’ So saying, he went in and sat down.
The second man glanced and went away. He entered a house of ill fame. But very soon he felt disgusted with the place. ‘Shame on me! My friend has been listening to the sacred word of Hari and see where I am!’, he said to himself.
But the friend who had been listening to the Bhagavata also became disgusted. ‘What a fool I am!’ he thought, ‘I have been listening to this fellow’s blah-blah, and my friend is having a grand time.’
In course of time, both died. The Messenger of Death came for the soul of one who had listened to the Bhagavata and dragged it off to Hell. The messenger of God came for the soul of the one who had been to the house of prostitution and led it up to Heaven.
Verily, the Lord looks into a man’s heart and does not judge him by what he does or where he lives.”
In another discourse, Sri Ramakrishna taught that what one runs after is within oneself. He illustrated this with the parable:
“A man wanted a smoke. He went to a neighbour’s house to light his charcoal. It was the dead of night and the household was asleep. After he had knocked a great deal, the neighbour came down to open the door.
At the sight of the man, he asked, ‘What’s the matter?’ The man replied, ‘You know how fond I am of smoking. I have come here to light my charcoal.’
The neighbour burst out laughing: ‘You are a fine man indeed! You took the trouble to come all the way over here and knock at my door! Why, you have a lighted lantern in your hand!’
What a man seeks is very near him. Still he wanders about from place to place.”