The Story of an Ignorant Devotee
A Hindu devotee was puzzled about what kind of scriptures he should read, and what kind of idol he should worship. (Idols are used to help fix the mind in concentration on a particular god) As soon as he bought and worshipped one idol, he would become afraid that the other gods might get angry, and he would buy another idol.
He carried the idols in two big trunks, suspended from his shoulders on a pole. Every day somebody would say, “You had better worship this god and idol or read this or that holy book.” Heavier and heavier the trunks grew. The man considered buying a third trunk but realized it was not possible for him to carry all three trunks.
One day he sat by the side of a pond and began to weep. “Heavenly Father, tell me which book to read and which idol to worship. As soon as I worship one god, I think the others are getting angry.”
It so happened that a saint passed by and, seeing the crying man said, “Son, why are you weeping? The man said, “Saint, I don’t know which book to read, and look at these hundreds of idols: I don’t know which one to please.”
The saint said, “Close your eyes and pick up any book and follow that one book through life. Drop the idols on a rock and break them one by one. Worship the one that does not break.” So the man picked up one book. Most of the idols were made of earth, and all broke except one which was made of solid stone.
Then the saint suddenly came back and said, “I forgot to tell you something. Now that you have found your god, go back home. But if you find a more powerful god than this one, worship him. Always worship the more powerful god.”
So the man went home and put the stone idol on a little altar, every day worshipping it and offering fruits. Every day he discovered that the fruit was gone. He thought, “The saint certainly led me to the right god. Since god has eaten the fruits, he must be a living god.”
One day, overcome by curiosity, the man decided he would watch how a god eats. While praying he opened his eyes a little and saw a big mouse come and eat the fruit. The man said, “Look at that stone idol. It cannot eat the fruit, but the mouse can. Then the mouse is a more powerful god.”
The man then caught the mouse by the tail and tied it on the altar. His wife said, “You have gone crazy.” The man replied, “No, I have not gone crazy. I am following the saint’s instructions to worship the more powerful god.” He threw the stone away and began to worship the mouse.
One day he was meditating when suddenly he heard a great noise and, opening his eyes, he saw a cat eating the mouse. He thought, “How interesting. The cat is more powerful than the mouse. So I must worship the cat.” He got hold of the cat and put it on the altar.
The cat became fat from being given bowls of milk each day, and from not having to chase and catch mice. Day by day the man’s meditation grew deeper and the cat got fatter. Every morning the man would always drink a bowl of milk. By now, the cat was not satisfied with drinking only her bowls of milk. One day she drank the man’s bowl of milk and then returned to the altar.
When the wife saw that her husband’s milk was gone, she looked at the innocent-looking cat sitting on the altar and went and got the broom. Her husband’s meditation was broken by the noise of the broom-stick falling on the cat. As the man watched his wife pounding the cat, he thought, “How interesting. My wife is more powerful than the cat, so she is a better god than the cat.”
He then demanded that his wife sit on the altar. So his wife sat on the altar and every day the man meditated on her. Of course the wife continued to cook food for her husband, and every day he would eat his meal after he finished worshipping his wife.
One day the man found a piece of charcoal in the rice. The man shouted at his wife, “Why did you put charcoal in the rice?” To which the wife promptly replied, “Master, I did not deliberately put charcoal in the rice. Master, forgive me, I am thy servant.”
Then her husband said, “Ah, how interesting. Since you are my servant and like to serve me, then I am more powerful than you are — and I am the most powerful god. God is in me. I have found Him within myself.”
Moral: It is impossible in this life to read all the Vedas and Bibles, and to follow all the various systems. To become God-like, you must search within just as the devotee in the above story did. You won’t find Him anywhere unless you find Him within. Finding Him within, you will find Him without.
From a 1938 article