The following is a story I heard from Swami Adiswarananda (1973 – 2007), Spiritual Head of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, New York.
In India, one circus was traveling from one city to another for its shows.
The circus was not making much money, so it adopted a cheaper way of transportation. It loaded heavy materials, like poles and tents, on the back of donkeys.
To make sure that the donkeys did not run away, logs of wood were tied from their front left foot to their hind right foot. With the logs of wood, the donkeys could walk slowly but could not run away.
During the shows, the donkeys were free of their load, but the logs of wood always remained tied to their feet. In the daytime, the donkeys were allowed to walk around to graze. At night, they came back to the circus for more food and shelter.
One day, one donkey slowly walked far away from the circus and neared a forest.
There, he met a wild donkey who was freely running around. They started a conversation. The circus donkey said, “At the end of the day, I do not have to worry if I do not get enough food to eat while roaming around because I am sure to get food at the circus.”
The forest donkey said, “It is true that I have slept without food for many nights, but I am happy that my feet are not tied up by a log of wood. I can walk, run, and dance freely without that bondage. Also, I can wander around wherever I want to go and enjoy the beautiful nature. If you want to enjoy freedom, you should come with me and we will find a way to remove your log of wood.
After listening to the forest donkey, the circus donkey felt that he should join him, but was hesitant to let go of the opportunities that could arise if he stayed with the circus.
The forest donkey asked, “What is the future prospect that is stopping you from your own freedom?”
The circus donkey said, “It is a long story. The circus manager has a beautiful young daughter. She is very good in the swing part of the circus. One day, she was practicing various swinging tricks and I was observing. During the practice session, she did not catch the swing and fell on the net. The manager was furious and said, ‘If you fall one more time, I will marry you to this donkey.’ So you see, I am waiting for the daughter to fall. Marrying her is my future prospect.” 🙂
The forest donkey quietly left and went deeper into the forest.
Lesson Learned: Most people dream of achieving something in life. Many do not get opportunities to work towards their dreams. However, many do get opportunities to work hard and realize their dreams. Obstacles do come in their way, but they overcome them with determination and tenacity and are able to fulfill their dreams.
Some people have dreams but wait for miracles to occur, which may help them realize their dreams. Usually these are false hopes.
We have to be careful not to entertain imaginary future prospects.
(Thanks to Pallavi Tatapudy and Ishani Trivedi for editing this post).