Spiritual stories have been used for centuries to share sacred teachings in a way that’s easy to understand. Many spiritual masters use stories and anecdotes to ingrain in their students the finer points of truth and wisdom.
The following story was one of the favourites of Sri Ramakrishna, a 19th century Indian spiritual master. In its simplicity and charm it reveals to us who we truly are – and also who we are not!
Once a tigress attacked a herd of goats, when she was shot by a hunter. With her dying strength she gave birth to a little tiger cub, who was left behind with the herd of goats. The goats accepted the tiger cub as one of their own and so it grew up in the ways and habits of the goats. It ate grass, learned how to run from predators, and it even bleated like a goat.
One day a wild tiger from the jungle approached the herd. When it pounced for the attack, to its wide surprise it saw one of his own kind running away bleating like the rest of the goats. It seized the bleating tiger, who stood paralyzed with fear. The big tiger said, “Why do you bleat like a goat? Don’t act like a fool, I will show you who you really are.”
The big tiger took his younger counterpart to a nearby pond. While bending down to the water, he said, “Look! Your face looks exactly like mine. Now you can see that you are not a goat. You are a tiger.” Upon seeing the reflection of his face the tiger got the shock of his life. At the same time he felt oddly familiar in the company of the wild tiger. Already he felt something inside him was changing.
The big tiger said, “Come with me. I will teach you how to behave like the tiger you really are.” The little tiger followed him to the jungle and in due time learned to behave like his true self.
This beautiful story teaches us that deep inside us we are much more than we think we are. We identify with our physical body, our thoughts, our work, our social status. But this is not who we truly are. In reality we are something much deeper, purer and more beautiful. As the wise masters teach us, what we truly are is the soul, the divine spark deep within us.
When we are not yet conscious of who we are, we look around us to see what others are doing, and then copy their behaviour. We behave like a goat among a herd of other goats. But when we become conscious of our soul, we realize that we are a unique creation. We connect to our higher self, and experience a constant flow of happiness and peace. Then we learn how to live in harmony with our true nature.
In the story the big tiger represents the illumined spiritual teacher or Guru. Because such a person is fully awakened to his true nature, he can inspire and help others to realize who they truly are.
There is a spiritual tiger inside you. Allow it to come to the fore and roar!
(from: Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 95, Agni Press, 1983)
You are not only the body,
You are not only the vital,
You are not only the mind,
You are not only the heart,
But you are also the soul,
Especially the soul.