An excerpt from an article I'm working on, this is my rendering of one of my all-time favorite of the Indian teaching stories I've heard over the years. Enjoy!!!
The Golden Vessel
Once there was a young seeker. From the moment he heard there was such a possibility as liberation, his heart ignited into a great blaze of mumukshutva, the burning desire for Enlightenment. With unquenchable thirst for the expanse of limitless freedom as his active companion, he set out in search of a Being who could lead him across the seemingly interminable ocean of human drama into the realization of the peace that passes all understanding.
He wandered for three full years from one end of India to another, sometimes going a week or more with only so much as a handful of dry mung beans to nourish his body. With a stone for his pillow, and a blanket of stars for his cover each night, the seeker began to get weary and depressed on his search. Would he never find such a One as could awaken him to the Truth of his own Self?
One day in a small Indian town bordering Nepal, he overheard some women gathering water from the local well animatedly discussing meeting “a being like no other” whose “mere glance opens the door of the Heart.”
A lightning bolt of energy shot through his nervous system.
“Where is He? I must see Him!” shouted the boy.
Looking down at his torn rags for clothes and his cracked, swollen feet, the women could easily have mistaken the young seeker for a common beggar. Yet the intensity of his focus, the trembling tears in his eyes, let them know this was no ordinary boy. It was clear he was on a mission, and wasn’t going to relent until they gave him some clue to the great Guru’s whereabouts.
Not only did they give him directions, these hidden angels of Grace helped clean him up with a bath, fresh clothes, and a steaming pile of chapattis for his journey. Precisely following the directions of the sweet Mothers, the boy climbed and climbed through jungle, over boulders, and barely through one very nearly overflowing river, bursting from the recent monsoon rains.
After three days journey, he made it to the Guru’s encampment. With folded hands and tears cascading down his flushed cheeks, the seeker found himself face-to-face with the great Master. Every sinew in his body was trembling in the somehow deeply familiar Presence.
“Why are you here?” asked the Teacher.
“I have heard that you are a friend of the Great Friend,” said the boy, “all I wish is His Liberation through Your Grace. Please Sir, would you initiate me as your disciple and show me the Path?”
“Yes,” said the Guru with a deep knowing smile, “But first, you must bring me the milk of a lioness, and only then I will initiate you.”
Thinking the area to be a jungle, and jungles as filled with tigers, he assumed such a task would be simple and set out immediately.
The task of gathering this milk is fodder for a whole other tale, for what he came to discover was that even more critical to the task is to have a vessel that can hold this rare substance.
At first he put it into a leather water skin whose membrane the milk promptly ate through and soaked into the dry earth. His second try was a wooden bowl, which he carefully balanced, endeavoring to preserve every drop, until three kilometer’s walk later he looked inside to see it barren.
Dejected, the boy crumbled on the weaving roots of ancient banyan tree. Already exhausted, the last little bit of energy he had left burst through his chest in a wild wail, melting through his eyes in a waterfall of tears of deep visceral longing. When he could cry no more, he fell into a deep, deep sleep. In this womb of silence the Devi of the forest appeared to him.
“My Son,” she said, “Your quest is not a loss. Now that you have used up all that you know, you are ready to learn. The milk of a lioness is the most acidic substance. The only vessel that can possibly hold it is one of pure gold. Between the roots where you are sleeping, about one meter below the earth, is such a bowl. It has been purified in a great fire, such that nothing but gold and gold alone remains. Dig it up and go to your Master, for you are now fit to be His student. Remember this lesson as your sadhana progresses; know what to hold and what to discard in the fire of Grace.”