Ramakrishna’s Well

A beautiful little parable by the great Hindu sage, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1866).

It’s a great illustration of the purpose of story-telling.

Ramakrishna used to tell this story: `Three men went walking in a field. In the middle of the field there was a place surrounded by a high wall. From within this wall came the sounds of music; instruments were playing and voices sang. The men were charmed by it and wanted to see what was happening. But there was no door anywhere in the wall. What were they to do?

One of the men found a ladder somewhere and climbed to the top of the wall, while the other two waited below. When the man who was on top of the wall saw what was happening inside, he was beside himself with joy. He even forgot to tell the two below what he saw; he uttered a loud laugh and jumped down inside.

The other two exclaimed: “A fine friend he is! He didn’t tell us what he saw. We’ll have to look for ourselves.” So the second man climbed the ladder. And, like the first man, he looked over the wall and burst out laughing with joy, and jumped.

So what was the third man to do? He too climbed the ladder and looked over the wall and saw what was on the other side. It was like a market of happiness, given free to all comers. His first thought was to jump down and join in the rejoicing. But then he
said to himself: “If I do that, no one outside will ever know that this place of joy exists. Am I to be the only one to find it?”

So he forced his mind away from the sight, and he came down the ladder and began telling everyone he met: “In there is the market of happiness. Come with me – let’s enjoy it together.” So he took everybody with him, and they all took part in the rejoicing.’

Ramakrishna and his Disciples by Christopher Isherwood (Ch 6)

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