The Final Straw
You cannot say exactly what will open your mind and when it will happen. The real knowledge or wisdom will not dawn slowly. Once you get it, you have it. If you don’t get it, you don’t have it. The realization doesn’t come little by little. Realization is instantaneous. When will it happen? Nobody can tell you. Even a small, trifling thing could do it.
I will tell you a story about a saint named Patinatar. His father was a very rich man who had made a lot of money from shipping and other businesses. The father had seen many saints and sages and had studied a lot, but nothing had opened his mind to the Truth. He repeated his mantra regularly, performed religious rituals, did all the spiritual practices, but wisdom didn’t dawn in him. One day he asked his son, Patinatar, to take his ship and go buy some merchandise. Patinatar went to an island and saw the poor people there. He spent all the money, millions of dollars, on helping these people. Patinatar realized that he couldn’t go home with an empty ship, so he filled the entire ship with cow dung cakes, which were probably worth a hundred dollars or less. Then he sailed home.
As soon as the boat arrived, some of the boatmen ran to the father and told him, “Your son has gone crazy. He spent all of your money, and all he came back with is cow dung.” The father was so upset that he didn’t even want to see his son. When Patinatar arrived at the house, his father was not even there to greet him.
Patinatar gave a small package to his mother and said, “Please give this to my father when he comes. I will see you later.” With that, he walked out. When the father came home, he asked, “Where is my son?” His wife told him that Patinatar had come and gone, and gave him the package. When the father opened the package, he found a broken sewing needle and a note. The note said, “Even the eye of a broken needle will not come with you on your final journey.” As soon as he read those words, he immediately took off his fancy clothes, put on a loin cloth, said goodbye to his house and his businesses, and walked out. Realization had dawned in him. He had heard many hundreds of stories before, he had read volumes, he knew all the philosophy, but nothing had opened his eyes until he saw these few words.
Realization can dawn with the smallest thing. It doesn’t have to be a big blow. That trifling thing is what you call the final straw. Wisdom dawns that way. At any moment, anything could be the last straw for you. Then you are enlightened. Until then, you are still preparing yourself. You are getting ready for that moment.