The Begging Bowl

By Anthony Gold

Leaving his palace one morning, a king meets a beggar in the street. The king asks the beggar what he wants.

The beggar looks into the king’s eyes and replies, “You ask as if you can fulfill my desire.”

“Of course I can. I’m the king and have immense wealth. What is it you want?”

The beggar suggests that the king give this more thought before promising he can satisfy the beggar’s wishes.

Unbeknownst to the king, the beggar was the king’s master in their prior life. The master had said then, “You have misused this life. I will come to try and wake you in the next one.”

The king, not recognizing his old guide, said to the beggar, “Tell me what you want. I will fulfill your wishes.”

“Very well,” said the beggar. “My wish is simple. Fill this begging bowl.”

The king instructed his servants to fill the beggar’s bowl with money.

But as the money was poured it, it simply disappeared.

Mystified, the king instructed more money be poured in. And once again, the bowl remained empty.

Word quickly spread through the kingdom, and a large crowd began to grow around the king and beggar.

“If it takes all my wealth, I am prepared to do it!” instructed the king to his servants.

Countless jewels and precious metals were poured and poured into the bowl – all to no avail.

Defeated, the king knelt at the beggar’s feet and beseeched the beggar, “Please tell me. What is the secret of this begging bowl?”

The beggar replied, “There is no secret. It is simply made up of human desire.”

And so it is for each of us.

Our begging bowl is anything that we believe would make us happy. Whether that be a larger bank account, a more satisfying job, improved health, an attractive body, better relationships, safety for people we care about, more peaceful lives, and so on.

Consider the amount of time and energy spent trying to fill our “begging bowls”.

No matter how much we “pour in”, we are left feeling empty and unfulfilled. Perhaps there are moments of temporary satisfaction, but it doesn’t last long – compelling us to seek for more. Our bowl never seems to be filled.

Until we recognize what we made the bowl out of. Said another way, until we realize how we see happiness.

When we define joy and peace as functions of what is going on in our lives and the world around us, we will never be happy. Happiness will remain the elusive acquisition of things “out there”, so fleeting in nature and sure to disappoint. Yet we’re taught by the ego that we just need to keep searching. And if we don’t get it in this life, perhaps the next one will be better.

When we finally grasp that happiness has nothing to do with anything related to our body, other bodies, or the world around us – then we can experience a new way of seeing and experiencing life. To be, as St. John noted, “in the world, but not of the world.”

From such a perspective, an incredible weight is lifted, and lightness and joy surround us. Our begging bowl is replaced by a giving platter that serves everyone and is never depleted.

Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore our “begging bowls” and how we can transform them, and our lives, into a far more enriching experience. I look forward to seeing you then.

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