Devotees would often approach Sri Ramakrishna to unburden themselves. They would express their helplessness and inability to progress much in spiritual life due to enormous fear and other factors. So many kinds of fears hinder their spiritual progress such as the fear of society, the fear of loss of honour, etc. How to overcome these and find the Truth would be their question. Sri Ramakrishna would console them and suggest a way out using a beautiful parable.
It was harvest time and the paddy fields were full of grains. This would also attract a lot of thieves. To drive them away the owners would put up a straw figure resembling a man. From a distance it would look as if someone was standing with arms stretched. One night a party of thieves had come to steal grains, but seeing the figure of man standing they were frightened and did not want to enter the field. But, one of them was bolder than the rest. Hence, he started slowly proceeding towards the stationary figure at a distance. He became even more bolder when he saw that there was no reaction from the man although someone was approaching him. Finally he came very near the figure and touched and felt it. He realized that it was a figure made of straw. He shouted to his accomplices stating that they can enter and steal fearlessly. Yet, the companions were afraid and hesitating. Then this man kicked the straw figure over and cried out to his friends to come and steal fearlessly. Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that it requires tremendous courage and discrimination to proceed in the path of spirituality. The Sadhakas or spiritual aspirants would come across many hurdles. For example, the idea that one is a body would cause tremendous fear and anxiety. It would cloud the Truth that one is Atman or consciousness. Only with supreme determination and razor sharp discrimination one can know the Ultimate Truth.