One day, I asked my teacher about why he was so full of examples and stories.
He told me that the only obstruction that stands in the way of our progress is our own selves, full of anger, greed and envy that we are. A devotee’s progress may be halted as he comes up against such an internal road block.
If the teacher were to address that negative quality directly, the devotee may develop a defensive reaction, and not grasp the lesson. Instead, a story would have a lasting impact, by talking of a parallel state, and convey the message.
He said he will illustrate with an example.
A group of devotees asked their teachers about the best way to sit in meditation. The teacher looked at all of them, and said, “I only want to sit in such a fashion that I get the first and hot cup of tea in any gathering!”
There were three different reactions to this observation in the group. The first set of listeners got up and walked away – they thought that the teacher knew nothing. The second set laughed – they found the teacher interesting, and wanted to hear more. The third set nodded, and seemed to have found great knowledge.
The first set was yet not ready to move on the path, and had left. The second set were already drawn to the teacher, and his simplicity endeared him even more, and they became a little more ready to understand future guidance. The third set grasped the deeper meaning – to get the first cup of tea in a gathering, you have to be respected as a master. Therefore, the devotee must “sit”, or conduct, their life in a manner deserving of such respect, by following the teacher’s guidance.
Years later, I understood that on that day, even as he answered my question with a story, he had taught me a deep lesson, and one that I would always remember.