The Fly and the Honey Pot

Swami Sankalpananda Saraswati

Today man is experiencing and witnessing a great spiritual awakening which is gradually taking place all over the world. He is now becoming more and more aware of the spiritual potentials within himself and of his own limitations. No longer is he satisfied with his present mundane existence. He is looking for answers to his many questions and he is finding them through yoga, which teaches him a more simple, harmonious and systematic way of life.

During the process of spiritual rebirth we are often faced with many difficulties. Because of our past and present karmas, attachments, desires and habits, we are always finding ourselves being pulled from the higher spiritual life back to the lower, mundane, sensual life. Back and forth we move until finally we wear out our accumulated karmas.

However, even when man has discovered his spiritual potential and is witnessing the awakening of inner peace and awareness in his life and in his very being, still he is unable to resist the binding forces of his karmas and old habits which drag him down amidst pain and suffering. Not until he is able to gain some control over his thoughts and actions, and his inner awareness increases, is he able to throw off these bondages and distractions which forever limit him to the sensual world of pain and pleasure.

Although man is drawn towards satsang and spiritual joy, yet still he goes back to the world of the senses, to the world of attachments. This dilemma, which every individual eventually has to confront, can be likened to the parable of the fly and the honey pot.

The great discovery

Once there was a common housefly who lived with his ordinary brothers in a rubbish heap. Every day they would fly into the nearby houses, bothering and annoying the people by alighting on the walls and ceilings and converging upon any bits of food they could find.

The rubbish heap where these flies spent most of their time was, as you can well imagine, absolutely reeking of rotting food and filth. But the flies were habituated to the dirt and filth, and loved their rubbish heap very much. Sometimes they would fly off and venture out into new areas, but in the end they invariably returned to their beloved rubbish heap.

Amongst this group of flies was one particular little black fly who was more intelligent than his brothers. One day he ventured out and by chance came across a large pot sitting on a window ledge, filled with rich, golden honey. He was overjoyed to have found such a rare delicacy. Never had he smelled such a sweet smell nor had he seen anything so beautiful. Slowly he put one foot in the honey and tasted it. On finding it so sweet and tasty, he put his other foot in also. Now he enjoyed his full fill of the pure, sweet liquid and he thought to himself how lucky he was to have discovered such a wonderful treasure. When he felt fully satisfied he flew straight back to the filthy rubbish heap.

Back and forth

Every day the little fly would come again and again to drink the sweet nectar. He even tried to persuade his brothers to come with him to taste the sweetness of the honey, but they didn't want to leave the rubbish pile and were content to stay where they were. So each day he would go to the honey pot and enjoy his full fill of the honey.

However, whenever he was there he couldn't help thinking about his brothers back at the rubbish heap. Even the sweetness of the honey couldn't erase his longing for them. 'How strange,' thought the fly, 'that I still find myself continually attracted to that rubbish pile.' Thus, is spite of his enjoyment of the honey, his attachments and bad habits forced him back again and again.

And so his life went on in this way. He would spend his days going back and forth between the two places. This caused him a lot of pain and suffering because he was no longer content to live in the rubbish pile with his brothers, yet he was not able to stay at the honey pot for very long either. He was torn.

Likewise, we ourselves, after experiencing the sweet and pure taste of spiritual knowledge, find ourselves constantly being drawn back to the bittersweet taste of the sensual world. The mind is like that little fly; when it sits on the jar of satsang to enjoy the honey of enlightenment, the old samskaras continually bring it back to the reek of the rubbish pile - the sensual world. Again, when the mind remembers the taste of enlightenment and recognizes its superiority, it comes back to the spiritual way. Again it goes, again it comes back.

Immersion in the nectar

One day, however, when the little fly was sitting on the edge of the honey pot, a breeze came along which caused him to fall right into the honey, his whole being becoming saturated with its purity and sweetness. Immersed in the honey, he became completely enraptured by it and his previous attachments and desires left him for good. No more did he long for his fly brothers and the rubbish pile. A complete transformation in his whole being took place.

Likewise, when man becomes immersed in the purity and sweetness of spiritual life, and detachment sets in permanently, he no longer wants to go back to his previous way of life nor does he have to fight the pull of his karmas. He is free.

When the breeze of God overtakes you, by guru's grace or as the result of your own positive karmas, it carries you away from the sensual world. Only then does the mind stop going back to the senses and becomes like a lump of sugar, dissolving into the water and thus becoming one with God.