The Hole-y Bucket

Gopal Dada

listen_btn

Image of the Week

A student approaches the teacher with the question, “Could you help me with a question I've been struggling with -- what is the purpose of my life?” 

The wise teacher responds, “We’ll get to that in time. Until then, why don’t you first fill this drum with water from the river down below this valley.”

He then hands him a dirty, greasy, mud wrapped bucket with lots of little holes in them to use as a medium of transfer.

The diligent student does as he’s told. He walks all the way down the valley, fills up this "hole-y" bucket, walks all the way up to the drum that lays it beside their shack. Deeply immersed in the act of doing the task, he doesn't notice how much water leaks through the holes.

Days pass. Months pass. And the drum is yet to be filled.

Frustrated and tired, the student approaches the teacher: “I’ve been filling this bucket for the past so many months, and the drum is nowhere closer to filling up. I don’t know how I will ever find an answer to my question!”

With a kind heart, the teacher takes the student's hand and walks him down to the valley. The same path that the student took every day to fulfill his impossible task.  Pointing to the beauty on the path, the teacher then explains, "A few months ago, this was barren land. Now, see, it is a blooming garden. Every day that you carried water in your leaky bucket, you didn't realize it but you watered this land. Now you can see the spring of little bulbs of grass and flowers."

Then he holds up the bucket and adds, "When I first gave you this bucket, it was greasy, mud-covered, dirty inside and outside. Each time that you carried the water in it, a little of the dirt and grease got washed off."

Without any further explanation, the student understood. The answer to his original question sprung forth from within his heart, "I'm like that bucket, with a purpose of filling the drum. I may not be able to see how I'm being cleansed, or all the saplings I've accidentally watered, but someday, a kind hand will help me see the blooming garden. I'll understand that every leak has its own divine purpose. Then, I'll just act without regard for outcomes or purpose. I'll simply serve with joy."

Gopal Dada was a life-long teacher, volunteer and story-teller. His simple life experiences continue to be a lighthouse for many he touched through word of mouth.

Seed questions for reflection: What do you make of the metaphor of the leaky bucket and its connection to the purpose of our life? Can you share a personal story of a time you became aware of the blooming garden you had watered accidentally? What helps you act without regard for outcomes or purpose?

Add Your Reflection:

5 Previous Reflections:

  • link
    On Feb 8, 2021 Craig wrote:
    In the Mahabharata, the archery guru of all of the Pandava and Kauravas, Drona, gives a sieve to all of his students before the first day of class, and tells them that they will only be admitted to class once they can bring the sieve to class filled with water from the river. Drona privately told his son how to seal the holes of the sieve with clay before filling it with water, and so he is the only student who appeared for the first day of class, and Drona shared with him the most powerful and destructive weapon (a mantra) with only his son. Before the second day of class, Arjuna figured out the trick with the clay, and so could attend the lesson and begin his schooling with the master archery teacher. In that story, the symbol of the leaking vessel might be interpreted as a human quality that prevents us from containing the teaching—whether of keeping the revealed secrets to one's self, or keeping the intimate inner spiritual relationship with the guru concealed. This tal... [View Full Comment] In the Mahabharata, the archery guru of all of the Pandava and Kauravas, Drona, gives a sieve to all of his students before the first day of class, and tells them that they will only be admitted to class once they can bring the sieve to class filled with water from the river. Drona privately told his son how to seal the holes of the sieve with clay before filling it with water, and so he is the only student who appeared for the first day of class, and Drona shared with him the most powerful and destructive weapon (a mantra) with only his son. Before the second day of class, Arjuna figured out the trick with the clay, and so could attend the lesson and begin his schooling with the master archery teacher.

    In that story, the symbol of the leaking vessel might be interpreted as a human quality that prevents us from containing the teaching—whether of keeping the revealed secrets to one's self, or keeping the intimate inner spiritual relationship with the guru concealed.

    This tale, however, turns the tale of Drona's sieve on its head! Now the *leaking* itself becomes not a failure of the student, but a gift that the student unknowingly gives to the world around him. What a delightful teaching of the value of the process and the myriad ramifications that ensue because of our persistence and self-discipline, instead of the trick—a special knowledge that solves the puzzle—which brings about the desired results! Knowing Drona's tale, I thought I knew this one, so like a good Zen teacher, I felt surprised and side-swiped by this story. Brilliant![Hide Full Comment]

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Feb 2, 2021 Brian Puida Mitchell wrote:
    "Every leak has its own divine purpose". It's taken me a lifetime but it has gradually dawned on me that all the seemingly "blind alleys" or "wrong" choices were simply components of a life unfolding. As one chant has it: "Slowly blooms the rose within. Slowly blooms the rose within."

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Feb 1, 2021 David T. Matta wrote:
    The leaky bucket reminded me of the job I had and was not satisfied with and later quit. Aside from the material compensation, it was a waste ot time and a source of stress, I thought. But then, I met some of the people I worked with and found how they appreciated the advice and learning I gave to them then and that changed their lives. So the lesson is an activity may not be rewarding to you but it will for others that are affected by it. And this is good enough. Thank you, Gopal Dada.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jan 30, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    My graduate education was metaphorically a leaky bucket. I learned and it helped me get into my chosenprofession, but it had many holes in it. Then I discovered that my profession is also a leaky bucket. With both I learned and grew and my effortshavealso been of help to others. My viewpoint is that the purpose of life is to grow and blossom and help others do the same, and it's been to a great extent by using the leaky holy buckets of my education and profession that I've done some cleansing, growing, and helping others. I learned long ago that what helps me accomplish my purpose is being present and right action, and not be outcome or purpose driven. I have a lot of control over my action and little control over outcome My mantra has long been to attend to process, not outcome, and it has helped me.

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Jan 29, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    What is the purpose of life is a perennialquestion asked by philosophers, mystics, sages, spiritual seekers and persons like me. Gopal Dada uses the metaphor of the Hole-y or leaky bucket and its connection to the purpose of life. Theleaky bucketrepresentsour imperfection, impurity and ignorance of ourown true identity, our true nature which is whole and and holy.Our spiritual practice makes us realize our true nature, our ever- blossoming pureconsciousness. As Mencius, a Confuciansage says," By exhaustivelyexamining one's own mind, one may understand his nature. One who understands his nature understandsHeaven." To understand the inner world is the key to understanding the mind, myself, my true nature, and wisdom about life. I have to keep my inner eyes open to see the inner light. This is a life-long project. My daily practice of meditation develops qualities such as calmness, clarity and concentration, sensitivity, compassion and self-awareness. Studying and practici... [View Full Comment] What is the purpose of life is a perennialquestion asked by philosophers, mystics, sages, spiritual seekers and persons like me. Gopal Dada uses the metaphor of the Hole-y or leaky bucket and its connection to the purpose of life. Theleaky bucketrepresentsour imperfection, impurity and ignorance of ourown true identity, our true nature which is whole and and holy.Our spiritual practice makes us realize our true nature, our ever- blossoming pureconsciousness. As Mencius, a Confuciansage says," By exhaustivelyexamining one's own mind, one may understand his nature. One who understands his nature understandsHeaven."

    To understand the inner world is the key to understanding the mind, myself, my true nature, and wisdom about life. I have to keep my inner eyes open to see the inner light. This is a life-long project. My daily practice of meditation develops qualities such as calmness, clarity and concentration, sensitivity, compassion and self-awareness.

    Studying and practicing the Karma Yoga, Yoga of selfless service, with no expectationof any personal reward in return has been very helpful to me in my spiritual journey. Awareness of my attachment to self-serving and self- binding desires and freeing myself from the grip of such desires expands my inner world. Such spiritual practices create "a blooming garden" in me.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave'


    [Hide Full Comment]

    Post Your Reply

Search Awakin Readings

Or search by year, author, or category.

Subscribe to Weekly Email

Every week, we send out a digest with a reading and inspiring stories to our global community of 93,897 people. Subscribe below.

(unsubscribe)

Contact Us

If you'd like to suggest a thought or want to drop us a suggestion, drop us a note.