Sunday, January 4, 2009

Alchemy – A Spiritual Insight

THERE was a rich man who found his gold suddenly transformed into ashes; and he took to his bed and refused all food. A friend, hearing of his sickness, visited the rich man and learned the cause of his grief. And the friend said: "You did not make good use of your wealth. When you hoarded it up it was not better than ashes. Now heed my advice. Spread mats in the bazaar; pile up these ashes, and pretend to trade with them." The rich man did as his friend had told him, and when his neighbours asked him, "Why are you selling ashes?" he said: "I offer my goods for sale."

After some time a young girl, named Kisa Gotami, an orphan and very poor, passed by, and seeing the rich man in the bazaar, said: "My lord, why do you pile up gold and silver for sale?" And the rich man said: "Will you please hand me that gold and silver?" And Kisa Gotami took up a handful of ashes, and lo! they changed back into gold. Considering that Kisa Gotami had the mental eye of spiritual knowledge and saw the real worth of things, the rich man gave her in marriage to his son, and he said: "With many, gold is no better than ashes, but with Kisa Gotami ashes become pure gold."

This the story from the “Mustard seed” section of the Buddhist Gospel compiled from ancient documents by Paul Carus. It is a simple but beautiful story.

There are two clear messages that emerge from this episode.

The first is the human tendency to hoard whatever we possess. In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25:14-30, there is a story told by Jesus who highlights God’s wrath upon those who hoard all the talents and gifts which they receive when they come into this world. The Buddha also gives this message in the first part of the story. Whatever we receive, both as innate gifts such as intelligence and irrefutable and timeless values and what we acquire through our capabilities such as knowledge and wealth, they must be put to good use of the entire creation.

This is the unwritten law of cosmic order and hence the code by which our Karma is governed.
We should be the channel through which all must flow and it is not ours to keep. Stagnation leads to distortion of natural order. You can see this happening in nature. If we dam a river then the river backs up and overflows the banks and destroys all the habitation and crops that depended on the river.

The second message we receive is about how one should develop an insight to look beyond surface realities. It was the spiritual insight that Kisa Gotami used in understanding that what she saw in front of her was gold and silver. Here the capacity to move away from the present reality to a past state and thus eliminate the concept of time from a space-time continuum is the inner attribute of an enlightened soul. This is because if you can move away from a time based knowledge you can move to the very source from which all emanations took place. That is a reality which is without any modification, pure and everlasting.
This is the true alchemy which the Gnostic talked about and sought after and not a physical conversion of base elements into gold.

Love to you all


  1. What great men say are our own rejected thoughts presented with an alienated beauty. You, TIB, exemplify this in your writings and in the messages they convey.
    Truly enjoyed the story and the message too.

    Bhaskar Banerjee

  2. Dear Bhaskar,
    Thank you for your lofty positioning of my humble contributions. It is the innate desire to go deeper into all the revealed knowledge that opens up the door to receive divine wisdom. One life time is not enough. I think we both have just made the beginning.

  3. Habitually, we are programmed to save up for a rainy day. For many, many folks...that rainy day seldom comes! Very good, thought provoking article. Makes one want to consider looking at common things we come across, with a different perspective.


  4. Thanks for the feedback. Saving for the rainy day or being in an acquisition mode in the Grahastam stage of life is necessary, but this act should be governed by dharma. What is condoned by spiritual masters is the hoarding for hoarding sake and not being tempered by principles and values that are time invariant and fundamental to natural order.


  5. Raja,
    we live in a world of privatising profits and socialising loses. The greed to accumulate for the pleasure of accumulating has eroded our eternal divine Self in every one of us. Only a person who has kept the purity of the divine Self, can have real insight into the shadowed realites as kisa had in the story and the beautiful reflection by you. Great!
    Mathias annan

  6. Annan,
    Thanks for the feedback which is so appropriate for the situation today. Sathyam corporate fiasco is a case where even 'sathyam' has been hijacked through 'asathyam' of corporate public lies.