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Betting Man – A Funny Spiritual Story by Anthony de Mello

A man and his wife went to visit friends in another part of the country and were taken to a racecourse. Fascinated by the sight of horses chasing one another around a track, the two of them kept betting all evening till they had no more than two dollars left.

The following day the man prevailed upon his wife to let him go to the course alone. There was a horse with a fifty-to-one odds on it in the first race. He bet on the horse and it won. He put all the money he won on another long shot in the next race and again he won. He kept doing this all evening and his entire earnings came to fifty-seven thousand dollars.

On the way back home he passed by a gambling den. An inner voice, the same that seemed to have guided him in his choice of horses, said, “Stop here and go in.” So he stopped, went in, and found himself standing in front of a roulette wheel. The voice said, “Number thirteen.” The man put the entire fifty-seven thousand on number thirteen. The wheel spun, and the croupier announced, “Number fourteen.”

So the man walked back home with nothing in his pocket. His wife called out to him from the porch, “How did it go?”

The husband shrugged his shoulders. “I lost the two dollars,” he said.

This is from The Heart of the Enlightened, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.

What is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of the “Betting Man” Story?

In this story, we find a profound lesson on the nature of risk and reward. Life often presents us with opportunities where the outcome is uncertain, and we must decide whether to take a chance or play it safe. Sometimes, our intuition guides us toward a path that seems promising, but the outcome may not always align with our expectations. This story reminds us that while taking risks can lead to great rewards, it's essential to approach them with discernment and mindfulness.

Another spiritual moral we can glean from this story is the concept of inner guidance. The man in the story hears an inner voice prompting him to take certain actions, such as betting on specific horses or placing a large sum on a roulette number. This inner voice represents our intuition or higher self, guiding us toward choices that may align with our highest good. It reminds us to trust in the wisdom of our inner guidance, even when the outcome may not unfold as expected.

The theme of attachment and detachment is also prevalent in this story. The man experiences a rapid rise in fortune through his successful bets, only to lose it all in a single gamble. His attachment to the idea of wealth and success leads to disappointment and loss. This serves as a reminder of the transient nature of material wealth and the importance of cultivating inner richness and detachment from external outcomes.

Furthermore, the story highlights the notion of impermanence. The man's journey from rags to riches and back to rags illustrates the impermanent nature of external circumstances. Just as wealth can be gained and lost, so too can success and failure. This impermanence invites us to cultivate a deeper understanding of the ever-changing nature of life and the importance of finding stability within ourselves.

Additionally, the story speaks to the power of humility and acceptance. Despite experiencing both success and failure, the man returns home with humility, accepting his losses without resentment or regret. This humility allows him to face his circumstances with grace and resilience, embodying the wisdom that true wealth lies not in material possessions but in inner peace and contentment.

Moreover, the story underscores the importance of self-awareness and discernment. The man's decision to heed the inner voice guiding him toward the gambling den reflects his willingness to listen to his intuition. However, his lack of discernment in discerning between intuition and impulse leads to his downfall. It serves as a reminder to cultivate self-awareness and discernment in navigating life's uncertainties.

Furthermore, the story invites us to reflect on the concept of karma or the law of cause and effect. The man's actions, driven by his desire for wealth and success, lead to both favorable and unfavorable outcomes. This echoes the spiritual principle that our actions have consequences and that we reap what we sow. It encourages us to cultivate mindfulness and ethical conduct in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Additionally, the story emphasizes the importance of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Despite experiencing setbacks and losses, the man returns home with resilience, ready to face whatever challenges lie ahead. This resilience reminds us that setbacks are an inevitable part of life's journey and that our ability to bounce back from adversity strengthens our inner resilience and fortitude.

This story offers profound insights into the nature of risk, intuition, attachment, impermanence, humility, self-awareness, karma, and resilience. It reminds us to approach life's uncertainties with mindfulness, trust in our inner guidance, and humility, knowing that true wealth lies not in external possessions but in inner peace and resilience.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. Reflecting on this story, what emotions arise within you as you witness the man's journey from initial excitement to ultimate disappointment?
  2. Consider the role of intuition in the man's decisions. Have you ever experienced a strong inner voice guiding you in a particular direction? How did you respond to it, and what was the outcome?
  3. Explore your own relationship with risk-taking. Are you more inclined to take calculated risks or to play it safe? How does this story influence your perspective on risk and reward?
  4. Contemplate the concept of impermanence as depicted in the story. How do the man's fluctuating fortunes illustrate the transient nature of external circumstances?
  5. Reflect on the theme of attachment and detachment. In what ways do you see the man's attachment to wealth and success contributing to his ultimate disappointment? How might cultivating a sense of detachment have altered his experience?
  6. Explore the notion of resilience as demonstrated by the man's response to adversity. How does his ability to return home with humility and acceptance resonate with your own experiences of facing setbacks?
  7. Consider the role of fate or destiny in the man's story. Do you believe in the idea of predetermined outcomes, or do you see life as more unpredictable and open to chance?
  8. Reflect on the significance of the man's response to his wife's inquiry about his winnings. How does his simple acknowledgment of loss without resentment or regret speak to the power of humility and acceptance?
  9. Contemplate the broader implications of the story's moral lessons. How might the man's experience serve as a metaphor for the human journey and the pursuit of fulfillment and meaning?
  10. Consider how this story might inspire you to approach life's uncertainties with greater mindfulness and inner resilience. What practices or perspectives could you cultivate to navigate life's ups and downs with grace and equanimity?