Realism – A Funny Spiritual Story about Gambling by Anthony de Mello

A gambler once said to the Master, “I was caught cheating at cards yesterday, so my partners beat me up and threw me out of the window. What would you advise me to do?”

The Master looked straight through the man and said, “If I were you, from now on I would play on the ground floor.”

This startled the disciples. “Why didn't you tell him to stop gambling?” they demanded.

“Because I knew he wouldn't,” was the Master's simple and sagacious explanation.

This is from One Minute Wisdom by Anthony de Mello.

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

At the heart of this story lies a profound spiritual lesson about meeting people where they are on their journey. The Master's response to the gambler's plight speaks to the importance of offering guidance and support without judgment or condemnation. Instead of admonishing the gambler for his actions, the Master meets him with practical advice that acknowledges the reality of his situation. This reminds us that true compassion and understanding require us to see beyond the surface of a person's actions and address their immediate needs with empathy and kindness.

Furthermore, the Master's choice not to directly address the issue of gambling highlights the spiritual principle of honoring individual free will. By refraining from imposing his own beliefs or values onto the gambler, the Master respects his autonomy and agency to make choices in his own life. This underscores the importance of allowing others the space to navigate their own paths and make their own decisions, even if we may disagree with them. In doing so, we honor the sacred sovereignty of each individual soul on their journey of self-discovery and growth.

Moreover, the Master's response reflects the wisdom of choosing battles wisely and focusing on practical solutions rather than moralizing or lecturing. Rather than attempting to change the gambler's behavior, the Master offers a simple yet pragmatic suggestion that addresses the immediate safety concerns raised by the gambler's situation. This invites us to consider how we can best support others in their time of need, recognizing that sometimes the most loving and compassionate action is to provide practical assistance rather than moral judgment.

Additionally, the Master's response challenges us to examine our own tendencies towards judgment and righteousness. In a world where it is often easier to condemn others for their perceived shortcomings, the Master's approach reminds us to look beyond surface appearances and see the humanity and vulnerability in each person. It prompts us to cultivate a spirit of humility and compassion, recognizing that we are all fallible beings on a journey of growth and evolution.

Furthermore, the disciples' reaction to the Master's response serves as a mirror for our own biases and preconceptions. Their incredulity at the Master's choice not to address the issue of gambling reflects our own tendency to view situations through the lens of our own moral frameworks and belief systems. This invites us to reflect on how our own judgments and assumptions may limit our capacity for empathy and understanding, and how we can cultivate greater openness and compassion in our interactions with others.

Moreover, the Master's simple and direct response illustrates the power of meeting people where they are in their journey towards transformation and healing. Rather than imposing our own agenda or expectations onto others, the Master offers guidance that is rooted in practicality and compassion. This encourages us to approach others with humility and sensitivity, recognizing that each person's path is unique and that true healing and growth require us to honor their individual experiences and challenges.

In essence, the spiritual significance of this story lies in its invitation to embody the principles of compassion, understanding, and practical wisdom in our interactions with others. Through the Master's example, we are reminded of the transformative power of meeting people with empathy and kindness, and the importance of honoring each person's autonomy and journey. As we strive to embody these principles in our own lives, we contribute to the creation of a more compassionate and inclusive world where all beings are seen, heard, and valued on their path towards wholeness and fulfillment.

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. Reflect on the gambler's plea for advice to the Master. How does this story resonate with your own experiences of seeking guidance or support in challenging situations?
  2. Contemplate the Master's response to the gambler's predicament. How does his suggestion to play on the ground floor evoke a sense of practicality and resilience? What insights does this offer about finding solutions within the constraints of our circumstances?
  3. Consider the disciples' reaction to the Master's advice. How does their surprise and confusion mirror your own initial response to unexpected or unconventional wisdom? What does this reveal about our tendency to rely on familiar patterns of thinking and judgment?
  4. Explore the underlying wisdom in the Master's decision not to explicitly address the issue of gambling. How does this choice to focus on practical solutions rather than moralizing or lecturing resonate with your own beliefs about compassion and understanding?
  5. Contemplate the Master's statement, “Because I knew he wouldn't,” in response to the disciples' question. How does this acknowledgment of the gambler's likely behavior invite you to reflect on the complexities of human nature and free will?
  6. Reflect on the gambler's experience of facing consequences for his actions. How does this story prompt you to consider the relationship between personal choices and their repercussions in your own life?
  7. Consider the significance of the Master's ability to see beyond the surface of the gambler's situation. How does this invitation to look beneath appearances and acknowledge the humanity in others resonate with your own values and beliefs?
  8. Contemplate the theme of resilience and adaptability implied in the Master's advice to play on the ground floor. How does this suggestion encourage you to navigate challenges with grace and pragmatism in your own life?
  9. Reflect on the spiritual principle of meeting people where they are in their journey, as demonstrated by the Master's response. How does this concept of honoring individual paths and choices resonate with your own experiences of growth and transformation?
  10. Consider the overarching message of the story and its relevance to your own spiritual journey. What insights or lessons can you glean from this tale about compassion, understanding, and the complexities of human nature?