Be Indifferent – A Short Spiritual Story

An old man and a young man are traveling with a donkey. They have reached near a town; they both are walking with their donkey. School children passed them and they giggled and they laughed and they said,

“Look at these fools: they have a healthy donkey with them and they are walking. At least the old man can sit on the donkey.”

Listening to those children the old man and the young man decided, “What to do? – because people are laughing and soon we will be entering the town, so it is better to follow what they are saying.” So the old man sat on the donkey and the young man followed.

Then they came near another group of people and they looked at them and said, “Look! – the old man is sitting on the donkey and the poor boy is walking. This is absurd! The old man can walk, but the boy should be allowed to sit on the donkey.” So they changed: the old man started walking and the boy was allowed to sit.

Then another group came and said, “Look at these fools. And this boy seems to be too arrogant. Maybe the old man is his father or his teacher and he is walking, and he is sitting on the donkey – this is against all rules!”

So what to do? They both decided that now there is only one possibility: that they both should sit on the donkey; so they both sat on the donkey. Then other groups came and they said, “Look at these people, so violent! The poor donkey is almost dying – two persons on one donkey. It would have been better if they carried the donkey on their shoulders.”

So they again discussed, and then there was the river and the bridge. They had now almost reached the boundary of the town, so they thought: “It is better to behave as people think in this town, otherwise they will think we are fools.” So they found a bamboo; on their shoulders they put the bamboo and hung the donkey by his legs, tied it in the bamboo and carried him.

The donkey tried to rebel, as donkeys are they cannot be forced very easily. He tried to escape because he is not a believer in society and what others are saying. But the two men were too much and they forced him, so the donkey had to yield. Just on the bridge in the middle a crowd passed and they all gathered and they said,

“Look, these fools! We have never seen such idiots – a donkey is to ride upon, not to carry on your shoulders. Have you gone mad?”

Listening to them – and a great crowd gathered – the donkey became restless, so restless that he jumped and fell from the bridge down into the river – died. Both men came down – the donkey was dead. They sat by the side and the old man said,

“Now listen… just like this donkey you will be dead if you listen to people too much. Don't bother what others say, because there are millions of others and they have their own minds and everybody will say something; everybody has his opinions and if you listen to opinions this will be your end.

Don't listen to anybody, you remain yourself. Just bypass them, be indifferent. If you go on listening to everybody, everybody will be prodding you to this way or that. You will never be able to reach your innermost center.”

The author of this spiritual story is unknown and greatly appreciated

If you liked this story, you'll love this! We've compiled a list of the top 10 spiritual stories that our readers love. You can read them here.

What is the Meaning / Moral of the “Be Indifferent” Story?

The first spiritual moral we can glean from this story is the importance of authenticity. The old man and the young man initially allowed the opinions of others to dictate their actions, sacrificing their authenticity in an attempt to conform to societal expectations. This highlights the danger of losing sight of our true selves when we prioritize external validation over inner integrity. In our own lives, it is crucial to remain rooted in our authenticity, trusting our own inner guidance rather than succumbing to the pressures of external judgment.

Another spiritual lesson embedded in this tale is the futility of seeking approval from others. Despite the old man and the young man's attempts to appease the various groups they encountered, they were met with criticism at every turn. This serves as a poignant reminder that seeking validation from external sources is a fruitless endeavor, as we can never please everyone. Instead, true fulfillment comes from embracing our own worth and recognizing that our value does not depend on the opinions of others.

The story also underscores the danger of conformity and herd mentality. The old man and the young man's decision to follow the crowd ultimately led to disastrous consequences for the donkey. This serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of blindly adhering to societal norms and the importance of maintaining individual autonomy. It prompts us to question the validity of societal expectations and encourages us to forge our own path, guided by our own principles and values.

Additionally, the story emphasizes the importance of inner resilience and self-reliance. Despite facing criticism and judgment from others, the donkey initially resisted conforming to the expectations imposed upon him. However, he ultimately succumbed to the pressure exerted by the old man and the young man. This highlights the importance of cultivating inner strength and staying true to ourselves, even in the face of external pressures to conform.

Furthermore, the tragic outcome of the story serves as a sobering reminder of the consequences of abandoning our authenticity and succumbing to external influences. The donkey's untimely demise serves as a metaphor for the spiritual death that occurs when we forsake our true selves in favor of seeking approval from others. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of staying true to our own inner compass and resisting the temptation to compromise our integrity for the sake of external validation.

Moreover, the story invites us to reflect on the nature of wisdom and discernment. The old man's final words to the young man convey a profound message about the importance of trusting our own inner wisdom and intuition. In a world filled with competing voices and conflicting opinions, it is essential to cultivate discernment and learn to tune into our own inner guidance. This enables us to navigate life's complexities with clarity and integrity, free from the influence of external pressures and expectations.

Additionally, the story underscores the significance of self-awareness and self-reflection. The old man's admonition to the young man highlights the importance of cultivating self-awareness and developing a deep understanding of ourselves. By tuning into our innermost thoughts and feelings, we can gain clarity about our values, desires, and aspirations, allowing us to live with greater authenticity and purpose.

Furthermore, the story encourages us to embrace the power of indifference to external judgment and criticism. By adopting an attitude of indifference towards the opinions of others, we can free ourselves from the burden of seeking external validation and instead focus on living in alignment with our own truth. This empowers us to cultivate greater self-confidence and resilience, enabling us to navigate life's challenges with grace and integrity.

In conclusion, the story serves as a profound reminder of the importance of authenticity, self-reliance, and inner wisdom in navigating life's journey. By staying true to ourselves, cultivating discernment, and embracing our own inner guidance, we can live with greater authenticity, purpose, and fulfillment, free from the shackles of external judgment and expectations.

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. How often do you find yourself swayed by the opinions and expectations of others, even when it contradicts your own instincts and values?
  2. Reflecting on the story, can you identify moments in your life where you compromised your authenticity or integrity in order to conform to societal norms or gain approval from others?
  3. Consider the different groups of people in the story who criticized the old man and the young man. How do you think their perceptions and judgments influenced the decisions made by the travelers?
  4. Have you ever experienced the pressure to conform to societal expectations, even when it felt inauthentic or uncomfortable? How did you navigate this situation?
  5. Reflect on the consequences faced by the old man, the young man, and the donkey when they prioritized external validation over their own well-being and integrity. How does this resonate with your own experiences?
  6. Consider the old man's final admonition to the young man about the dangers of listening to others too much. In what ways do you see this playing out in your own life or in society at large?
  7. Reflect on moments in your life when you felt pressured to conform to the expectations of others, even when it went against your own inner wisdom. How did you navigate these situations, and what did you learn from them?
  8. Consider the symbolism of the donkey in the story as a representation of individual autonomy and authenticity. How does the fate of the donkey serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of forsaking one's true self?
  9. Reflect on the old man's advice to the young man to remain true to himself and bypass the opinions of others. How might embracing this philosophy lead to greater personal fulfillment and inner peace?
  10. In what ways can you cultivate greater self-awareness and resilience in order to stay true to your own values and beliefs, even in the face of external pressures to conform? What practices or strategies might support you in this endeavor?


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