By Sam Ervin
Agnes Baron (1907-1994), who was a founder of Meher Mount, loved to tell stories from the Vedanta tradition. These stories illustrated various spiritual lessons or insights. One of her favorites was "The Second Loincloth," which follows as Agnes told it:
ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A PRINCE
Once upon a time in India, there was prince who seemed to have everything anyone could want. He lived in a large and beautiful palace filled with every luxury imaginable, and a multitude of servants waited upon him to provide for his every need and to fulfill his every wish.
Surrounded as he was with material luxury, he also had a spiritual side. He had a guru, who lived in a forest, and would visit the prince for a few weeks once a year in order to bring him spiritual instruction.
THE GURU LIVED A SIMPLE LIFE
The guru lived a simple life, wearing a loincloth, carrying his staff and a begging bowl and sleeping under the trees of the forest, except when he visited the prince in his palace.
The guru and the prince would take long walks in the fields and woods outside the palace walls during their annual sojourn at the palace, and the guru would elucidate points about the spiritual path.
THE GURU WOULD PARTICULARLY DISCUSS DETACHMENT
He would particularly recommend practicing detachment from worldly things, and would suggest the prince leave the luxuries of his kingdom and join the guru in the forest, where he could live a simple and truly spiritual life.
The prince would graciously thank his guru for his concern for the prince's spiritual well being, but would invariably respond that the time was not right for him to leave his kingdom and live in the forest.
On one of their walks outside the palace, as the guru was explaining a particularly subtle spiritual principle, he suddenly stopped his discourse in mid-sentence and started shouting, "Fire. Fire."
He became very agitated, and said, "Prince! The palace is on fire! It's all burning...a disaster. You must do something!"
The prince did not seem disturbed. He gazed upon the fire, which was indeed consuming the palace and all the bountiful luxuries within it, and said, "The fire is beautiful, isn't it?"
THE GURU IS BESIDE HIMSELF
But his guru was beside himself, and continued to demand that the prince do something to stop the fire.
Seeing that his guru was so profoundly upset, he asked, "Why does the fire trouble you so much? What is in the palace that means so much to you."
And the guru said, "My second loincloth is in there!"