One day a rumor began to circulate in the town of Peurville that a teacher would be arriving soon. Furthermore, it was not just any spiritual teacher–the town already had plenty of those. No. This was a spiritual teacher who’d been taught by a great master.

This created quite a stir in the community, and all kinds of fantastical ideas sprung up as people wondered if the teacher could walk on water, bring the dead back to life, or turn rock into gold. One woman got so excited that she decided to create an enormous altar and dais for the teacher to teach from. Others began collecting fine clothing, food, and so forth to give to the teacher.

However, not everyone was happy about the news. The established teachers grumbled about who this teacher might be and who did they think they were anyway. They stoked fear in other people who had to this point had no opinion on the matter at all. They warned that these types of charlatans came in and all sizes. From their homes and pulpits, the established teachers warned that all these other “teachers” did was take from others. It was better to keep such freeloaders away from the town instead of encouraging them.

As these different discussions went on, minor arguments and scuffles between villagers broke out.

The discontent echoed out into the surrounding areas where a man who owned a ranch became curious about the whole thing. He took counsel with a neighboring farmer named, ClearSky.

“What do you think about what people are saying?” the rancher asked.

“About what?” ClearSky asked.

“The teacher who is supposed to visit our village.”

“Oh that. I am sure the matter will resolve itself,” ClearSky replied while continuing to grind grain with a mortal and pestle.

Unsatisfied with the answer, the rancher continued, “Aren’t you curious to see him or her? Find out what they have to say?”

ClearSky looked up momentarily and smiled. “Those types usually don’t have much to say.” And then he went back to grinding.

Annoyed by the response, the rancher decided he would go see the teacher.

The day arrived when the teacher was predicted to come through the town. People turned out for a whole variety of reasons. Some came to see what miracles the teacher might do. Others came to point out that the teacher didn’t do any miracles. Many others just wanted to see a shit-show of some kind.

The rancher decided to spend time with the people by the altar and dais, assuming the teacher would come that way. 

And everyone waited.

And waited.

And continued to wait.

As dusk came by, everyone decided that the teacher wasn’t coming, and they went home.

The woman who had built the dais told everyone to keep the faith, but she too soon went home.

Those who were ready to point out the flaws of the teacher decided the no-show was proof of the unpredictable nature of such types and why everyone should stick with the current teachers and teachings in town.

“It’s better to have something than nothing,” one of the local teachers said to an increasingly empty town square.

Finally, the rancher gave up. As he headed back to his home, he noticed ClearSky talking to someone with an empty cart. As he caught up, the man with the cart took something from ClearSky and put it in his cart. Dressed mostly in rags with a few scraps of yellow cloth interwoven, the man was nothing to look at. He departed just before the rancher arrived.

“Who was that?” the rancher asked.

“Well, wouldn’t you know it? It was that teacher you mentioned to me,” ClearSky responded with a smile.

“Really. He looks like a vagrant,” the rancher responded.

ClearSky laughed. “I suppose he does.”

“What did you give him?”

“I gave him my old mortar and pestle. I’d been grinding away at things in it for years, but really, it no longer worked right. He offered to take it away.”

Then the rancher understood.

Interpretation of the Spiritual Allegory

Since everyone seems to be making cinematic universes these days, welcome to the Jim Tolles Spiritual Cinematic Universe (JTSCU, haha).

Many of you may be noticing that I’ve been using characters from past spiritual allegories, and in this one, we see the continued relationship between the rancher and ClearSky. You can read their initial encounters in this allegory:

Run the Other Direction

Additionally, there’s another Easter egg (allusion to another story) in here, and that is with the teacher who comes through town. The reference to yellow thread is a reference to the yellow robed believer in The Great Master Teaches allegory. You can find out more about him here:

The Great Master Teaches Part 1

Anyway, this allegory is another discussion on what spiritual teachers are and what they actually do alongside what people think that they are and think they do. That difference between the illusions of the villagers of Peurville and the reality of the teacher create a massive disconnect. This is shown in the story through the fact that they don’t come into contact with each other. This includes the people who want to come into contact with the spiritual teacher. But they really don’t know enough to know how. Furthermore, their expectations of miracles and spiritual powers actually means that they really DON’T want to connect with a spiritual teacher because that’s not what spiritual teachers really do.

As usual in my stories, I show people doing what they normally do in terms of taking sides on an issue. The people who think they have something to gain from a teacher get excited and wait with anticipation. the people who think they have something to lose wait with dread and stir up fear in others.

With all that going on, what would the teacher even be able to do in such a situation?

Instead, the teacher finds someone who is open to his way of teaching. He finds ClearSky, whom we met in that earlier allegory I spoke of. So we already know that there is an openness to the farmer. His openness allows him to give up an old mortar and pestle that doesn’t work, that he has been grinding away at (an allusion to the ego grind). Giving away this tool is a metaphor for giving up an attachment. In this way, the established teachers are proven right that a true spiritual teacher “takes things,” but their fears have distorted their understanding of what is being taken. The true teacher takes away attachments as shown in the image of putting the old tool in his cart.

Even that isn’t quite right, because a teacher can’t take attachments from someone, but this is a story. The point is that we let go of stuff, and that’s what my intent is with the imagery of the empty cart and the old broken tool.

It’s this letting go process that the Rancher understands at the end of the story. Interestingly enough, through his relationship to ClearSky, he actually is taught by the teacher. In this way, we see how a true teacher’s impacts on those who are open can ripple outwards to other people.

Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?

7 Signs of a False Spiritual Teacher

Enduring the Ego Grind


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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