The Lesson of the Singing Bowl is one of my favorite articles. Today, I will share with you another story taught to me by my Indian yoga guru — The Lesson of the First Number — where I learned about intent, self-determination, and divination.
I added some detail to make the story my own so I could share it with you here.
A group of young children were learning how to draw the number one on a blackboard attached to a giant brick wall inside a small, one-room, schoolhouse located in the India wilds. One-by-one, each child walked to the front of the class, took the chalk from the teacher’s hand, and drew the number one on the blackboard.
When it came to the last student, he refused to draw the number one.
“Teacher,” he said, “I am not ready to draw the number one.” He replaced the bit of chalk in the teacher’s hand and returned to his seat in the classroom.
“Will you try to draw the number one tomorrow?” the teacher asked.
“Yes,” the boy replied, “Tomorrow, I will try again.”
Each day the teacher invited the boy to draw the number one.
Each day the boy explained he was not yet ready. The rest of the class was up to drawing the number nine on the blackboard. The young boy had yet to move beyond the number one.
The boy still refused to draw the number one. The teacher called in the boy’s parents for a meeting. The parents implored their child to just go to the blackboard and draw the number one. The mother and father each took turns drawing a short, simple, vertical line on the board. The boy sat in his chair and said, “You are ready to draw the number one. I am not yet ready. I will try again tomorrow.”
The boy would still not draw the number one. The rest of his class was now scribbling hundreds of numbers on the blackboard. The teacher said to the boy, “You have failed the class. You may not return until you draw the number one.” The boy nodded and left the classroom.
His parents, frustrated and ashamed, banned the boy from their home. “You are a failure to us,” they shouted, “You have only been born to embarrass us!” The boy nodded, wrapped a few clothes in a length of cloth, and disappeared into the India wilds.
No one heard from the boy.
Time turned to tide.
The wind became the sun.
The moon propagated rain.
Soon, the teacher, the students and even the parents, began to forget about the boy.
“He was lost,” they all reasoned, “and the earth swallowed him home.”
Then, one day, the young boy — now taller, older and dirtier — appeared at the back of the classroom.
His teacher stopped mid-sentence.
The rest of the class turned, as one, to watch as the familiar stranger — now with long hair, tattered clothes that no longer fit, and a crusting of blood and dirt from the wilds flaking his skin — walked slowly up the center aisle.
The room was silent except for the calloused shuffling of the boy’s bare feet against the earthen floor.
The boy stood at the head of the class.
He took the bit of chalk from his teacher’s hand.
The boy tenderly held the chalk between his fingers, cocked his hand high in the air, and with a single, gentle, downward stroke, he drew the number one on the blackboard and split the blackboard, and the wall behind it, in two.