Self-Realization Fellowship Blog

“The Coal Basket” — A Retelling of a Traditional Story From India

November 01, 2023


After teaching his students from the Bhagavad Gita, the sage watched them perform their morning chores.

“Premal, why so sad?” He spoke to a young boy who was a recent arrival at the ashram.

“Sir, I love to hear you speak about the Gita, but I don't remember much afterward. The other boys easily talk of the holy teachings and I know nothing.” Premal looked dejectedly at the ground. “I feel I don't belong here,” he concluded.

The sage was thoughtful a moment. Then he said, “Premal, fetch me the coal basket.” The boy loved to serve, and eagerly returned with the basket that the students used to carry coal to the stove. Inside the basket was black with the dust of its daily burden.

“Fill the basket with water from the river and bring it back to me.” Seeing the boy’s look of confusion, he added, “Just do as I say.”

The boy dipped the basket into the river but all the water leaked out before he could return. “Do it again,” commanded the sage. Five times the boy filled the basket with water, and though he ran faster each time, the basket was always empty by the time he reached the sage.

Finally the boy said, “Teacher, you have given me an impossible task. It is useless to try to bring you water in this basket.”

“You say it is useless?” the sage looked at him inquiringly. “See inside the basket.”

The boy looked and saw the basket was now different. It was clean; the water had washed away all traces of the black dust.

The sage explained, “You may not remember or understand everything when we study the Bhagavad Gita. But even just listening, with patience and reverence, will gradually change your consciousness, until your heart is cleansed of mortal delusion and fears.”

The sage put his arm affectionately around the boy. “God is no scholar but a lover. If you seek Him sincerely, one day you will see how He has transformed you utterly.”

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I've just read this sweet story and it has given me real hope and encouragement in such a simple soul touching way.
Truth is so beautiful.
Jai Guru
In His Love

Dee Georgette

This story touched my heart. For me when I first started studying I felt that I was not getting out of it what I thought I would. But I persisted, now even when I read, I might not always remember exactly what I have read, but the feeling of God stays with me.


Jai Guru! A wonderful teaching story of the inestimable blessings and beauty of the guru/disciple relationship. Thank you. This week's SRF talk: "Giving Thanks for Life's Blessings" by Br. Ishtananda is a brilliant illumination of the "Coal Basket" story. Jai Guru!

Yogananda Reddy

Thanks for giving great Inspirational storytime. My feeling is also the same as the Premal. I have gotten somuch inspiration and I will continue my spiritual efforts to get Self-Realisation.... 💐🙏💐

Beatrice Nabatanzi

Am exactly like this little boy 💯 i never remember anything from the Ghita this came at the right time for me thank you. Jai Guru 🙏


I made myself a commitment to just listen with an open mind and slowly without realising the knowledge arises just as this beautiful story has demonstrated. Such inspiration. Thank you.


Thank you so much for this wonderfully inspiring story. It truly gives me hope.

Nalini Ragoo

Very inspiring story. It teaches us to just do our duty with the best of our capacity, unconditionally and with perseverence God & Gurus will do the rest. Jai Guru


I needed to hear these encouraging words today. Such a wonderful story and perfect timing! Thank you Jai Guru🙏

Newton Bunce

How appropriate. Every morning I experience a bit of discouragement - like Premal. This gentle story shows understanding and clarity take time. I am impatient. This world is SO involved with doing, we do not understand simply being. The ego goads us to look for form. But the changes occur within - constantly - and always. God is present, now, always. I need to be quiet, sincere, and consistent. Thank you for this lovely and simple lesson. Blessings.

John Salatti

May I be as cleansed as this coal basket and as steadfast as this little boy.

Sharon Munroe

This story gives me such hope! Can relate to the dejected boy…… I know if I keep on trying my deficiencies will be supplied……I bow to Thee.

Uma Rangaraj

This story comes at a timely moment for me, I was feeling exactly like that young man, seemingly stuck at ground zero! It’s like Gurudev addressed my frustration, as always….


Thank you so much for posting this story! It is so uplifting to hear the ancient wisdom from Masters...Please keep posting these valuable lessons : -))


That’s what keeps me going on this path. “God is no scholar but a lover.”He loves me and I love Him in everyone, in everything. Open hearted striving. Striving to feel sincere and concentrated in prayer. Jai Guru

LynnAnnRose Huntington

"But even just listening, with patience and reverence, will gradually change your consciousness, until your heart is cleansed of mortal delusion and fears.” I'm not an accomplished meditator but for 50 years I've been listening with patience and reverence to Master and Sri Yukteswar and my heart has been filled with Love and Acceptance.


Such a wonderful story !Thank you so deeply ! I bow to you dearest Guruji , you are with me as I am with you !

Flor Zepeda

… Indeed, if I pay attention I confirm “God is The Lover”, that I can remember!
Thank you, Jai Guru

Martin Madsen

There is hope for us all! Such a sweet story. Thank you for sharing it. Jai Guru!

AlekxeyMartin Madsen

I like this story a lot. Many times I feel I don’t see any skill development by reading or studying… I like to think that even I don’t see it there is a better, wiser me developing… I really just hope that can be a contribution to th e people around me. Beautiful story.


I agree with your sentiment. This was a beautiful story and it also brought me hope sometimes I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere.. I feel my meditations fall short, even though in spirit and soul I know what I’m supposed to be doing to get to that beautiful Christ consciousness

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