The plight of those who are averse to their own best interest.

Adapted from a parable by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur.

Lalu and Kalu

A grocer had two sons named Lalu and Kalu. As they grew up, he wanted them to learn how to weight items on scales and record the weights in writing. He then hired a tutor to trains his sons in this respect. The boys were so unruly, however, that neither the tutor nor numerous successive tutors the grocer hired were able to teach Lalu and Kalu even these basic functions of counting, adding, and writing numbers. Finally, the grocer announced that he would give half the profits of his business to anyone could teach his sons numbers up to 100.

The grocer’s two naughty sons developed at a young age the habit of smoking tobacco in secret.

Allured by the proposal of the grocer, a poor, elderly brahman took up the task tutoring Lalu and Kalu. Their father made a strict arrangement so that Lalu and Kalu would remain with the tutor all day each day.

One day, Lalu and Kalu went out for a walk with the tutor, and when they saw a cow along the path, the tutor asked Lalu, “How many legs does this cow have?” Lalu then began to count the cow’s legs, “One, two, three …” but Kalu immediately covered his elder brother’s mouth with his hand and said, “Brother! Don’t count! Don’t count! He is cleverly starting to to teach you to how to count to 100!” Lalu then understood the trick of the tutor and fell silent.

Another day, Lalu and Kalu were resting in a room with the tutor. At first, they both pretended to be sleeping and began to snore so that the tutor would think they had fallen asleep. Thinking Lalu and Kalu to be asleep, the tutor himself  went to sleep. After a little while, Lalu and Kalu began to peek and see if the tutor was asleep. When they understood that he was asleep, they arose, went outside, smoked as they pleased, and then resumed their show of sleep. When the tutor arose, he smelled tobacco strongly. He roused Lalu and Kalu and asked them about the cause of the odor. He smelled their hands and found the odor strongly there. Lalu and Kalu, rubbing their eyes, said, “O Master, we don’t know anything about this.”

The tutor retorted, “Then why do your hands smell like tobacco?”

Lalu and Kalu feigned sobs and replied, “O Master, we fell asleep before you, and just now we woke up. When could we have been smoking? Some mischievous person must have come and smoked tobacco with our hands while we were asleep just to get us in trouble!”


Lalu and Kalu represent those who are averse to their own best interest. Even when their father went to great lengths to have them educated and their tutor developed a very pleasant way for them to start learning, they resisted their own development as far as they could. Similarly, the all-loving Lord compassionately makes immeasurable arrangements to bring about our welfare, and His loving servants make every effort to help us sincerely appreciate and reciprocate with this, but like Lalu and Kalu we resist following the advice and lifestyle of those on the spiritual path and at times even resent them for encouraging us. Moreover, even when we do formally take up the spiritual path, engage in spiritual practices, and associate with the sadhus for an extended period of time, we still deceitfully continue to ‘smoke tobacco’, that is, engage in thought, speech, and activities that are harmful and antithetical to the ideals of our spiritual practice. Because we struggle to the extreme against the dissolution of our false ego and sense of pseudo-independence, we fail to follow the sadhus on the pure spiritual path despite their making countless compassionate endeavours for our welfare. Furthermore, even when Sri Guru or the sadhu points out directly our attachments to mundanity or insincerity in our practice, we become indignant and claim like Lalu and Kalu, “I have not been smoking. Others have come and smoked with my hands.” In other words, we claim, “I am not insincere, attached, or misbehaved. Such and such other persons are, and I am just a victim of their wrongdoing.” Acknowledging our faults, taking full personal responsibility for them, deeply desiring to rid ourselves of them, and resolutely taking up the process to do so is the foundation of sincere spiritual practice, while preoccupying ourselves with the faults of others and the imperfections in our environment is its opposite. Unlike Lalu and Kalu, let us find the will to sincerely strive for our own welfare.