It was approaching the dead of winter when a spiritual teacher went walking through a deep mountain valley with three of his disciples. As it was very cold, the three students were worried about their teacher.
They didn't want him to get sick, but none would speak up; all knew their teacher's insistence on privacy when it came to people sticking their nose into his personal affairs. But finally one of them could hold his peace no longer and spoke out:
"Teacher, it's not right that you don't have proper protection from this weather." And, gathering his courage, he went further.
"We all agree," he said as he looked over at his fellow students for a sense of support, "we want you to have a beautiful coat to help keep you warm."
The teacher understood the true nature of his students' protestations, but he also wanted them to learn the higher lesson of the moment: while it's good to have comforts, being without them is not important enough to despair over. Further, he wanted to show them the value of learning how to use whatever life supplies, or denies, them in the moment, but his brief words of instruction fell on deaf ears. Instead, his students insisted further:
"No, master, it's not right. We appreciate your modesty and your humility, but really, you need a nice warm coat. If you don't, you may catch your death of cold, and then what would become of us? Permit us to buy this for you, please?"
Continuing their conversation as they walked alongside a great river, all of a sudden they noticed a large fur coat floating downstream. One of the students exclaimed, "Look! It's a miracle! The Almighty has heard our prayers! How great is our fortune!"
The next moment, at their urging, the teacher dived into the cold waters to retrieve the fur coat as it floated along with the current. Another minute went by and the students were in shock: their teacher was being swept down the river along with the coat. But that wasn't all; it was obvious their teacher was in a great struggle of some kind. One by one they cried out, "Are you all right? What's wrong! Let go of the coat - you'll drown if you don't let it go!"
And from the distance they heard their teacher yell back to them, "I want to let go, but it's not a coat! It's a black bear... and it won't let go of me!"