Two jewel merchants arrived at a caravanserai in the desert at about the same time one night. Each was quite conscious of the other’s presence, and while unloading his camel, one of them could not resist the temptation to let a large pearl fall to the ground as if by accident. It rolled in the direction of the other who, with affected graciousness, picked it up and returned it to its owner saying, “That is a fine pearl you have there, sir. As large and lustrous as they come.”
“How gracious of you to say so,” said the other. As a matter of fact, that is one of the smaller gems in my collection.”
A bedouin who was sitting by the fire and had observed this drama, rose and invited the two of them to eat with him. When they began their meal, this is the story he told them:
“I, too, my friends, was once upon a time, a jeweler like you. One day I was overtaken by a great storm in the desert. It buffeted me and my caravan this way and that till I was separated from my entourage and lost my way completely.
Days passed and I was panic-stricken to realize that I was really wandering bout in circles with no sense of where I was or which direction to walk in. Then, almost dead with starvation, I unloaded every bag on my camel’s back, anxiously searching through them for the hundredth time.
Imagine my excitement when I came upon a pouch that had escaped my notice before. With trembling fingers I ripped it open hoping to find something to eat. Imagine my disillusionment when I found that all it contained was pearls!”
This is from The Heart of the Enlightened, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.