The Illusion of Reflection and Illusory Happiness


Once there was a king who had presented his daughter, the princess, with a beautiful diamond necklace. The necklace was stolen and his people in the kingdom searched everywhere but could not find it. Some said a bird might have stolen it. The king then announced a reward of $50,000 for anyone who found it.

One day a clerk was walking home along a river. This river was completely polluted, filthy and smelly. As he was walking, the clerk saw a shimmering in the river and when he looked, he saw the diamond necklace. He decided to grab it so that he could get the $50,000 reward. He put his hand in the filthy, dirty water and grabbed at the necklace. But somehow, he missed it.

He took his hand out and looked again and the necklace was still there. He tried again. This time he walked in the river and dirtied his pants in the filthy river and put his whole arm in to grab the necklace. But strangely, he still missed the necklace! He came out and started walking away feeling frustrated.

Then again, he saw the necklace right there. This time he was determined to get it, no matter what. He decided to plunge into the river, although it was a disgusting thing to do as the river was polluted and his whole body would become filthy.

He plunged in and searched everywhere for the necklace and yet he failed. This time he was really bewildered and came out feeling very depressed that he could not get the necklace that would get him $50,000.

Just then a saint, who was walking by, saw him and asked him what was the matter. The clerk didn’t want to share the secret with the saint, thinking the saint might take the necklace for himself. So, he refused to tell the saint anything.

But the saint could see this man was troubled and being compassionate again asked the clerk to tell him the problem. The clerk mustered some courage and decided to put some faith in the saint. He told the saint about the necklace and how he tried and tried to catch it, but kept failing.

The saint then told him that perhaps he should try looking upward, toward the branches of the tree, instead of in the filthy river. The clerk looked up and true enough, the necklace was dangling on the branch of a tree. He had been trying to capture a mere reflection of the real necklace all this time.

Happiness in the material world is just like the illusory reflection of the necklace in the filthy, polluted river. It is a mere reflection of the infinite bliss that is within. We can never achieve the infinite, eternal happiness we are looking for, no matter how hard we endeavor in the finite, ephemeral world. We are simply looking for happiness in the wrong place. Instead, we should turn within towards the source of infinite bliss and stop chasing after the reflection of this happiness in the outside world.


Happiness that is experienced in the external world is just the reflection of a very minute quantum of the infinite bliss that is within. There is no happiness inherent in the outside objects. In ignorance, the bliss within is projected on the objects outside and it is felt as if the joy is coming from those objects. It is like the dog chewing the bone. When its sharp edges injure the inner cheeks and blood oozes out, the dog sucks it and thinks that the juice is coming from the bone!    


Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a great realized master said, “The fabled musk deer searches the whole world over for the source of the scent which comes from within.”


Consider a calm, still lake in which is reflected a big full moon. The image of the moon looks real and if the real moon was not in the sky to remind us otherwise, many would mistake the reflection for the moon itself. The reflection cannot exist by itself, yet the moon can exist without reflection. It is the same with our personality we see only the reflected personality and mistake it for our real nature without realizing that the personality manifesting at present is dependent on something deeper.


A passage in the book ‘Living Zen’ says, “Humanity could be compared to over seven billion greyhounds rushing in pursuit of a mechanical hare on a racetrack. These human greyhounds are taut, over tense, avid and violent, but Zen teaches them that what they think is a real hare is only a mechanical hoaxThe moment man fully realizes what is implied by this truth he ‘let’s go’ and the bitterness of his struggles and violence are succeeded by relaxation, peace, harmony and love. 

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1 Comment

  1. Chitti Babu

    Noble message from the reflection of necklace example, thank you Guruji.

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