Once a sculptor in a village made a beautiful idol of a goddess and thought of selling it at a good price in the city. So he loaded the idol on his donkey and started towards the city. When he was going through the village, the villagers bowed in front of the idol as it looked like a real goddess. Whichever street he crossed, a crowd would bow in front of the idol.
But a strange thing happened. The donkey, which was carrying the idol, thought that he was special and that was the reason why people were bowing to him. He was thrilled with his newfound respect.
Soon the sculptor returned after selling the idol. While he was crossing the village, the donkey stopped in the middle of the road, expecting a warm welcome. But nobody paid attention to him. The donkey felt insulted and started braying, so much so, that the villagers beat him with a big stick and drove him away.
The same mistake, what the donkey did, is what most of us do. When we are on the divine path of self-realisation, with God's grace, a glow enters our demeanor and we stand out in the crowd. People respect such persons and often bow in respect. But we should realise that people are bowing not to us but to that glimpse of God whom they realise resides within us. So the credit of this respect goes, solely to God, not to us. If we start taking the credit, we cross the thin line of demarcation and enter into an area of false ego, which God dislikes most.
The basic difference between material and devotional lifestyle is that, in material life the more we progress, the more ego we develop. In a devotional lifestyle, the more we progress, the more ego we shed. I am sure each of us, after reading this story, learnt at least one lesson.