One night a fisherman went into a garden and cast his net into a lake with the idea of stealing some fish. The owner of the place who was sleeping was disturbed by the noise and he woke up. He realized what was happening and ran towards the lake along with his servants. He surrounded the lake with his men and with the help of lighted torches began to search for the thief. In the meanwhile, the fisherman who had managed to swim to the shore escaped into a thick bushy area. He smeared his body with ashes and sat under a tree pretending to be a holy man. The owner and his men searched a great deal, but could not find the thief. At last they saw a holy man with his body smeared with ashes meditating under a tree. The next day news spread in the neighbourhood that a great sage was sitting in the garden. People started coming in large numbers. They saluted him with everything — fruits, flowers, sweets and even money. The fisherman was amazed. He thought, “I am not a genuine holy man and still people show so much devotion to me. Certainly my life will be transformed and I will realize God if I truly become a holy man.” From then on he gave up his evil ways and started leading a very pious and holy life.
Sri Ramakrishna used to narrate the above parable to emphasize the power of holiness. He was of the firm view that even an imitation of something noble or holy is capable of leading one to an enlightened way of life. In fact, most of the sadhakas (seekers) at the early stages of their spiritual life often imitate the actions of realized souls. Slowly the imitation turns into something real. Such is the power of holiness.