There was a little mouse who was very sad and depressed all the time. What could he do? A magician noticed that the little mouse was living under a cloud of depression, and he felt very sad. He asked the mouse, "Why are you so sad all the time? Why are you so depressed?"
The mouse said, "I am always afraid of the cat. At any moment the cat can spring out of nowhere and devour me. My life is entirely at the mercy of the cat. What am I going to do?"
The magician said, "That is very easy. I shall turn you into a cat."
The magician kept his promise and turned the mouse into a beautiful cat. Then the cat was very, very happy.
A few days later, the magician noticed that the cat was the picture of misery. The magician said, "Why are you so sad? You wanted to be a cat. Now what has happened to make you unhappy?"
The cat said, "I am so unhappy because there is a dog in the neighbourhood. This dog scares me to death. I never know when it will appear and chase me. The dog can easily kill me at any time. I am at the mercy of the dog constantly."
The magician said, "All right, if that is what is happening, then I shall solve the problem by turning you into a dog."
The cat now became a dog, and it immediately started barking and growling to show how strong and powerful it was. The dog was in the seventh Heaven of delight. A few days later, however, the magician discovered the dog sunk in depression. The magician said, "Why are you depressed? You wanted to become a dog, and I have made you a dog. You are so strong and powerful. What has gone wrong?"
The dog said, "Now I see there is a panther living nearby. This panther will surely kill me. A panther is the most ruthless of all animals. I am positive that it is planning to attack me and kill me. What am I going to do?"
So the magician said, "All right, I am turning you into a panther. Try to be happy!"
So the dog became a panther, and all the ferocious qualities of the whole world entered into him. He was so powerful and aggressive. Everybody was afraid of the panther. But in a few days' time, the panther succumbed to depression once again. This time his depression was far worse than the previous times. The magician could not understand at all. He said, "Why are you so depressed? I have done everything possible to make you happy. What is it this time?"
The panther said, "I am now at the mercy of a hunter. At any moment the hunter may see me and then kill me. Even now he may be looking for me. What shall I do? I am terribly afraid of the hunter."
"It is impossible to deal with you!" said the magician. "In the beginning, you were a mouse; now you are a panther. Now what am I going to do? You are always dissatisfied with your life. When I give you a promotion and transform you into something else, you find fault with your new life. It has become a habit for you to feel sad and depressed. It is too much! I am turning you back into a mouse. You deserve this fate!" The magician turned the panther back into a mouse and said, "Go your way!"
I have told this story because it has some spiritual significance. Many times when we make a little spiritual progress, when we succeed in going upward or inward, we become frightened because we are afraid of the unknown. But the unknown is unknown only because today we do not know it. A child does not know tomorrow's lesson, but will he be afraid of tomorrow's lesson? He has the inner wisdom to go forward. But quite often when we enter into the inner life, the spiritual life, we are afraid of making progress. We want progress — we want to go infinitely higher and deeper — but the moment we make a little progress, we are uncertain. We say, "What will happen next?" This fear of the unknown is delaying the progress of many spiritual seekers.