An Indian prince, Bhargava, comes to Gautama Buddha for initiation and become a monk. In a large hall in a monastery, the Enlightened One was sitting in a chair over a raised pedestal with many monks standing in a row in each side of the hall.
The prince enters the hall carrying two large bowls of gifts in each hand and walks slowly towards the Master. After a few steps, prince hears Buddha saying: “Drop it.”
The prince stands perplexed. After a few moment of thoughtful silence, the prince feels that the Master was perhaps asking him to drop that bowl of gifts containing precious stones and gold coins. A master like Buddha may not like such gifts. The prince drops that bowls but still carrying the other bowl of flowers in his hand, walks again. After a few steps the prince again hears the voice of Buddha saying, “Drop it.”
The prince is baffled. Does the Master asking him to drop also the bowl of flowers? But our Indian tradition says that when you go to see a spiritual master, you must go with a gift. After a few moments of thought, prince feels that perhaps Master was not interested in any gifts at all. He drops the bowl of flowers and walks again.
As the prince comes close to the Master, and stands face to face, Buddha looks deep into the eyes of his disciple and says softly with infinite compassion, “Drop it, Bhargava.” Bhargava understands with an inner illumination that Master was asking him to drop his ego, the small, impermanent and sorrowful self, and does it inwardly. At that moment, Bhargava became enlightened.
There are some interpretations of the story, which spoils the sheer aesthetic beauty of the story with mental interference. But one of them is significant. In this interpretation, the bowl of gold represents attachment to wealth. And the second bowl of flowers represents attachment to tradition—which Buddha regarded as a great obstacle to enlightenment—like for example the Indian custom that when you meet a Master you must go with gifts.