There once was a seeker who had some sincerity in him. He was also a writer who had written many books. Of his most important books, the first one was about animals, the second one was about man, the third one was about himself and the fourth one was about God. Animals, man, himself and God — these were the subjects of his four most significant books.
He said to himself, “Now that I have written these books, let me go and read them aloud to the most powerful among the animals, to the highest among men, to the best inside of myself and to God.”
So he went into the forest and climbed up a tall tree. After he settled himself, he started reading out the portion from his animal book that dealt with the lion. “Lion, you are the king of the animals. You are the most powerful, and at the same time the most beautiful. You are always majestic. You do not kill other animals except when you are hungry.” His book went on to appreciate the many fine qualities of the lion, for whom he felt great admiration.
Suddenly, to his horror, a lion started roaring nearby. He exclaimed, “Look at this ungrateful animal! I appreciated him highly, but instead of being pleased and grateful, he wants to kill me.” The seeker-writer was totally disgusted with so ungrateful an animal, and he waited in silence for the lion to go away. After one full hour, the lion left. When he was quite sure the lion had left him, he climbed down and went away, muttering, “Absolutely ungrateful animal!”
When he had recovered a little, he said, “Among men, who is the highest? The King.” So he went to the King’s palace and said, “O King, I have something to read to you. I have written extensively about human beings but I know that you are the highest, you are the greatest among men. And now I would like to read out what I have written about you.”
The King nodded in agreement, and the writer began to read from his book. “You are the most powerful King, and have conquered all other Kings. We are very proud of you. To see you is to see the Face of God. Because you are the highest among men, you represent God on earth.” Reading like this, he flattered the King for several minutes.
When the King had heard all that was written, he said briefly, “Thank you.”
The writer became angry and indignant. He said to himself, “I have given him such high appreciation, admiration and adoration in my writings, and he just says, ‘Thank you.’ What an ungrateful King!” But he did not dare to say it out loud. Only to himself he said, “Look at this ungrateful man!”
When he reached his home he said, “Inside me my soul is my best possession. So now let me speak to my soul.” He started reading out in front of his soul. “O Soul, you are the purest, you are the best in me. You are the most beautiful. Without you I would not exist. You are indispensable. It is you that I always need, not the body.”
The soul gave a broad smile.
Once again the writer was angry. “For fifteen minutes I have appreciated you, admired you, saying that you are by far the best member in my family, and you just give me a smile.” He grew angrier yet, and said, “The soul is simply useless. It does not know at all how to accept appreciation and offer gratitude.”
Then the writer-seeker went to God. Standing in front of Him he said, “O God, You are so kind. Look at Your vast Creation. You are all Compassion. It is only because You exist on earth that we are all on earth. Everywhere Your Compassion reigns supreme.”
God said very simply, “It is all right.”
“Oh God! For such a long time I have appreciated You, and You just say that it is all right? What an ungrateful God You are! You should have blessed me and said something nice about me. I have appreciated You, I have admired You, I have adored You, I have worshipped You, but alas, You are still another ungrateful person on earth.”
Puzzled and disgusted, the writer said to himself, “Since all the highest and most superior are so ungrateful, let me go to the simpler ones who are a little inferior. I shall show the superior ones something about appreciation by going to those below them.”
So once again he went into the forest. To himself he said, “Now, next to the lion is the tiger.” He climbed up a high tree and when he was settled he started speaking highly of the tiger: “O Tiger, you have such great strength. I feel you are too modest. You can easily defeat the lion. When I look at you I get tremendous joy, because your face shows solid strength. The lion has no strength compared to you. The lion only knows how to roar.” In this way he belittled the lion.
The tiger heard and was very happy. He was being given such praise while the lion was getting only criticism. So the tiger started roaming around, feeling proud and happy, and as he moved here and there he noticed a ring. He put it into his mouth only to discover that it was something not edible. He did not know, of course, that it was a gold ring, or even what gold was. All he knew was that the ring was not edible. So he dropped the ring on the ground and moved off into the forest. As it happened, he dropped it at the foot of the tree in which the writer was sitting.
When the tiger had left, the writer came down safely and saw the gold ring. It was a beautiful and most expensive ring. Delighted, he exclaimed, “Look at the appreciation of this animal. The tiger has listened to my praise and has given me this beautiful gold ring. I can sell it for hundreds of rupees. At last I have found one grateful creature.”
Then he went to the Minister at the King’s palace. Next in importance to the King is the Minister. The writer started praising the Minister highly. He said, “You know, soon you will become the King, but already you are the greatest person on earth. There are so many things you have done for the King, but the King himself takes all the glory. You have worked so hard, but just because the King is above you, he takes all the glory. Actually it is you who deserve it.” The writer lavished much appreciation and admiration upon the Minister.
The Minister was greatly flattered. He looked carefully around to make sure the King was not there, and then he gave the writer one thousand rupees. The writer was thrilled and said to himself delightedly, “See, the superior people are so ungrateful, whereas the ones who are just a little inferior are so grateful.”
After he reached home he said, “Now, next to my soul is my heart.” So he started speaking to his heart. “O my Heart, you are so nice; you are so kind. You always feel for others. We talk so much about the soul. But where is the soul? You are the one everybody can see and feel. Doctors can see you and feel you. When we breathe in we can feel a palpitation, and it is all inside you. You are so kind, affectionate and compassionate. Without you we can’t exist. When you fail, when you stop functioning, we die. So you are the only indispensable one in my life.”
To his consternation, the heart started crying.
Astonished, the writer asked, “Why are you crying?”
The heart said, “I am crying because you are a fool. I am not indispensable. It is only the soul that is indispensable. You have to give the soul its proper value. You must know that the soul is infinitely more beautiful than I am. The soul has a divine spark, a divine light. I only feel sorry for your stupidity. You are appreciating the wrong person. It is the soul that deserves this kind of praise and admiration, not I. Never!”
The writer said, “Look how nice the heart is. I am appreciating it so fully and it gives all the credit to the soul, the soul that was so nasty.” He was very touched, and he deeply appreciated the heart’s nobility and generosity.
Next he went to one of the minor cosmic gods. He stood in front of him and said, “Oh, who cares for God? We go to Him, we appreciate and adore Him, we praise Him, and He just says, ‘It is all right.’ Now I say it’s all wrong. It seems to me that God has become old and does not talk sensibly. He does not know how to appreciate even an ordinary being. God is not doing anything well. O minor god, your beauty surpasses God’s, and you are far wiser than God. In a few years you are going to transcend God and replace Him, and you will be able to rule the present creation much better than God.” While extolling the cosmic god to the sky, the writer placed a flower at his feet. “I didn’t place a flower at the Feet of God. But you rightly deserve my appreciation, admiration and adoration. So to you I offer the flower.”
The cosmic god said, “You fool! Do I deserve this kind of thing? He is the Lord. He is the Supreme.” And then the cosmic god took the flower and placed it at the Feet of God, and bowed down to the omnipotent God, the Supreme.
The writer was deeply impressed and said to himself, “Look at the cosmic god’s nobility. All my appreciation, admiration and adoration he could easily have kept for himself. He could easily have said, ‘I am glad that you have realised my capacity.’ But no! He offered all the appreciation, admiration and adoration that I offered him at the Feet of God, the Supreme. People think that he is inferior to God, but look at his heart’s magnanimity. To me, he is the one who is really superior.
“Now I have come to realise that all the inferiors are far superior to their so-called superiors. In each case it has been proved. The tiger showed gratitude, the Minister showed appreciation with money, the heart showed its sincerity and nobility and the cosmic god offered all my adoration to the Supreme God. This proves that those who are great are not really great, and those who are not great are really great.”
The seeker-writer went home very pleased with his discovery. After he fell asleep that night, he saw a most beautiful human being all of a sudden standing in front of him. The being appeared to be a saint. The seeker asked, “What do you want from me?”
The saint said, “I have come only to see you.”
The seeker said, “Today I have been terribly disappointed. All the time I used to cherish the idea that the superior would be superior in every way. But now I am seeing that the inferior are actually superior to the superior.”
The saint said, “Now tell me, how do the superior become inferior and the inferior become superior?” So the writer told the whole story.
Then the saint said, “Unfortunately you are mistaken. You are simply a fool.”
“What do you mean I am a fool? Why do you think I am a fool?”
The saint said, “When the lion was roaring, it was not because he wanted to devour you. On the contrary, he was roaring with tremendous joy and inspiration. The lion felt that your appreciation made him stronger. Your praise had energised the lion to such an extent that he wanted to show his courage and strength. That is why he was showing you, through his thunderous roaring, his own gratitude. He was also telling the other animals: ‘Look, here I am well appreciated even by the human beings.’ So it was gratitude he was offering to you, but you misunderstood him.”
The saint continued: “You wrote a few things about the King highly appreciating him, and the King said, ‘Thank you.’ But you must understand that the King does not care for this kind of appreciation. Every day he gets lots of appreciation and admiration from men who are far more important than you. You are only an ordinary man, yet the King allowed you to come to his palace, he listened to you, and he most kindly said, ‘Thank you.’ You must remember that he is a great man and has many, many things to do. Kings don’t usually even say ‘Thank you.’ They just nod their heads. Yet your most generous King has given his very precious time and also said, ‘Thank you.’ What more can you expect from a great King? To get a ‘thank you’ from the King is really something.”
After a pause, the saint said, “Now, about the soul. When you spoke highly of the soul, the soul smiled at you most beautifully and divinely. To get a smile from the soul is not a common thing. After all, the soul represents God on earth. When this soul of yours gave you a generous smile, it offered its own divinity to you. So you saw and received your soul’s divinity in the form of a smile, and you say that the soul didn’t appreciate you or give you anything. You are such a fool!”
The saint paused once more, and then went on. “Now, about God. You appreciated, admired and adored God, and God said to you, ‘It is all right.’ When God tells you ‘It is all right,’ that means that what you have said is perfect. Look, we human beings say everything wrong, we write everything wrong, we do everything wrong. For God to say that what you wrote is all right means that God has fully sanctioned all your writings. It means that He is telling you that what you have written is absolutely correct, absolutely right. You fool, God has appreciated you much more than you actually deserved. If God told me that something I said or did was all right, I would be so proud, so utterly delighted. We are all ignorant people. For us to do anything right, and to hear from God that it is all right, is the height of glory. What more do we need? What more can we deserve?”
He continued, “The superior are always superior and will remain so. But we are not able to understand them. When we do not understand, we go to those inferior to them and try to create a problem between the superior and the inferior. But if we are sincere, if we are earnest, then we will come to see that the superior are always superior. And the superior will offer their appreciation in a different way from those lower than they. When we mix with the inferiors, just because we ourselves are equal to them, we understand their appreciation perfectly well. But when we actually mix with the real superiors, we do not understand their way of appreciation.”