The minister's test

One day the king summoned his most trusted minister. This minister had served the king for many years, and the king deeply valued his wisdom and advice. When the minister came before the king, the king looked at him compassionately and said, “I am extremely grateful to you. You have rendered devoted service to me for many long years. Now you are growing old. I do not wish you to discontinue your work, but I would like you to take an assistant, somebody whom you can train to do your duties. Please select somebody who is as honest as you are. As you know, I am so proud of you. Your honesty has saved me time and again. So do not take anybody who is dishonest.”

The minister interviewed many of the young men in the kingdom and finally he chose three whom he believed to have all the right qualities to be his assistant. Above all, they seemed to be honest. The minister informed the king, “Your Majesty, I have three candidates for you to choose from.”

The king said, “No, you choose.”

The minister replied, “O King, I would prefer that you make the choice, since you are the one who wants me to have an assistant. I personally do not want an assistant.”

The king said, “I feel it is for your ultimate good. You are no longer a young man. As the years go by, I am sure you will depend on this assistant more and more. But I would like it to be somebody of your own choice.”

Finally the minister agreed to select one of the three candidates. He asked each one to come to his home at a particular time. He said to them, “This evening I will have something very special to tell you.”

When the first candidate arrived at the minister’s home, the minister invited him into his private room. The room was in total darkness. The minister took a gold coin from his robe and flicked it into the air. As soon as it dropped on the floor, the minister said to the young man, “The king has asked me to send you to his palace immediately.”

The young man had started to feel for the coin in the darkness, but the minister whispered, “Do not delay! You risk the king’s anger.”

The young man immediately ran out of the house and did not stop until he reached the king’s palace.

When the second young man arrived, the minister followed the same procedure. He took the candidate into his private room, which was completely dark, threw the gold coin onto the ground and then told the young man that the king was calling him. Like the first candidate, this one also ran at top speed to obey the king’s wishes. He was so happy and proud that the king had asked for him.

Finally the third candidate arrived for his appointment. Once more the minister threw the coin and made his dramatic announcement. This time the candidate did not heed the king’s urgent summons. He continued to search for the coin on the ground. After about five minutes, he did find the coin and he gave it back to the minister. The next day, the minister brought all three candidates before the king. The king asked him, “Have you decided which candidate you will choose?”

“Yes, I have made up my mind,” said the minister.

“Which one?” asked the king eagerly.

The minister pointed out the candidate who had spent so much time searching for the gold coin.

“How did you manage to choose this one?” enquired the king.

Then the minister recounted to the king the whole story about the test. He added, “Now I am more than happy to have an assistant because I see this one will do an excellent job. And when the time comes, he will replace me as your minister. I know that he will take care of your kingdom honestly and carefully. He will serve you most devotedly because he will give everything its proper value. The other two ran away for name and fame. They wanted to enhance their own glory. But this one valued the gold coin that I had dropped. He searched and searched for it until he found it. He did not want it for himself. He immediately returned it to me. In the same manner, when he becomes your minister, he will preserve your kingdom and everything in it. He will care for it in every way. That is why he is the best candidate.”

The minister smiled at the young man whom he had chosen. With sad faces, the two candidates who had failed the test bowed to the king and left the room.