The priest who changed his profession

There was a blind man who used to go every day, early in the morning, and sit near a certain temple. He would place a small container in front of himself, and then he would begin crying most pitifully, “I am blind! Please take pity on me.”

Many devotees of the cosmic gods and goddesses would start arriving at the temple at an early hour to perform their worship. In India, we believe that one can gain merit by praying and meditating early in the morning before entering into the hustle and bustle of life.

As these devotees passed by the blind man, many of them would place some annas and even rupees in his container. They felt that the cosmic gods and goddesses would be pleased with them if they could help this poor, unfortunate man.

This went on for a number of years. The blind man was always to be found in his place near the temple, and every day he would receive enough money from the kind-hearted devotees to buy his food and have some comforts in his life.

Eventually a new priest got a job in the temple. This priest observed the blind man and saw that people were very generous towards him. The priest said to himself, “Every day this blind man earns so much money just by sitting there. I am sure he is very sincere, but who is to know the difference? Someone could easily earn the same amount of money just by pretending to be blind. I work so hard for the temple, but I earn a mere pittance! Let me give up my profession and become like this man. I will go to another temple and pretend that I am blind. I will cry and cry as this one does, and I am sure people will shower their money upon me.”

So he left his job as the temple priest and went to another village. There he dressed in some rags and took up his position outside the temple. He closed his eyes and began crying helplessly, using the same pitiful voice that he had learned from the man who was really blind. Many devotees were coming by on their way to the temple and he was very happy to hear the sound of the coins that they were dropping into his container.

The priest of this temple also happened to pass by. He, too, was moved by the cries of the blind man, but when he looked at the blind man, something did not seem to be right. The priest could not explain what it was. So he continued on inside the temple to commence the puja. At the same time, he decided to secretly observe the blind man and, from time to time, he glanced at him through the temple doorway.

After two or three hours, people stopped coming to the temple. Morning prayers were over and there was usually a rest period until the evening prayers began. The priest was watching the blind man and he saw him suddenly open his eyes and grab his container of love-offerings. He tipped the whole amount onto the palm of his hand and then very nicely hid it in one of his pockets. Then the so-called blind man replaced the container in its original position, closed his eyes and started his pitiful wailing once again. By now it was around ten o’clock in the morning and very few people were coming to worship. Even then, the blind man continued his performance. Greedy people are like that. They do not want to miss even a single rupee.

Day after day, the temple priest watched this charade. He prayed for the illumination of the blind man, but to no avail. Finally, the priest could tolerate it no longer. One day he stood in front of the beggar and said, “Oh, I see that you are blind. That is why you are earning so much money!” Then he gave the blind man three smart slaps. The priest continued, “Every morning you have been fooling the sincere devotees who come to pray and meditate here at this temple. I have been watching you for a long time. I have seen you open your eyes and count your money. Then you hide it in your pocket. But you cannot fool me! I know that you have perfect vision.”

“Is that so?” asked the blind man. “Then tell me, can you see a house about one hundred metres away?”

“Yes, I can see one,” said the priest.

“What colour is it?” asked the blind man.

“It is green.”



Then the blind man asked, “What else do you see?”

“I see a few coconut trees around the house.”

“Ah,” said the blind man, “that is what I cannot see at all. That proves I am blind! You can see so far — you can see not only the house, but also the trees around it. But, poor me, I am so blind, so blind! All those things in the distance are hazy for me.”

Then the temple priest became really furious and gave the beggar a few more slaps. The beggar cried, “I am calling the police!”

“All right,” said the priest, “you call the police! In fact, I myself will call the police to come. Now tell me the truth: whose house is it over there? It is newly built and I suspect that it has something to do with you.”

The beggar said, “It is my house. It is not a crime to own a house. I was able to build it with the money that I have earned from begging.”

“Now I am definitely taking you to the police station,” said the priest. He took all the beggar’s earnings for that day and was about to drag him to the police station.

Then, all of a sudden, the priest changed his mind and set the beggar free. He said to himself, “Let me remain inside the temple and try to be a sincere priest. Then people will appreciate me. If I do not do my job properly, then people will treat me in the same way that I have treated this fellow. Insincerity can strike in any profession. Whether he is just pretending to be blind or I am just pretending to be a good priest, it is all the same. The best thing is for me to become sincere and spiritual in every way so that I do not share his fate.”