The treasurer's integrity

There was a king who was extremely powerful. At the same time, he had a most compassionate heart. He was very concerned because every day he received countless complaints against his ministers. He was simply shocked by the charges that were brought against these men, whom he had taken as his trusted advisors. At the same time, the king received tremendous appreciation for his treasurer. The treasurer was held in very high esteem by everybody.

One day the king decided to find out for himself why everybody appreciated the treasurer, whereas his ministers were subject to so much criticism. The king waited until evening and then went to the treasurer’s room in disguise. He knocked at the door and the treasurer invited him inside. The king said, “You do not know me. I am a new member of the king’s court. But I have not come to see you on official business. I have a personal problem. I shall be so grateful if you can help me solve my problem.”

The treasurer said, “Please sit down. I am doing something very important, but in half an hour I will be through and then I can listen to your problems.”

The king waited patiently for half an hour while the treasurer went on with his business, adding up columns of figures. When he finished his job, he turned to speak to the stranger. But first he turned off the electric light and lit a small lamp.

The king said, “May I ask why you turned off the electric light and put a lamp in front of it?”

The treasurer replied, “It is my duty. I am the king’s treasurer, so I cannot exploit government money. The electric light is paid for by the king, so I use it when I am doing official business. But this is my own lamp. From my home I bring oil for it that I pay for with my own money. I use this lamp when I am dealing with things of a personal nature. Yours is not an official visit. You have come here with a personal problem, so I cannot use the electric light. I can use only my personal lamp.”

The king was deeply moved by his treasurer’s integrity and sense of duty. He himself had not commanded the treasurer to use his personal things while dealing with personal matters. It was the treasurer’s own high standard that was compelling him to be so strict. Aloud, the king said, “Forgive me, but I cannot stay any longer. While sitting here, I have solved my problem. Now I have something else very important to do. But I shall come another time.”

The treasurer said, “All right. Please come another time. I shall be ready for you.”

The following day, the king went to the treasurer’s office again. This time the king was wearing his royal robes. The treasurer was delighted to receive the king in his office.

The king said, “I have heard so many reports about your wisdom. Now I have come to see you personally. Mine is not an official problem, a problem of state. It is absolutely personal and private. I would like to discuss it with you. Please tell me, what kind of treatment will I get from you?”

The treasurer said, “O King, if it is a personal matter, then I will give you personal treatment and not royal treatment.”

“What do you mean?” asked the king.

The treasurer explained, “If it is a personal problem, a family problem or something of that nature, I will treat you as an ordinary man. I will advise you in exactly the same way that I would advise an ordinary person. I will not treat you as the king at that time. I hope that you will not be offended.”

The king was most pleased. He said, “This is what I expect from everybody. You have shown that you are truly a man of duty, a man of integrity and a man of honesty.” Then the king offered to give him 20,000 rupees.

The treasurer said, “O King, how can I take even one rupee from you? It is my duty to serve you. Indeed, it is my duty to help any human being who asks me. If people feel that I have some wisdom, then I shall give it freely. I do not need any reward. Why should I charge for this kind of service? By your grace, I have enough money to meet with my expenses.”

“Surely you are my best friend!” exclaimed the king. “You know the true meaning of duty. You are the right one to take care of my treasury and also to advise others. Now I see why everybody appreciates you and admires you. Duty must always come first in our lives. I am so happy that I have someone like you in my kingdom.”