There were two friends who were extremely good to each other, kind to each other and fond of each other. One of them decided to go out on a pilgrimage. His name was Rakhal. Now, Rakhal happened to be quite rich. So he took all the money that was necessary for the pilgrimage. He found that he had a large amount of money left over. So he said, “Since it is not good for me to take a very large amount on my pilgrimage the best thing is to leave the rest with my best friend, Ribhu. On my return I will take it back.”
So Rakhal took ten thousand rupees in a small box and he went to his friend’s house. Ribhu was meditating at the foot of a tree near his house. So Rakhal went to the foot of the tree and said to his friend, “Please do me a favour.”
The friend said, “Of course, we are such intimate friends. Is there anything I will not do for you?”
Rakhal said, “Here is my money. Please keep it for me. I am going tomorrow to Benares and many other sacred places. When I return, you will give me back the money.”
Ribhu said, “Certainly! I will keep it for you. So Ribhu found a piece of paper and wrote out a receipt. “Here is a receipt,” he said.
“What an insult to our friendship!” Rakhal exclaimed. “If I can’t trust you, then who will trust whom in God’s world. I will not dare to distrust you. To keep my money with you is as good as keeping it in my own safe.”
Ribhu thanked him deeply. “I am so glad that you have such faith in me.”
His friend said, “I am so glad that I have such a good intimate friend in you.”
So both of them were very happy. Ribhu invited Rakhal to eat dinner at his house. “You are going away tomorrow. Have a good and safe journey. I will be very happy to see you and am looking forward to your telling me stories about all the sacred places. It will help me so much in my spiritual life.”
So Ribhu took Rakhal’s money while his friend left on the pilgrimage.
Two months later Rakhal came back from his pilgrimage. He came to Ribhu and his friend was very polite and hospitable. They talked for a while and then Rakhal said, “I would like to have my money back.”
“What money?” asked Ribhu. “Where is it?”
Rakhal could not believe his ears. “I gave you money on the eve of my departure on my pilgrimage.”
“Don’t tell me a lie,” Ribhu said.
“Don’t you remember?” Rakhal said. “You were meditating at the foot of a tree.”
“Then show me the receipt,” the friend demanded.
“I didn’t take any receipt,” said Rakhal. “You wanted to give me one, but I said it would hurt our friendship. We were so close to each other. It would have proved that we were not so close.”
“No,” insisted Ribhu. “It is all lies. You didn’t give me any money. Only you came to my house and ate and then left.”
The man said, “All right. I am going to the village chief.”
So he went to the village chief, who was also the judge, and reported the incident. The village chief summoned Ribhu, and the two stood in front of him in the courtroom.
The village chief asked Ribhu: “Did you take money to keep safe for him until his return?”
“No,” Ribhu said. “He is telling lies. We are such good friends. If he had given me money, I would certainly be happy to give it back to him. Perhaps he lost it when he went on his pilgrimage. We were best of friends once upon a time, but since he came back from his pilgrimage, he is acting insane.”
At this point Rakhal started crying. “Look at this friendship! I will never have any more friends in this life. My best friend has betrayed me.”
The chief said to Rakhal, “Are you sure that you gave him the money?”
“I gave him the money,” said Rakhal. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t say things against him, since he was such a good friend of mine.”
“Were there any witnesses?” asked the village chief.”
“No,” said the man. “It was evening and there was no one around.”
“Not even children playing at the foot of the tree?” asked the judge.
“No,” said the man.
“Then what can I do?” asked the chief.
“You have to trust me,” said Rakhal.
“How can I trust you? It is just your word against his. The best thing is for you to ask that particular tree to come here and tell me what happened.”
Everybody in the court roared with laughter.
“How can the tree come?” asked the man.
“No, go ask the tree to come,” insisted the judge. “The tree will definitely come. All the trees are obedient to me because of my divine justice and fondness for everything in God’s creation. The tree will come without fail.
The man thought that the judge was making fun of him. “O God, I have lost my friend and I have lost my money. Now what am I to do?” he said to himself. “Now the judge is also making fun of me.” So he went home very sad and depressed.
Meanwhile, five minutes, ten minutes, a half hour and finally two hours passed, and the judge was becoming impatient. It would not have taken Rakhal more than fifteen minutes to bring a message from the tree. So the judge was about to send someone to find Rakhal. “He has to bring us some news,” the chief said. “He must bring a message from the tree.”
Now the friend said, “I know where the tree is, and it is quite far. I think he has not even gone there, since it is such a long trip.”
“You know where the tree is?” said the judge. “And you don’t know where the money has gone? If he did not give you money under that tree, how is it that you know which tree it is?”
“That much I know,” Ribhu said.
“This shows that he definitely gave you the money,” said the chief. “Money corrupts. Once you got the ten thousand rupees, you became totally corrupted. You have to return his money; otherwise, I will not allow you to leave the court.”
“I don’t have the money here,” said the man. “It is at my house.”
The judge sent two guards with the man to get the money and bring it back. When Ribhu returned, the judge said, “For telling lies and harassing that man, and for wasting my precious time, I am fining you 200 rupees.”
“O God, I am returning the money. It is I who should get some money for keeping it safe for my friend.”
“No,” said the chief. “To tell lies and deceive an intimate friend is the worst crime. You have to give 200 rupees.”
The man said, “All right. But can I have my friendship back, at least?”
The chief said, “It is up to you, but you are such a scoundrel that I will advise him not to take you again as his friend.”
In the meantime, Rakhal returned to the court, and the chief gave him back the money. Immediately Rakhal wanted to give half of it to his friend. “He kept the money safe for me. Now, since he has told the truth at long last, I want to give him some of it.”
“I compelled him to tell the truth with my wisdom so that you could get your money back, “ said the chief.
“Then I should give you some money,” said the man.
The chief said, “I don’t take any fee. For me, my service to mankind is unconditional. I am rich enough that I don’t have to work. So don’t give me money. All I want is justice in my village. Now, both of you go home. I advise you not to be friends with someone who will deceive and desert you. It is not good to have that kind of friend!”
GIM 105. 27 January 1979↩