There was a king who was very, very rich. He passed his time wallowing in the pleasures of richness. All the pleasures of the world he had at his command. To some extent, he was neglecting his kingdom, but he had amassed so much wealth that he did not care. He was extremely greedy. In spite of having so much wealth, he wanted to become infinitely richer.
One day a young man came to his palace and said, “Your Majesty, you are so good, so great, so kind. Your reputation for greatness and goodness has spread throughout the length and breadth of the entire country. But I want to inform you that there are three other kings like you. Of course, they are inferior to you in every way, but they do have some wealth. They may not be as rich as you are, but nonetheless they are quite rich. At the present time, they are neglecting their kingdoms; they are ruining everything. Would you not like to have their wealth by conquering them? You can easily conquer those three kings.”
Since the king was greedy, he said, “Definitely, definitely! I shall ask my commander to get ready as soon as possible. He will go and attack these three countries and conquer them. Then they will all become mine.”
The young man said, “It is a splendid idea. But you may take a few days to prepare.”
The king said, “Yes, of course, I will take a few days.”
The young man told him, “When you are ready, you will send for me. Summon me and I shall come and show you where these three kingdoms are.” Then the young man disappeared.
In a few days, the commander of the king’s armies was fully prepared. He came to the king and said, “Now please tell us who the young man is and what is his address.”
The king said, “I completely forgot to ask him his name and his address because I was in such a state of excitement. What can I do? I never realised that I was such a fool.”
The king’s minister and his commander began consoling him. They said, “Oh, it happens to everybody. We all make mistakes. We are, after all, human beings. We ourselves have made that kind of mistake many, many times.” They were sympathising with the king and minimising his mistake.
The king said, “Now you have to go and find him. I am sure he came from my kingdom. You have to find out who the young man is.”
The minister and commander went on a wild goose chase. They were looking everywhere for the young man who had given the news. Nobody dared to come forward and say who was the one who had given the news about the other countries, and so their search was in vain.
The king was miserable. How could he have been such a fool? The minister and commander reassured him. They said, “One day the same person is bound to come back. Perhaps he thinks that you are going to take a longer time. That is why he is not coming. But we are all ready. Any time he comes, we shall take your army and conquer those three countries.”
The king was so sad and miserable that he fell sick. He could not stop thinking of those three countries that he was supposed to conquer and the wealth that he would have acquired. Day by day the king’s case became worse, until his days were numbered.
A very old man came to the palace and said, “I will be able to cure the king.”
Nobody believed him. Everyone thought he was just a feeble-minded old man. They asked him, “Are you a doctor?”
The old man said, “No, I am not a doctor.”
“Then how can you cure him?” they asked mockingly.
He said, “I am a man of prayer.”
Everybody laughed. “A man of prayer? Do you have occult power? Do you have spiritual power?”
The old man said, “No, I do not have occult or spiritual power.”
“Then how are you going to cure him?” they asked. “You do not have occult power or spiritual power. You are not a doctor. How can you cure him?”
The old man insisted, “I know I can cure the king.”
The king was desperate for a cure. When he heard the old man’s message, he said, “Forget about his so-called lack of occult power or spiritual power. Since he says he will be able to cure me, let me give him a chance before I die. You people have brought me all the doctors, and nobody can cure me.”
The old man was brought to the king’s bedside. He said, “I will be able to cure you, my King, but first you have to answer some questions. If you answer my questions correctly, immediately I will be able to cure you.”
The king said, “Yes, I am answering your questions, before I die.”
The old man said, “O King, you have a bed, a most comfortable bed, a king’s bed. Do you not appreciate your bed?”
The king said, “I used to appreciate it, but not now. Now I am so sick. I do not find anything comfortable. Everything is miserable, miserable in my life. There was a time, for years and years, when I enjoyed my bed. It was so comfortable. But now I am extremely sick. Nothing comforts me.”
The old man said, “All right. When you were very happy with your bed, at that time if I had brought you three beds exactly like the one that you have, would you have been able to use the four beds at the same time?”
The king said, “You fool! How could I enjoy four beds at the same time?”
The ministers and commanders were all getting annoyed with the old man. What kind of silly questions was he asking?
The old man continued, “Now you are wearing some clothes. Tell me, if I bring three sets of clothes for you all exactly the same, will you be able to wear them all at the same time?”
The king said, “What kind of absurd questions are you asking? How can I use four sets of clothes at the same time?”
The old man said, “All right, all right. O King, this is my last question. You have a crown. It is the most beautiful crown that people have seen on earth. Suppose I give you three more crowns exactly the same. Will you be able to wear these four crowns at the same time?”
The king became furious. “You idiot!” he exclaimed. “What kind of question are you asking me? How can I wear four crowns at the same time? Get out! Get out of my palace! Here I am on my deathbed and you are asking me absurd questions.”
The old man said, “I am not asking you absurd questions. I wish to tell you that you have answered my questions most satisfactorily. You cannot enjoy four beds at the same time. You cannot wear four sets of clothes at the same time. You cannot wear four crowns at the same time. In exactly the same way, if you had conquered those three countries, how could you have enjoyed all those countries the way you are enjoying your own country? You could not have been in four countries at the same time. You can be only in one country — either in your own country or in another country. You could not have been in four countries simultaneously to enjoy their respective wealth.”
Then the old man bowed and disappeared. Meanwhile, the king was awakened. From that moment on, the king’s health began to improve and he was eventually cured. It was all because he now realised that he could not enjoy four countries at the same time. When the king had regained his health, he gave up his greed for the pleasure-life. He said that from that time on he would be satisfied with his own kingdom, with his own country, and he would pay very special attention to all his subjects.