There was a king who was extremely, extremely kind to his subjects, especially to the poor. He said to himself, “I am king. I have material wealth, but I have countless subjects to take care of. What can I do? They say a king can do anything, but it is not true. I am ready to give away everything that I have, but even then I will not be able to raise the standard of my kingdom.”
Since the king felt that he would not be able to help each and every one of his subjects, he decided that early in the morning he would stand outside his palace. From whomever he saw first, he would buy something. Every day somebody different would come, since the king had made a general announcement.
This went on every day for years. The king would come out of his palace, and from whomever he saw first, he would buy something. If there were people behind that person, they would not be accepted — only the very first one. No matter what the first one had brought or what price he asked for, the king would agree. He never argued. The king said, “I have to be kind-hearted. Whatever my subjects ask me for is according to their conscience. Whatever they ask from me, I will give.”
In this way it went on month after month, year after year. One day a very, very poor man came. He was extremely old. He had nothing important or valuable to sell. He said to himself, “I need money badly. I have become so poor in my old age. Let me see how kind the king is.” With greatest difficulty he came and stood first in line early in the morning. His sandals and clothes were covered with dirt. The only thing he had to offer the king was a dirty, filthy cloth.
The king asked him, “You have come to sell this?”
The old man said, “Yes, this is my fate. It is the only thing I have to sell since I am so poor. If you do not give me money, soon I shall die.”
The king said, “No, I do not want you to die. Tell me the price.”
The old man named an exorbitant price.
The king protested, “The price is so high!”
The old man answered, “Yes, it is true. But if you give me the money, then I will be able to buy the things that I need and I will be able to eat.”
The king said, “Oh, you are right, you are right, you are right! Whatever you ask for, I am giving you.”
The king gave him the money, and the king was so pleased that he had been able to be of help to this poor man. The king was very happy and proud of his own generosity.
That night the king had a dream. In his dream the Goddess Lakshmi came and said, “I am leaving you! You are squandering your wealth, giving it to poor men. I have made you very rich, and these people are just fooling you. So I am leaving you.”
The king said, “O Goddess, what can I do? This is the promise that I made. I want to keep my promise to buy from whoever brings something first. And I also made another promise that whatever price they ask, I will accept. The poor fellow this morning named an exorbitant price. I knew that his cloth was not worth anything, but I had to keep my promise.”
The Goddess Lakshmi said, “You keep your promise, since that is so important to you, but I do not want to stay with you.” Then the Goddess Lakshmi, the Mother of wealth, left.
Then came another goddess. This goddess told him, “My son, if you continue in this stupid way, then you will lose everything. If you lose your material wealth, then there will be no fame for you. Now you are rich. That is why you are famous. Once you lose your wealth, all your name and fame will disappear, so I do not want to stay with you.” Then she, too, disappeared.
A third goddess came and said, “I am the goddess of honesty, but I clearly see that you are so stupid. Because of your stupidity, people will only fool you and take advantage of you.”
The king said, “What am I going to do? I cannot break my promise.”
The goddess said, “I know, so I am leaving you.” The third goddess also left.
Then came the goddess of truth. This goddess started scolding the king most vehemently. She said, “Truth is one thing, but what about your wisdom? You are very kind-hearted and you have so many good qualities. But people will fool you and fool you if you do not exercise your wisdom. Then what kind of truth is that? You are only encouraging them to deceive you.” The goddess of truth went on scolding the king.
Finally the king said, “Mother, you are the goddess of truth. If you do not value me, who will value me? By remaining faithful to my promise, I am trying to be truthful. If truth is not valued in this world, then what will be valued?”
The goddess of truth gave the king a broad smile and blessed him profusely. She said, “I was examining you, my son. You are my dearest son. If I had more people like you, then this earth would be inundated with truth. Do not worry. I am never going to leave you. You will continue to keep your promise, and I will be there with you all the time to help you. Truth has to be maintained all the time at any cost.”
When the goddess of truth decided to stay forever, all the other goddesses came back. They said, “We know we will never be valued permanently. For some time wealth and honesty will be valued, but it will not last. But ultimately everybody will value truth. Truth will prevail.”
India’s motto is “Truth ultimately prevails” (satyam eva jayate). Truth will always win, so the best thing is to stay with truth.