There was a king who had a guru. The king would not do anything without taking advice from his guru, and his guru was kind enough to offer him advice on a wide range of subjects. As a matter of fact, on the inner level, the guru used to rule the kingdom, and as a result everything was peaceful and prosperous.
Once it happened that a vacancy arose in the court. The king wanted a very high-ranking officer for a special task and he begged his guru to let him know whom to take. The king asked his prime minister to nominate two candidates who had, according to him, both knowledge and wisdom. Then he planned to send those two candidates to his guru, and ask his guru to choose one of the two.
The prime minister selected two well-qualified, high-ranking officers, and both of them went to the guru for an interview. To one the guru gave a sieve, and to the other he gave a winnowing fan. The guru did not explain anything. He simply told them to take these objects to the king.
Both of them came before the king holding the objects. The king said, “What kind of puzzle is this? How can I know which one my guru has selected? Now I am in serious trouble.”
He asked his prime minister, “Can you tell me the significance of the sieve and the winnowing fan?”
The prime minister said, “O King, this is a most difficult question! Please allow me to think it over.” Then to himself he said, “I do hope somebody — some angel or cosmic god — descends who can help me solve this problem. It is beyond my capacity to understand the significance of the fan and the sieve.”
When the prime minister went home, he saw that at one point his wife was using a winnowing fan, and then afterwards she was using a sieve. He noticed the difference between the two. When she used the sieve, he saw that the good things were passing through the wire. They were rejected, while the bad things were left on top. But when she used the winnowing fan, at that time the good things remained, while the bad things were all scattered. All of a sudden, the meaning of the guru’s gesture became clear to him. He knew that the one with the winnowing fan would keep the good and reject the bad, whereas the one with the sieve would neglect or reject the good things and accept the bad things.
The next morning the prime minister hurried to the palace and said, “O King, your guru wants you to give the job to the one who brought the winnowing fan.” Then he explained to the king why he had chosen this one. So the prime minister’s wife illumined him. He did not have to go any further to look for wisdom. She solved his problem.