A villager’s son was stricken with a most serious ailment. His father was inconsolable. He went from one village doctor to another searching for a cure for his son, but nobody could cure him. Finally the father brought his son to the best doctor in the town. This doctor tried various treatments, but the son’s condition did not improve. One day the doctor said to the father, “I do not think I will be able to cure your son. You have only one option left: pray to God.”
“I have been praying and praying,” cried the father. “Do you think I have not been praying?”
The father felt that any day, at any moment, his son would die. This was his only son. His wife had passed away many years before, so he was both mother and father to the son.
Every day the father would enter his son’s room in the hospital and kneel by his bed. Then he would start sobbing. Late at night he would go home, and then he would come back to the hospital again in the morning. The doctor felt genuinely sad that he could not cure the patient. He knew that in a day or two the patient would die. Eventually the hour of death struck. It was in the middle of the night, and the father had gone home. Death came and snatched away the son.
Although doctors are accustomed to seeing death, this particular doctor felt very sad. How could he tell the poor father that his son was no more? He felt that it would break his heart. For hours the doctor was inwardly preparing himself to give the father the message.
At last the father arrived at the hospital. The doctor saw that on that day, of all days, the father was so happy. In this kind of happy mood he had to hear the worst possible news. With utmost kindness and sympathy, the doctor said, “I am glad that today you are happy. I do not know why you are happy but, unfortunately, I have to give you some bad news. Please, please sit down. I regret to tell you that your son passed away.”
The doctor looked at the father, but the old man was not shedding tears. He seemed quite normal. The doctor said to him, “Perhaps you are in shock. Otherwise, I cannot understand your reaction. You can come and see your son’s body if you wish. Your son has passed away and you are not crying at all!”
The old man went to see his son’s body. Even then he did not cry. Now the doctor could not fathom the mystery. How could a father be so indifferent to his son’s passing? He said to himself, “He has been crying for weeks and weeks. Perhaps he has no tears left.” Then the doctor started questioning the father. He said, “How can this be? For a father not to cry is most strange!”
The father said, “Last night I had a most significant dream. In my dream I was a king and my queen was so beautiful. I had five sons. These young princes were so smart, handsome, well educated and kind-hearted. Everybody appreciated me, everybody extolled my wife’s beauty to the skies and everybody admired my children. As king, I was so great and powerful. Then in my dream I saw that one by one my wife died and all my sons died. I was so happy to have these five sons, but when they died, I did not cry. Why? Because I knew it was only a dream. Now, for only one son do I have to cry? This life is also only a dream. When we are in ignorance, we cry for every little reason. But in my dream, one by one, all my dear ones departed. At that time, I did not cry. So why do I have to cry now? Just because this is reality? Dream and reality are the same. This moment we call something reality and the next moment we call the same thing a dream.”
So the doctor received spirituality’s highest lesson from his patient’s father.