There was an elderly hermit who was sincerely spiritual. He used to pray and meditate for hours and hours every day. His wife also used to follow spiritual disciplines. This couple had brought up their only son in the forest. There they had a small hut where they lived with utmost simplicity. To the son, his father was like his spiritual preceptor.
One morning the prince of the kingdom went out hunting on his chariot. He followed a narrow path that led through the forest. For quite a few hours the prince did not see any game. Then, at a distance, he saw a beautiful deer jumping from one bush to another. The prince was very happy. He aimed at the deer and released his arrow. When his arrow struck the deer, this deer started crying in a human voice. It sounded like a young boy was crying.
The prince said, “My God, what have I done?” Then he drove his chariot to where the deer lay, and he saw a boy clad in deerskin. The arrow had penetrated his heart.
The prince was horrified. “Now what will happen to me?” he wailed. “The best thing is for me to jump into my chariot and depart as quickly as possible so that nobody will connect me with this murder.”
So he jumped into his chariot and drove a considerable distance. As he was driving, his conscience began to torture him. He said, “I am such a rogue! My father is the king. He is so well known for honesty and kindness. I am his son. How can I be so bad? No, no, I must go back. Whatever the consequences may be, I must go. I must face them.”
So he returned to that isolated place in the forest. “Somebody has to be the father of that little boy,” he reflected. He searched and searched for some sign of human habitation. Finally he saw a tiny cottage in the midst of a dense grove of trees. With a fearful heart, the prince went and knocked at the door. An elderly man with a long beard opened the door and said, “What can I do for you?”
The prince said, “I do not need anything. Only please tell me, do you have a son?”
“Yes, I have a son,” said the hermit, his eyes alight with love.
Then the prince said, “Can you adopt one son?”
“Why do I have to adopt a son?” said the hermit in a puzzled voice.
The prince said, “I am the prince, but I want to be your son.”
“How can you be my son?” asked the hermit. “You are a prince. You belong in the palace and my son belongs here.”
The moment of truth had come. The prince said, “Please, please forgive me. I have done something very, very wrong.”
The hermit said, “What have you done? What have you done?”
The prince continued, “My crime is unforgivable. Whatever punishment you want to give me, I am ready to accept.” While he was speaking, a young boy exactly like the one that he had killed came and stood beside the hermit. Then the prince said, “Do you have twin sons?”
“No, I do not have twin sons,” replied the hermit.
The prince said, “I do not understand the meaning of this. I killed this boy a few hours ago. I am absolutely sure of it. Now what is happening? With my own eyes I am seeing him standing here. Definitely they are twins.”
The father said, “No, no, no.”
“Then how can it be?” asked the prince.
The hermit explained, “When you aimed your arrow at my son and killed him, immediately I got the message from within. Then I used my spiritual power and revived him. God has given me the boon that in my family nobody will die, either in an accident or in a normal, natural way. For countless years I prayed and meditated to realise the highest. God was pleased with me and, out of His infinite Compassion, He gave me wisdom-light in boundless measure. He also said that as long as I want to live, as long as my wife wants to live and as long as my son wants to live, we will be able to live here on earth. We can command our own death. Nobody will be able to kill us. I know you did not try to kill my son deliberately, but even if you had killed my son deliberately, I could have revived him. God has given me this power.”
The prince was overwhelmed with gratitude to learn that the young boy had been returned to life. He said, “Please, please grant me my soulful desire. My father once told me that whatever I wanted, he would fulfil my desire.”
The hermit said, “In that case, you can ask your father to fulfil whatever your desire is.”
The prince said, “My desire needs the blessings of both you and my father. I want to ask my father to name your son as the crown prince. When the time comes, he will succeed my father as king. I do not want the throne.”
The hermit said, “That is an absurd notion! My son has entered into the spiritual life. You should be the king at the proper time. All your life you have spent in the palace. You have listened to your father dealing with affairs of state. That is your way of life.”
“I no longer want to have my old way of life,” protested the prince.
“Then what would you like to do?” asked the hermit.
The prince said, “Whether you accept me or not, I am going to tell my father that I do not want to be the future king. I want to accept the spiritual life.”
“You are creating a problem for me,” said the hermit. “I am a poor man. When your father receives this news, he will think I am responsible for your change of heart. He will come and destroy my little cottage.”
The prince said, “No, my father is a man of his word. If I tell him the whole story, he will understand.”
So the prince went to his father and narrated the events of the day. He concluded by saying, “Now, Father, you have to fulfil my desire. Once you told me that whatever desire I have, you will fulfil. Now I want to go and become the disciple of this hermit, and you have to allow me. I will live a very simple life. Occasionally you can come and visit me if the hermit allows.”
The king said, “If the hermit allows? I am the king!”
Very bravely the prince said, “True, Father, you are the king, but this hermit is in touch with God. He can easily smash the pride of any human being. Even if you are unwilling, he can compel you to come to his cottage. He can do anything. I know his power. I have seen what he can do. So do not boast that you are the king. His power far surpasses yours. I am respectfully requesting permission to leave the palace. Please make my younger brother the crown prince. He can be king after you. I will not mind at all. But please allow me to pray and meditate under the guidance of this guru.”
The king said, “I will keep my promise. You may go, and occasionally I shall visit you.”
So the prince left the palace and returned to the forest. From time to time his father used to come and visit him. The king would see such beauty, light, delight and divinity radiating from his son’s face. He also saw that his son was so respectful and devoted to his guru. The king was deeply impressed by the transformation of his son.
Eventually the time came when the king himself said, “I want to be like my son. I shall also accept the spiritual life.”
The hermit said, “What is this? How will people take it when they learn that their king has gone into the forest?”
The king replied, “Since my son accepted the spiritual life, I have observed how happy my son is inwardly. I want to be as happy as my son. I am so miserable at the palace. Every day I have to deal with teeming problems. There is no joy for me any more in ruling the kingdom. I want to join you and my son and live the life of a simple renunciate. That will give me the greatest joy. Let my younger son take care of my kingdom.”
The king gave up his throne and came to join his son. He started praying and meditating and having deep experiences. Everybody was happy, and his youngest son was so proud that he had now become the king. He ruled the kingdom wisely and well. So God pleased everybody in his own way.