The minister's test

There was a king who wanted to become really great. He said, “I shall conquer my neighbouring king.”

His minister said to him, “O King, it is always good to remain peaceful. Why do you want to conquer another king?”

The king said, “If you speak to me like this, I will dispense with your services and get a new minister. Only a minister who listens to me and carries out all my wishes will I keep. Only tell me how I can conquer the other king.”

The minister said, “But what has he done wrong?”

The king said, “The very fact that he is another king makes him a rival. I want only myself to be king and nobody else.”

The minister told the king, “Whether or not you can conquer the other king entirely depends on the wisdom of the other king’s minister.”

“Yes, yes,” said the king, “you are right. As I depend on your wisdom, the other king also has to depend on his minister. All right, tell me what you are going to do.”

The minister said, “Let us make a test. Let us send a letter to the other king saying that we shall be extremely grateful if he could send us two men — one who makes his living by giving life to others, by helping others to have a sound life, and one who depends on the death of human beings to make his living. We will say that we have been looking everywhere in our kingdom for two men like this but have not been able to find them. If the king passes this test, then I tell you, it is useless to fight against him, for that king is really powerful.”

The king got mad and said, “You are always saying that others are powerful and I am useless. You get out of my kingdom!”

The minister begged him, “O King, don’t throw me out at my age. Allow me to make this test and see how the other king answers our letter.”

So they sent the letter to the neighbouring king. When the other king received the letter he asked his minister what to do. The minister advised him to send a doctor and an undertaker. He said, “A doctor earns his livelihood by giving strength and life to people. He lives by helping others to have a sound life. An undertaker comes when people die, when they have to be buried. It is by the death of people that an undertaker lives.”

So instead of answering the letter, the other king sent a doctor and an undertaker to the first king’s palace.

When they arrived at the palace, the minister said to the king, “Don’t try to conquer the other king. You will not succeed because that king is really wise. When a king can answer a question like this one, it is impossible to conquer him. Such wise people he has in his kingdom. With wise people you can’t fight.

“O King, you can fire me if you wish. But no matter whom you take in my place, if that person advises you to fight against that other king, he will be making a very serious mistake. If you fight against intelligent people you will always lose.”