Once there was a hooligan who was destroying the peace and joy of an entire kingdom. The king was so sad and miserable because he wanted to have only peace, joy and harmony in his kingdom. In so many ways the king’s soldiers tried to capture this hooligan, but they always failed.
The hooligan’s wife had previously committed suicide because her husband would not give up stealing. At first the hooligan was very sad and miserable that he had lost his wife, but even then he would not stop stealing. The only other member left in his family was his little three-year-old son, his only child.
The king said, “Since everybody else is failing, I will try to catch the culprit myself.” So one night the king disguised himself as a thief, broke into the hooligan’s house and kidnapped the hooligan’s son.
When the hooligan returned home the following day and saw that his only son was missing, his heart was completely broken. He said, “My wife warned me not to continue this kind of life, but I didn’t listen to her. Now my only child is gone. What is the use of continuing to steal and torture people?”
So the hooligan became a mendicant and began leading a very simple, ascetic life. Often he thought of his wife and child, especially his child. He kept asking himself, “Who could have kidnapped my only son? I don’t have the heart or the capacity even to try to find him again. Whoever has stolen him will never return him to me.” He continued to lead a very pure and pious life and in six months’ time he was totally changed.
In the meantime the king was keeping the child in his palace. He happened to have a son of the same age and he started showing both of them the same affection and love. One day both the children fell extremely sick and no physician was able to cure them. As a last resort one of the physicians said, “I know of a particular herb which will cure them. It is very difficult to procure, but I shall try.”
In the meantime, the ascetic hooligan happened to come near the palace to pray and meditate for his illumination. Somebody reported to the king that a saint was praying and meditating nearby. The king said, “I need the prayer of a saint. Ask him to come here, and I will beg him to help me.”
So, at the request of the king, the saint came to the palace. His consciousness had totally changed and nobody could recognise him as the former hooligan. The king told him, “I have two little children. Both are dying. Would you kindly come to see them and pray to God for their recovery? I will give you whatever you want.”
The saint said, “I will pray to God to save them, but I will take nothing from you.”
The king took him into a private chamber and showed him the children. The hooligan could not recognise his own child because the child had received such good care. He had got excellent nourishment and, even though he was sick, he looked totally changed.
The doctor then entered the room and quite happily told the king, “I have procured the herb, but I have enough for only one child. Who cares for the other child! Let your child be cured.”
The king said, “Oh no, I can’t do that. If we have enough only for one child, please give it to the other child.”
The ascetic asked, “Why?”
The king said, “Although he is not my own child, I want him to be cured. Like me, his father too has a heart. Already I have stolen his child. I know that his heart is totally broken because he has lost his son. But what could I do? I had no alternative. His father was the worst possible hooligan. He was destroying the whole kingdom, robbing and killing people. When I captured his son, inwardly he was totally destroyed. He has never been seen again. This was the only way I could put an end to my kingdom’s suffering. But I will never forgive myself if I allow his child to die, since already I have killed his father inwardly.”
The king turned to the physician and said, “I order you to give the medicine to the other child and let my child die in front of my eyes. I do hope that one day the hooligan will find his child, even if by that time his son is a young man. If the hooligan gives up his profession, then I will gladly go to his house and return his son.”
The sage immediately fell down at the feet of the king and would not get up. “What is the matter?” the king asked. “I asked you to pray and meditate.”
The saint said, “O King, I am the hooligan you are speaking of and this is my child. I caused so much trouble for your subjects. I deserved the punishment you gave me. Today you have proved what kind of heart you have. Please keep my child. I promise that I will never steal again. I have taken to an ascetic life, but if you want to, you can throw me out of your kingdom or kill me.”
The king said, “I now consider you a sage and I will gladly take care of your child. You will remain in the palace as my court sage. I am so grateful that you have come to pray and meditate for the recovery of the two children.”
The two sons were both cured, and the hooligan and the king shed tears of gratitude.