(The King’s palace. The King and Queen are sitting on their thrones. Many strong men have been brought in, including Gorakshanath and Matsyendranath, and the King is about to make a selection. The guards begin pushing the men before the King one by one.)
FIRST MAN: No, your Majesty, I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even there.
SECOND MAN: I was out of town.
(In this way many men are brought before the King.)
KING: Now all of you stand in a line. Instead of having you come up to me, I will go down the line. Let me see who is the strongest.
(The King goes down the line. He picks out Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath.)
KING: Undoubtedly one of you will be hanged today, but it may take me a few minutes to decide who is actually the stronger.
MATSYENDRANATH: O King, look at my health, examine my physique. I tell you, if you want to kill the stronger of us two, then it is undoubtedly I who should be killed. Look at me. Look at my arms, look at my chest, look at my feet, look at my forehead, look at any part of my body. I am far stronger than this man.
GORAKSHANATH: Do not believe him, your Majesty. Look at me, look at my body. I am obviously stronger than this man. And besides, I am younger. You wanted to have a young man, and I have young blood. He is an old man. It is clear to see. Why, he was my teacher. He may be stronger than me in some things — in knowledge or wisdom — but if you want physical strength, I am the man for you.
KING: Yes, I want someone who is physically strong and not strong mentally or otherwise.
GORAKSHANATH: So, King, it is I who should be killed.
MATSYENDRANATH: King, believe me, I am stronger than this young man. Since you want a really strong man, it is I who should be hanged. You are such a great, compassionate king. I have never seen such a compassionate king on earth. You want to make everything in your kingdom equal to surpass Heaven in every way. I wish to say that, since I am older than he, I will not be of use to you much longer. Let the young man stay here in your kingdom to serve you. He is much younger than I, and he can serve you for many more years. Let me go to Heaven.
GORAKSHANATH: King, compassion is one thing and justice is another. This man is showing his compassion. I was his student. We are like father and son. When there is danger, the father wants to embrace the danger and let his son remain safe. But there is something called a promise. King, you are most honest. Now what did you say? You said the strongest man in your kingdom would be hanged. Your Majesty, how did you become great? You became great by keeping your promises. You should continue to keep your promises, so it is I who should be killed.
KING: I really can’t understand it. For the first time I am seeing two men simply dying to please me. Here all are shedding bitter tears because they may have to die. If I selected them, they would be the most miserable people on earth. But here I am seeing two men fighting over the opportunity to embrace death. I have never seen anything like it.
What is the matter with you two? I want to know why you are eager to die. Is there some special reason?
MATSYENDRANATH (pretending to be hesitant): Well, there is a special cause. You think that we are very kind, nice and generous. But, O King, we are not so kind, we are not so nice, we are not so generous; our hearts are not so big. Both of us are very clever.
KING: Clever? What kind of plot do you have?
MATSYENDRANATH: No plot. It is only that both of us know a little bit of astrology. I am an astrologer and I taught him how to cast a horoscope. That is why he was telling you that I was his teacher.
We also meditate a little. This morning we had a vision and heard an inner voice. But King, perhaps you do not believe in visions.
KING: Visions? Certainly I believe in visions. I believe in God. God has created Heaven so beautiful. It is my prayer to God that my kingdom should surpass Heaven. Now tell me, what kind of vision did you have? What did the voice tell you?
MATSYENDRANATH: Both of us had the vision at the same time, and we heard the voice say that whoever dies today at four p.m. will go to the highest Heaven. That is why we are fighting for death. Otherwise, do you think that we would be so foolish?
GORAKSHANATH: So, King Harabhanga, now the secret is out. It is for that purpose that I wanted to die. I wanted to go to the highest Heaven. It was not actually that I have such love for my Master. I wanted to die so that I could go to the highest Heaven.
MATSYENDRANATH: It is the same with me. It was not my affection and love for my student that made me fight for the opportunity to die. I knew that I could go to the highest Heaven immediately if I could manage to die at four p.m. in some way.
KING: You think I am a fool. All the time I have been crying for Heaven, for the highest joy. Here I have pleasure, but I am not satisfied. I want something more. I know that Heaven is full of Joy and Delight. Do you think I am such a fool that I will allow one of you to go to Heaven while I remain here on this corrupt and imperfect earth? In my kingdom everybody is quarrelling and fighting all the time. That is why I wanted my kingdom to be like Heaven — even to surpass Heaven. I am so grateful that you two astrologers have told me this secret. (Addressing has minister.) Get ready. Invite all my subjects and all the royal family. This is my order. I am going to be hanged. I want to go immediately to Heaven. This world is corrupt. I don’t see any hope for it. I wanted to bring happiness to my kingdom, but I see this will never be. It is only when I have something myself that I can give it to others. Now I am distressed, but in Heaven I shall be most happy. And from there, I will be able to send happiness down to my kingdom.
MATSYENDRANATH: Your Majesty, I wish to say that your happiness is our happiness. If you feel that by going to Heaven immediately you will be the happiest man, then go. We shall miss you, the kingdom will miss you, but we want to be happy in your happiness.
GORAKSHANATH: It is you who wanted to have the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Now you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. And once you enter there, I am sure you will be able to bring down the Kingdom of Heaven into this world. In your happiness is our happiness. We wanted to go to Heaven at four p.m., but we would rather make you happy.
(The Queen starts crying bitterly.)
KING (to Queen): I thought that you loved me. Now that I am going to be happy, why do you weep?
QUEEN: I want you to be happy, but how can I live here alone without you?
KING: Don’t worry. Once I am in Heaven I will bring you there to join me. It is only a matter of time. Perhaps tomorrow I will be able to get you. When I am in the highest Heaven I will have everything, and from there I will be able to send a messenger to take you.
(The Queen smiles.)