The court jester’s most painful joke

There was once a king who was extremely fond and proud of his court jester. Each time the court jester said something witty, the king burst into roaring laughter. The king used to give this court jester special rewards whenever he surpassed himself in saying something that was extremely funny and at the same time deeply meaningful.

One day the king decided that on the following day he would not laugh, no matter what the court jester said. He took an oath that he would remain very serious, even to the point of sadness, throughout the entire day. He would not allow even a smile to escape from his lips.

When the next day dawned, the king summoned his ministers and went out early in the morning for a ride on his horse. The king and his entourage were aimlessly riding through the king’s estates when, all of a sudden, they saw the court jester on his horse. He was not coming in their direction; it appeared that he was going somewhere else.

The king wanted to catch the court jester’s attention, and so he called out, “Hey! Hey!” The court jester brought his horse to a halt and walked towards the king. The king said to him, “You are so short, you are so thin, you are so slight — you do not seem to be strong at all. But your horse is so strong, so stout, so beautiful and powerful. How do you keep him so beautiful, powerful, strong and stout? What is the secret to his excellent condition?”

The court jester said to the king, “I feed my horse, your Highness, but you feed me. This is the difference between my appearance and that of my horse.”

The king could not laugh; he could not even smile. Indeed, he fulfilled his oath, because he felt absolutely sad and miserable for the rest of the day. Then, on the following day, he increased the salary of his court jester.

In search of incomparable beauty

One day a young boy returned home from school. As he entered his house, he saw on the floor a beautiful necklace. Immediately he cried out to his mother, “Mother, Mother! Where did you get this from?”

His mother came hurrying into the room. As soon as she saw the necklace, she said, “O my God, I must have dropped it when I came home from work. Such an expensive thing, such a beautiful thing! You know that every day I go to work for a rich, elderly woman. Today she was so pleased with me that she gave me one of her necklaces. The problem is that when she wears this necklace, she looks so beautiful, but I am sure that if I wear it, I will not look as beautiful. Physically she is much more beautiful than I am, and when she wears these gems they add so much to her beauty. Just by wearing her necklace, I will never be able to equal her in beauty.”

The young boy felt sincerely sorry for his mother. The next day, when he went to school, the teacher happened to say to his pupils, “The sky is so beautiful, the sun is so beautiful, the moon is so beautiful, the stars are so beautiful. God’s creation is so beautiful, but God Himself is infinitely more beautiful. That is why He was able to create such beautiful things — sun, moon and stars. If you look around at Nature, you will see that everything is so beautiful. Why? Precisely because God Himself is much more beautiful than His own creation.”

The boy said to himself, “This reminds me of the necklace belonging to the rich woman. My mother says that when the rich woman wears it, she looks exceptionally beautiful, because she herself is most beautiful. In the same way, God must be much more beautiful than all the beautiful things He has created. Let me go to the Beautiful One. Let me go to the Source of all Beauty. I want to see with my own eyes God the all-Beautiful.”

The young boy did not return home that evening. Nobody could find him. Hours became days and days became months; still he was missing. Years passed by. His family all believed that he had met with some kind of accident and gone to the other world. They were totally heartbroken and grief-stricken.

Many years later, a letter arrived at the mother’s home. It read, “Mother, you told me about the beauty of the rich lady. The next day, when I heard about God’s Beauty from my teacher, I was deeply inspired to search for God. Now I have found God. Mother, I have realised God. Now I do not need any earthly beauty, because the source of all Beauty has come to me.”

At first the mother cried and cried for her lost son, but then she became extremely happy in the knowledge that he had found God, the only Beauty.

Business unexpectedly restored

A certain businessman went bankrupt and lost his business. The reason for his downfall was that his workers had deceived him. This businessman was actually a very kind-hearted man, so his workers had taken advantage of him and betrayed him by stealing money from the business. Their greed had led to the complete collapse of the business and, as a result, the businessman was very miserable.

He said, “Now that I am no longer rich, what can I do?” Then he decided to go to his dearest friend and borrow some money so that he could start afresh. To his surprise, this friend refused. The friend said, “If you climb up a mango tree and you happen to fall down and break your legs, will you immediately start climbing up the same tree again?”

The businessman answered, “Yes, I will try to climb up the tree again, but I will be more careful this time, more cautious. I still want to pluck mangoes, but I will not take any risk the second time.”

The friend said, “No! Once you fail you should not try anymore. The next time you will meet with a much more serious accident and you will die. Anyway, since you have come to me, how much money do you want?”

The businessman replied, “I need 5,000 rupees to start again.”

His dearest friend said, “Oh no, my business is not doing so well either. I cannot part with that amount. But since you are my friend, let me give you five rupees as a gift. You do not have to return them. Just take them and be happy.”

Instead of 5,000 rupees, the businessman received only five rupees from his friend. Sadness and depression descended upon him as he made his way back home. He did not know what to do or where to turn. His wife asked, “Why are you so sad?”

The businessman said, “I have every reason to be upset! When I was rich, I used to give money to charity. Now that my business has failed, everybody looks down upon me. Once upon a time they used to appreciate me, salute me — even honour me. Now those same people will not even look at me! They are mistreating me so badly, as if I had committed a sin! I went to my dearest friend and begged for a loan of 5,000 rupees to open my business again. And what did he give me? Five rupees! This is what our friendship is worth.”

Then the wife asked, “Do you have other friends like him?”

Her husband said, “Yes, I have three or four more whom I once thought of as my good friends.”

“Then can you not go to them and beg for a loan?” asked the wife.

The businessman said, “No! Am I a fool? They will also treat me the same way. I do not want to be humiliated by them.”

“Then what are you planning to do?” asked the wife.

“I do not know what I can do now,” said her poor husband. “For the rest of my life I will feel miserable because I cannot properly support you and our children. I see no hope for the future.”

The businessman’s little son had been quietly listening at the door for a few minutes. Now the small boy stepped forward and asked, “Father, do you have only four friends?”

“No, my child,” said his father, “I have hundreds of friends in this city. Over the years I have helped many, many people in their hour of need. I am sure they have not forgotten.”

The son said, “Father, can you give me a list of all your friends?”

“That is an excellent idea!” exclaimed the businessman’s wife. “Do give us the list.”

Then the father started telling them the names of all the people whom he had served in one way or another and his son wrote them down. By the time the list was complete, it contained more than one hundred names! The little boy put the list in his pocket and went out of the room.

The following day, without saying a word to the businessman, the mother and son went from door to door, visiting all these friends. To each one the little boy said, “You know my father is a kind-hearted man. He has helped so many people. Now he has lost his business. His workers fooled him, but he has not done anything wrong personally.”

Each of these people, who knew from experience that the businessman was very kind and good, offered the boy a little money to take home to his father. Lo and behold, in one day the mother and son were able to collect more than 5,000 rupees! When they returned home and gave the whole amount to the father, he could not believe his eyes.

This story teaches us that if you lose something and you want to regain it, then you must proceed step by step — slowly, steadily and unerringly. On the outer plane, if you have lost all your worldly possessions and you want them to be restored, you must not expect immediate results. Start slowly, and eventually you will reach the same level once more. And on the inner plane, once you fall down, do not expect to regain all your divine qualities overnight. That is not the right way. Start again at the very beginning, and you will once more reach the highest height. This is the lesson that the little boy and his mother taught the businessman.

The theory of cat-illumination

This story is about a spiritual Master who used to roam from place to place. He did not care to have disciples, for he believed that disciples only create problems. In his wanderings, he came to a particular village where people started following him. They wanted to offer him their devotion, but he said, “No, no! I do not want your devotion. I only want to pray and meditate in peace. If you can spare a small hut, then I will be happy to stay here for some time. I want to remain in solitude so that I can pray and meditate. While I am praying and meditating, I shall definitely pray to God to bless you and your village. This much I can offer, but I cannot accept disciples.”

The villagers were so happy that the spiritual Master had agreed to stay with them for some time. They wanted to give him a big house, but he would not hear of it. He said, “Oh no, I want to lead the life of a hermit. For that I need only a small hut.”

The villagers complied with his request. Soon the spiritual Master took up residence in a small hut on the outskirts of the village and immersed himself in prayer and meditation.

One young man from the village remained near the Master day in and day out. He told the Master, “I want to serve you, I want to serve you unconditionally.”

The Master said, “If you can bring me food from time to time, well and good. Otherwise, I will depend on the kindness of the villagers. But I will not go out. I want to remain inside this hut.”

The young man said, “I will look after all your earthly needs. I want to be your disciple. Each day I will eat at my parents’ place and then I will bring food for you. After you have eaten, I will stay here and pray and meditate in your presence for a few hours before going home.”

The spiritual Master accepted the services of this young man, but to the other villagers he said, “Please, please, do not bother me. I have not yet realised God. Once I have realised God, I shall really be able to help you, but now is the time for me to pray and meditate.”

The villagers obeyed the Master and allowed him to live in solitude. Meanwhile, the young man was serving the Master most devotedly and faithfully. One day the spiritual Master had a vision. A luminous figure came to him and said, “I am your Guru. I am now in the Himalayas. You should come to the Himalayas and pray and meditate most seriously.”

Immediately the spiritual Master decided to leave the hut. He said to the young man, “I must go. My call has come. I had a vision of a most luminous being, and I really feel that he is my Guru. He has asked me to go and join him in the Himalayas, so I shall be leaving this place.”

The young man begged and begged the Master not to go, but the Master was determined. When the villagers came to know about the Master’s decision, they also begged him to change his mind, but to no avail. He told them, “I have got the call. I must go.”

Then the young man said, “In your absence I would like to preserve this place, this little hut where you have prayed and meditated for so many hours. Will you allow me?”

“Do whatever you like,” said the Master. “I cannot think of these things right now. I am getting ready for my journey.”

Shortly afterwards, the Master set out for the Himalayas and all the villagers bade him a sad farewell. The young man lovingly preserved the hut. Every evening he would hold a puja there and many people used to come to pray and meditate.

After a long journey, the spiritual Master reached the Himalayas. He found a cave and there he stayed for many years in deep meditation. He did not meet his Guru, but he felt that his Guru was inwardly helping him and guiding him. He was longing for his God-realisation, but although he saw light everywhere and he was full of inner joy, God did not bless him with realisation. After a long time, the figure of his Guru appeared before him once more. This time the Guru said, “Now I would like you to go back to your hermitage.”

After the figure had vanished, the Master said to himself, “I no longer have the hermitage.” Then he remembered the young man. “Oh, perhaps my disciple is still there. He promised that he would preserve it. Anyway, let me go, since the command has come again. After so many years my Guru has appeared before me again, and I must listen to him.”

So the Master left the Himalayas and made his way on foot back to the village. By this time he was quite an old man. At last he arrived at the place, but it was difficult for him to recognise it as the same village, for it was now thriving and very prosperous. He could not understand how the village had improved to such an extent.

The Master went in the direction of his former hut and there he saw a crowd of people. To his astonishment, he saw that some people were holding up cats and announcing a particular price for each one. The spiritual Master could not believe his eyes and ears. People were selling cats! And other people were eagerly buying them! The spiritual Master could not understand this strange behaviour and he wondered why it was happening so close to his former hut. Was this the place to sell cats? As he approached the crowd, he heard people calling out things like, “This one is strong,” “This one is healthy,” “This one will do better meditation.”

The spiritual Master was so puzzled. How could cats practise meditation? It was really a mystery. Then he decided to look for his disciple. Perhaps his disciple could give some kind of explanation. But the disciple was not to be found in the Master’s old hut. The Master came to learn that the disciple now had a very nice house. There he invited the villagers to come to pray and meditate in comfort. He himself was leading a very comfortable and luxurious life.

The Master enquired where the disciple’s house was and went there. As soon as he saw his old Master, the disciple showed him tremendous respect and love. Although this disciple was now rich and prosperous, his sincere devotion came to the fore when he saw his Master standing at his door.

When the Master saw that his disciple was indulging in a life of luxury, he became disgusted. “What are you doing here?” he said.

“Master, forgive me,” pleaded the disciple. “When you left I practised the spiritual life most sincerely for a few years, and then temptation entered into me. I wanted to have worldly possessions. But now that I have seen you again, I will once more start leading a life of prayer and meditation. I do not need this life anymore.”

“Do you know anything about the cats?” asked the Master. “Why are people selling them near my hut? That is a spiritual place, not a market for cats! And why are they saying that the cats will do excellent meditation? How can a cat meditate?”

Now it was the disciple’s turn to look puzzled. He said, “Master, do you not remember? You had a cat. You used to play with the cat. And when you were about to meditate, you used to take a piece of rope and tie the cat to a post inside the hut. Then, when your meditation was over, again you used to play with the cat. I remember it so clearly. Master, I told the villagers that if they also kept a cat, they would have very high meditations. You used to have such high meditations after playing with your cat. I felt that just because you had such affection for your cat, God showed you His boundless Affection through your meditation. Master, I have looked after your cat all these years. I keep it by my side when I meditate and I, too, have had such high meditations! I know it is all because of the cat. I told the villagers my experiences and that is why they all want to keep cats. I saw how high and how deep you used to go in your meditation, and I realised it was all due to your cat.”

At that moment a cat strolled into the room. It was simply enormous. “I am seeing your cat,” said the Master, “but I would like to see my cat once more. Please show it to me.”

“Master, can you not recognise your own cat? I have fed it and taken care of it for so many years,” said the disciple.

The Master was astonished. “This cannot be my cat,” he said. “It is so huge!”

“Master, I assure you, this is your own beloved cat. I have such affection and fondness for it, but if you would like to have it back, I am ready to give it to you here and now. I will get another cat to help me in my meditation.”

The Master said, “You kindly keep the cat. I do not need it. For so many long years I have tried to realise God. Now I see why I have not succeeded. I was so deeply attached to the cat. It is no wonder that I failed! I do not need a cat to enter into my highest meditation. In the Himalayas I had very high meditations. I have learned my lesson. Now I understand why my Guru asked me to come back to this village. I had to free myself from this attachment to my cat. I shall not stay here any longer. I shall return to the Himalayas and this time I am determined to realise God — without any cat, without any bondage, without any attachment.

“Alas, so many years I have wasted because I had this kind of affection and attachment for a cat. Now I know that if you are not attached to anything, you will realise God sooner than if you pay all attention to a cat or dog instead of your own prayer and meditation. You can have pets, but if you are really attached to them, then God-realisation will always remain a far cry.”

The uncivilised student

Every day a young man went to his university library to study. His final examinations were fast approaching and he was very anxious to get high marks, so he was determined to read as much background material as possible. Each day he went to the library early in the morning and returned late at night. He was always very modestly and decently dressed and he did not create any problems for the library staff.

Unfortunately, on one particular day something went wrong with this young man, and he came to the library wearing only his underwear. He had completely forgotten to put on his outer garments! His chest was bare and he was not wearing any trousers or shoes. He was so preoccupied with his studies that these things had slipped his mind.

When the head librarian saw the young man entering the building, he became absolutely furious. He rushed up to the student and cried, “What are you doing? So many people come here to read — both men and women — and you are wearing only your underwear! What will they think? This kind of behaviour is unacceptable!”

But the student did not feel ashamed of his appearance at all. He said, “It is my eyes that read the books, not my clothes. I have come here to study with my eyes. What does it matter what I wear? My clothes will not be able to read on my behalf!”

What the young man said was very true, but his argument served only to increase the anger of the librarian. The librarian said to him, “Whatever you want to wear in your own home while you are studying you can wear, but this is a civilised place. Here you have to observe a certain dress code.”

The student vehemently objected to the librarian’s strict rule and before long their argument descended into a physical fight. The librarian was trying to push the young man out of the library and he was resisting in every way. Soon the two of them were wrestling on the ground.

An old man came up to separate them, but he was rudely beaten by both parties. The librarian struck the old man and told him that it was none of his business, and the student also directed some blows at the poor fellow. Both of them claimed to be in the right. The librarian felt that it was his duty to punish the student, and the student felt that nobody should be able to prevent him from studying at the library, regardless of how he was dressed.

By this time, a crowd of people had gathered. Finally, they managed to separate the librarian and the young man. These onlookers said to the student, “Please explain to us why you came to the library today without proper clothing. This is not your normal appearance.”

The young man said, “It is very simple. I must sit for my examinations very soon and I am so worried. Do I have time to think about mundane things like clothing? This morning I came running to the library so that I would be able to have a few extra minutes to study. I did not intend to create a commotion.”

Then one elderly woman said, “Tell me, young man, if you had seen somebody in the street running to and fro completely naked, what would you have done?”

The student said, “I would have thought that the fellow was insane. Perhaps I would have cursed him.”

“You would not have run to join him?” continued the old lady.

“Never, never, never!” said the student. “I would have run in the opposite direction.”

The old lady looked at him compassionately. “Then what are you doing here?” she said. “Is this not exactly the same sort of thing? Like me, so many people have come to the library today to read and study. We are all wearing proper clothes. If you appear dressed like this, almost naked, then we will all be forced to run in the opposite direction! Is it fair? So where does your argument lead you? Your eyes do the reading, true, but this is a civilised society. People will be horrified by your behaviour.”

“I do see your point,” said the young man, “but again and again it happens that when I am in a rush, I completely forget about external things. I do not have the time to look civilised. I am only concerned about my examinations.”

Then the old lady became stern. She said, “Young man, if you have no time to be civilised, then I wish to tell you that you will never become civilised by reading books. Civilisation is something inner. It is the inner goodness of an individual. You may become a great person by reading books, but you will never become a good person unless you pray to God to give you the light to do the right thing at every moment. Right now, you are assailed by worries and anxieties. You are afraid of failing your examinations, and this fear has made you insane. But you do not see that this insanity itself will never allow you to pass your examinations. It is an obstacle on your path. Only if you are calm in mind and body will you pass the examinations. If you are so worried about the examinations that you do not have time to wear proper clothes, then you will definitely fail. I am absolutely sure of it.”

The young man saw the wisdom in the old lady’s advice and thanked her profusely. He went home to put on proper clothes and then he came back to the library with a humble attitude. The librarian was waiting for him at the entrance. Very happily he said, “Now my library welcomes you.”

The young man answered, “Your library is really illumining me.” The librarian and the young man embraced each other and from that very day they became lifelong friends.

A tricky fellow will always remain a tricky fellow

There was once a very tricky fellow. He tried to fool everybody, but sometimes he was caught and exposed. He used to tell people, “I do not mean what I say and I do not say what I mean.” That was his line of defence.

As time went on, this fellow began to lose his mind. He would constantly forget important things and do stupid things. This disturbed him greatly, so he went to consult a doctor about his condition.

He said to the doctor, “Doctor, I am so alarmed. Something is wrong with my brain! I am in serious trouble, because I do not know what I am saying. When I say something, I do not mean it; and when I mean to say something, I forget what I am about to say. Can you cure me, doctor? I promise you that once I am cured, I will give you thousands and thousands of rupees.”

So the doctor began treating this fellow and, in the course of time, he fully regained his memory. The doctor said to him, “You do not have to return for any more treatments. You are completely cured. Now kindly pay me the large sum of money that you promised.”

The patient simply shrugged his shoulders. “I told you before you began treating me that when I say something, I do not mean it! I told you this long ago, and today I am most seriously telling you the same thing once more: I did not mean what I said.” And he left the doctor’s clinic without parting with a single rupee.

There are people on earth who will take help from you, but their meanness, their roguishness, they will never give up. To the very last, they will remain unkind and cruel. They may fool you for some time, but sooner or later you will come to realise their tricky nature.

A comedy of greed

There were two thieves who were extremely good friends. One night it happened that they came to the same house at the same hour to steal. Just as one thief was about to carry his ladder through the front gate, the other thief arrived with his bag of tools. They could not make any noise, because they did not want to wake the residents of the house, so in whispers they had a wonderful fight. The one with the ladder said, “I came a few seconds before you, so I have the prior claim. It is my right to steal from this house!”

The other thief whispered back to him, “You can go in if you want, but I am telling you that I will wait until you are inside the house, and then I will create a noise to wake up the residents so you will be caught. Make up your mind! Do you want to be caught, or do you want us to steal together? We are both expert thieves. We can be partners!”

So the two of them agreed to combine their talents. They quietly opened the gate and went into the front garden of the house. By nature, these two thieves were of different types. The one carrying the ladder was fast and nimble. The one with the bag of tools was slow and methodical.

The one with the ladder placed it carefully against the side of the house and said, “I will climb up and look through the window on the second floor to see if the owners are asleep. If they are asleep, I will drop a coin. As soon as you hear the sound of the coin, you will know that it is safe for you to climb up. Then we will go in through the window. If we both enter together, we shall be able to work very quickly. Then we will leave the same way. I do not want to go in alone because it will take me too long to collect all the valuables.”

After they had agreed on this plan, the first thief climbed up the ladder and looked through the window. He saw that the occupants of the room were fast asleep, so he took a coin out of his pocket and dropped it onto the pathway below. He heard it make a slight sound and then he waited for the second thief to climb up the ladder. He waited and waited. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes passed by, and still there was no sign of his partner. Then he began to get annoyed. They had to complete the job under cover of darkness, and dawn was fast approaching. He was in a difficult position. He could not call down from the top of the ladder for fear of rousing the people inside and being caught.

Finally, after waiting a long time, the first thief decided to come down and see what was happening. At the foot of the ladder he saw the other thief kneeling on the ground. With utmost disgust he said, “What are you waiting for? Why did you not climb up the ladder when I gave the signal? Are you deaf as well as stupid?”

The second thief answered, “I heard the signal, but I have been looking for the coin. I heard it strike the ground, so I have been searching and searching for it.”

The first thief said, “You fool! Before I dropped the coin, I tied a long piece of string to it. After the coin touched the ground, I pulled it up again. Did you not see the string?”

How greedy these two thieves were, all for the sake of a little coin! The one on the ladder did not want to part with his coin, so he tied a string around it. And the one on the ground ruined their chances of robbing the house because he wanted to find the coin. This small amount of money was so precious to these two that they did not hesitate to try to take it away from each other. Such was the friendship of the two thieves!

What faith can do

A young man was in great distress. His mother had been suffering from cancer for a long time, and her condition was now extremely grave. He knew that it was only a matter of months before she would pass behind the curtain of Eternity. Many, many doctors had given her different treatments, but all had failed.

One day, one of the young man’s friends said to him, “I know how much you care for your mother. Medical science has not been able to cure her, but there is someone who can cure her. A few hundred miles from here there lives a particular sage. He definitely has the occult power and spiritual power to cure your mother. Let me make enquiries as to the name of his village. I will give you directions so that you can find this sage.”

The young man eagerly accepted his friend’s advice and in a few days he set out for the remote village of the spiritual Master. When he arrived at his destination, he found that the spiritual Master had gone to another village because he had a very high fever. The Master had heard that in the other village there was a medical doctor who would be able to cure his fever.

Since the young man had already travelled so far, he decided to go on to the other village in search of the great spiritual figure. He arrived in the village only to find that the spiritual Master had just passed away! All the young man’s hopes were crushed. The poor fellow began crying helplessly because he felt that now his mother would never be cured.

The son of the spiritual Master happened to see the young man crying in the street. He said, “What is wrong with you? Why are you crying so bitterly? Are you crying for my father? You did not even know him. Why are you so grief-stricken?”

The young man said, “Yes, in a sense I am crying for your father. Your father was such a great man. He had so much occult power and spiritual power. My mother is dying of cancer. I came to your place to beg your father to cure her. There I discovered that your father was not feeling well, and for that reason he had come to this village. Now I have come here, but it is too late. Your father has passed away. Now there is no hope for my mother to be cured.”

The young man was swimming in the sea of sorrow. The son of the spiritual Master was astonished. “You fool!” he said. “If my father had this kind of spiritual power and occult power, do you think he would have come here to see a doctor? He was suffering only from a fever. If he had had any power at all, he would have cured himself!”

The young man was shocked. He said, “My friend told me that your father was a great spiritual Master with tremendous power. I had such faith in your father! Because of that faith, I came to your place, and now I have come here. I am so unlucky! Had I arrived just a day or two earlier, I feel he could have cured my mother.”

This time the son could not stop laughing. He said, “This blind faith of yours is so ridiculous. I know my father. He did not have the powers that you ascribe to him. He came here to get a remedy for his fever. He was just an ordinary man.”

The young man simply said, “I had faith in my dearest friend, and my friend had faith in your father. Now my mother will definitely die. What more can I do? Let me go home and take care of her for her few remaining months on earth.”

The young man went all the way back to his own village, where he expected to find his mother sick in bed. Instead, he saw his mother doing housework. With utmost surprise and delight he said, “Mother, Mother, what is this? For months you have been bedridden. Now you are moving about with such energy all of a sudden. Why? Why?”

His mother said, “I do not know what the reason is. One day, while you were away, I woke up and it seemed that I had got a new life. I felt so much better! I got up and began moving around without any pain. For the last few days I have been cooking and cleaning the way I used to do. I feel that in a few weeks I will be completely recovered. It is a miracle! What have you done? Where did you go?”

The son started shedding tears of joy and gratitude. He said to his mother, “This is what faith can do! I had faith in my friend and my friend had faith in a certain spiritual Master. This miracle is all due to the power of faith.”

The ambitious priest

There was once a village priest who was highly educated and fully conversant with all the sacred scriptures. Because he was so erudite, he was the priest for several villages. Everybody appreciated and admired him.

This priest came to hear that the king was looking for a priest for his temple. The village priest was deeply interested. He felt that he had all the qualifications to become the king’s personal priest. Without a doubt, he was the most learned priest in the land. He could recite all the scriptures without any mistake. He felt certain that he would be offered the position.

With absolute confidence, he sold his house and property. Then he entrusted all his duties to a junior priest. He told this junior priest, “Now you must fill my position, because I will soon be appointed as the king’s priest. I will not be coming back to this village. I will live in the palace and I will become rich, very rich, overnight. I will be the king’s mentor. He will seek my advice at every moment and the whole world will appreciate me, admire me and adore me. Even here, in this village, you will hear about me quite often.”

So the priest collected his remaining belongings and made the journey to the capital, where the king had his palace. The king had proclaimed a date on which he would examine all the religious leaders and priests and make his choice. This particular priest arrived in good time for the examination. As he approached the city gate, he saw that the city was in mourning. Then he learned that the king’s mother had passed away just two days earlier. When he asked about the forthcoming examination, he was told that the king had postponed it indefinitely because he was mourning his mother’s passing. The king had not set any new date for the examination, but he had said that it would be at least a few months before he would be ready to make the appointment. In the meantime, the position would be vacant.

The poor priest was so disappointed. He had to find somewhere to stay while he was waiting. Weeks and months went by and still there was no announcement from the king. The priest found that it was very expensive to live in the city and his supply of money soon dwindled to nothing. Since he could no longer afford to stay there, he decided that the best thing was to go back home. Somehow he managed to make the return journey.

When the village people saw the priest returning penniless, they jeered and mocked him. They said, “You greedy fellow! You left us because of your ambition to be the king’s priest. Now we have appointed somebody else to take your position. Here there is no place for you. You sold your house and property. We do not want you to come back here. You have shown us that beneath your spirituality there is nothing but greed, greed, greed. Take your greed somewhere else!”

The lesson of the hungry dog

Once there were two neighbouring kings. They were friends, but at the same time there was considerable rivalry between the two. One day one of the kings went to visit the other. The host king was much more powerful and important than his guest. His army was much larger and, as a result, he was much wealthier. He was not at all hostile to his guest, but in the back of his mind there was always the fear that one day this neighbouring king might surpass him in wealth. The poorer king, on the other hand, felt that his was a hopeless case. It seemed that he would never be able to match the splendour of his friend’s palace or the strength of his army. He was jealous of his friend, but he knew that he could never equal him, let alone defeat him.

The host king received his friend with utmost courtesy and the two sat down to talk. The guest said, “You are my true friend. You have made me feel so welcome here in your palace. Now may I ask you a serious question?”

The host king answered, “Any question that you have, whether it is serious or not, I will try to answer. We are friends, so it is natural for us to help each other.”

“Tell me,” said the guest, “how did you acquire such a huge army? You have so many soldiers, elephants and weapons. How did you become so powerful?”

“You do not know?” said the host. “Tell me, have you ever seen a hungry dog following its master?”

“I have not, but I can easily imagine it,” his guest replied.

The wealthy king continued, “The secret is that if you keep your dog hungry, the dog will follow you. I keep my army hungry, so they all follow me. I do not give them a proper salary, proper nourishment or proper uniforms, so they all follow me. They feel they will eventually get a high salary, good food and all kinds of benefits, so they stay with me. They want to get a promotion. That is my trick!”

The poorer king listened very thoughtfully and did not make any further comment. He spent the night at his friend’s palace and returned home the next day. On the way back to his kingdom, what should he see but a dog following its master! The king got down from his horse and started walking behind the dog and its master. After some time the king felt very sorry for the dog, so he gave it a large piece of bread.

O God, as soon as the dog had devoured the bread, it started following the king, and not its real owner! The king gave the dog a few more pieces of bread, and the dog followed him all the way back to the palace. The king immediately got the point.

The next day, the king asked his spies to go to the army of his friend and give each soldier a very large amount of money on his behalf. Lo and behold, the soldiers all decided to join the army of this generous king. In a few months’ time, the army of the poorer king became so strong that he was able to attack the neighbouring king and defeat him badly.

When the wealthy king saw the attacking army, he said to his opponent, “These are my own soldiers! How ungrateful they are! They have betrayed me to fight on your side. What has made them go against me?”

Then he began to curse the so-called poorer king. “You are such a rogue! In the name of friendship I invited you here a few months ago, and now you have taken away all my soldiers. How could you do such a thing?”

“You yourself taught me,” came the answer.

“I taught you?”

“Yes. You told me the story of the hungry dog. You said that if you keep a dog hungry, it will always follow you with the hope of getting something to eat. On my way home from your palace, I saw a dog following its master and I tested your theory. I gave the dog a piece of bread and then it started following me. In the same way, you were not giving a sufficient salary to your army. I gave them money and now they all have become loyal to me. I learned this lesson from you, so you cannot blame me at all!”

Indefinitely we cannot torture any living creature, whether it is a little dog or a human being. If we do so, we are bound to meet with the consequences eventually, for cleverness and unkindness are no match for wisdom-light and justice-power.