Amusement I enjoy, enlightenment I study, part 4

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The thief's advice to the king

A king went on a short trip with a few of his ministers and a small entourage. They decided to camp in a particular town for the night and then return home to the palace in a leisurely way the following day. The king’s tent was in a very nice location, and the others in his party placed their tents all around him. All of a sudden, in the middle of the night, there was a great commotion. People began calling out and running to and fro. The king came out of his tent and asked, “What happened? What happened?”

One of his ministers replied, “We saw a thief stealing things, and now we cannot find the thief. We are searching the camp.”

The king became furious. “Here I have so many ministers and guards,” he said, “and you cannot find a single thief? You have to find him! Otherwise, tomorrow morning I shall punish you all!”

There was no sleep that night for those who had travelled with the king. They searched and searched, but the thief was nowhere to be found. Day dawned and still there was no sign of him. The ministers were so sad that their excursion had been ruined, and they were all afraid of the king’s punishment.

In the morning, the king assembled everyone and said, “What have you done? You are all supposed to protect me. I have entrusted you with my safety. Is this how you carry out your job? If the thief had wanted to kill me, he could easily have done so. It seems he had no trouble entering our camp and stealing things. He may have been carrying a knife or some other weapon. This experience could have been infinitely worse. I am so disappointed and disgusted with all of you! Let us go back to the palace at once.”

The ministers and guards were all absolutely miserable as they stood listening to the king in silence. Just as the king finished his speech, they heard somebody sneeze very powerfully. The sound came from a very small tent belonging to one of the guards who had been absent the entire night looking for the thief. The guards rushed to the tent and looked inside. They saw that in one corner somebody had rolled himself up in a blanket. It was the thief! The guards dragged him before the king and waited for the king’s command.

The king said, “You have to punish this thief!”

At that moment the thief spoke up. He was trembling because he thought that his life could be measured in minutes, but he found the courage to say, “O King, please give me a moment of your precious time. I want to tell you something.”

The king’s fury had not diminished. He said, “You! You should be thrashed to death. The whole night you did not allow us to sleep, and now you have to tell me something! All right, what is it?”

The thief said, “O King, I have done you a big favour.”

“You have done me a favour by coming here to steal?” asked the king.

“Yes,” said the thief. “O King, just think of what will happen when you go back to the palace! The local people will all laugh at you when they hear this story. They will say that you are surrounded by stupid ministers and useless guards. I am nothing but a poor thief, but I was able to enter your camp all alone and forty of your people could not find me. This story will spread like wildfire throughout the kingdom. One thief was able to outsmart forty of the king’s men! People will not only say that your guards are useless, but they will also begin to say that you must be stupid to keep them. So you see, I am giving your guards dignity and I am giving you dignity also by allowing myself to be caught. When I sneezed, the guards came to know my hiding place and they were able to catch me. Now people will say that the king’s guards are so alert and so efficient that they were able to catch the thief. And they will admire you also for keeping such excellent guards. But had I not sneezed, I could easily have escaped. Then you would have had to return to the palace without the thief. You would have been so embarrassed and ashamed. So I do not think I deserve punishment. On the contrary, I deserve a reward because I have done you a big favour.”

The king saw that the thief was speaking the truth. He said, “You are right. Because of this unfortunate incident, my guards and I would have become a laughing stock. Please tell me what reward you would like from me.”

The thief said, “O King, I do not need any outer reward. I only want you to be strict when you appoint your guards and ministers. Do not keep these people. Either give them a last warning right now or dismiss them all. You deserve people who are infinitely better.”

The money-lender and the drunkard

There was a money-lender who used to lend money on very strict terms. At the same time, he was a good and sincere man, so people liked him and they always returned the money promptly.

Once the money-lender loaned some money to a drunkard. He did not realise that the fellow was a drunkard, so he gave him a large amount of money. This drunkard refused to return any portion of it. Weeks ran into months and months ran into years, but the money did not materialise.

The money-lender would send his assistants to the drunkard’s house to collect the money. No matter what hour of the day they rang the bell, even if it was late in the evening, the drunkard’s servants used to say the same thing: “He is not at home! He is not at home!” Sometimes they used to say that he was staying with relatives. During the day they would always claim he was at work.

“Where does he work?” asked the money-lender’s assistants. But the answer was always the same: “We do not know.”

One day the money-lender’s patience reached its limit, and he decided to go personally to collect the money. Just as he arrived in front of the house, the drunkard happened to be returning home. The money-lender screamed, “You have to give me the money!” But the drunkard ran and hid inside the house. The guard at the gate told the money-lender, “No, no, that was not my master. That was somebody else. My master is not at home, so it is useless for you to wait here. Kindly come back some other time.”

The money-lender knew that the guard and the drunkard’s other servants were all trying to fool him. He said, “Do you take me for an idiot? With my own eyes I saw your master run into this house. I know his face well. I am not going to leave until he comes out. If he does not come out, I will call the police and they will arrest him.”

Still the drunkard remained inside the house. The money-lender had no choice. He called the police and told them that the man inside the house owed him a very large sum of money. The police arrived and asked the drunkard to come out. Then they began to question him. They said, “This money-lender claims that you borrowed a large sum of money from him and you have not repaid it. Is it true?”

“No,” said the drunkard. “I have never seen this man before and I do not know what he is talking about.”

One of the policemen said, “You do not know this man? That means he must have made a mistake.”

“Do not believe him!” shouted the money-lender. “I tell you, this is definitely the same man to whom I loaned a large sum of money several years ago.”

“What has become of you?” said the drunkard. “Here you are, shouting in the street and causing a scene. You do not believe me when I say that I am not the man you are seeking and yet, just yesterday, you believed my servant when he told you I was staying at a relative’s house. A low-class person like my servant you believe, and a high-class person like myself you disbelieve. Is your standard so low that you believe only the words of low-class people? I am really insulted! Somebody else has borrowed this money from you. Go and look for the actual culprit instead of wasting my time and the precious time of these police officers.”

The money-lender looked at the drunkard and realised that he could never win against such an unscrupulous fellow. He said, “You say that you are high-class and you are incapable of lying. If that is so, then you remain with your so-called height. It is beneath my dignity to come and ask you for the money anymore. If this is what it means to be high-class, I do not want anything to do with it. You can go back into your house, get drunk and do whatever you want. I shall never mix with your type again.”

King Shivaji and the Muslim princess

King Shivaji spent most of his life fighting against the Moghuls and the expansion of the Moghul Empire. Sometimes Shivaji and his brave soldiers won against the huge Muslim army, and sometimes they lost. But everybody respected and admired Shivaji. Although he lived on earth for only 52 years, he became a truly great man in every way. He was a hero and a patriot without equal throughout the length and breadth of the Indian sub-continent.

It was not to oppose the Muslim religion that Shivaji fought against the Moghuls. On the contrary, he had a deep love and appreciation for all religions. He once said that Hinduism and Islam are manifestations of the same divine spirit, and he used to encourage everybody to practise their own religion.

Once somebody wanted to examine Shivaji’s religious tolerance, so he threw a Koran at Shivaji. To a Muslim, the Koran is as sacred as the Upanishads, the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita are to the Hindus. Shivaji took the Koran and held it very devotedly and respectfully. Then he happened to see a Muslim standing at a distance. He called for the man and presented him with the book very soulfully, saying, “Please take this book. It is your most sacred text. When I hold our Gita, I feel it is so sacred that I must become very prayerful and spiritual. When I hold your Koran, I have the same experience. Now you should take this book and revere it.”

Shivaji often encountered the Muslim troops in battle. Once his Maratha soldiers defeated a certain division of the great Muslim army. Shivaji’s commander was supposed to bring the defeated Muslim leader before his king, but before he did so, he brought the Muslim leader’s daughter. Shivaji’s commander said, “O King, now that you have defeated this Muslim leader, you are entitled to seize all his possessions. That includes his daughter. I would be so happy if you would take her as your wife.”

King Shivaji said, “I should marry her?”

“She is such a beautiful young girl,” said the commander.

King Shivaji looked at the girl and said, “It is true. I have never seen anyone as beautiful as you are! How I wish my mother could have been as beautiful as you are! If my mother had been beautiful, then perhaps I would have had more beautiful features.”

As a matter of fact, Shivaji was quite handsome and very strong. He only lacked a little in terms of height. While looking at the girl, he continued to think about his mother.

Finally Shivaji’s commander interrupted his reverie. He said, “O King, either you can marry her or you can give her in marriage to your son.”

Shivaji not only was brave, but he also had many, many spiritual qualities. The fate of this young girl now lay in his hands. He said to his commander, “Let me pray and meditate.”

After meditating, Shivaji said, “What has this young girl done to me that I should take her from her family? Her father is my enemy, true; but if I take her away and marry her, or if I ask my son to marry her, will she be happy? At this very moment the poor girl is so afraid that I may kill her father or put him in jail for life. Again, she feels that I may mistreat her and take her as my maid instead of marrying her in a proper way. No, I cannot add to her sorrow. I have conquered her father. That is more than enough for her to bear without being taken away from her near and dear ones.”

Then Shivaji asked somebody to bring lots of gifts, and he gave them to the young girl. He said to her, “You will not be harmed. You can go back to your father. And you can tell him that I am not going to arrest him or put him into jail. I want him to remain with his family so that the affection between father and daughter will grow and grow. I do not want to come between you. Go back to him with all your affection and love. When your father sees you, he will be so happy. And you can tell him that these gifts are the gifts of a father to his daughter.”

The young girl asked, “What do you mean when you say that these are a father’s gifts?”

Shivaji explained, “I did not want to marry you, and I did not want my son to marry you. In a way, I am your father, for only a father can have this kind of affection for a daughter. I have defeated your real father, but how can I take you away from him and destroy the affection that you have for your father and your father has for you? I cannot do that. I will allow him to return to his home, and you are free to go with him. The fact that your father lost to me in battle does not give me the right to come between him and his beloved daughter. So you take these gifts and go back to him, with all the blessings and love of someone who feels for you as a father feels for his daughter. Go, my child.”

China's ancient wisdom preserved

The First Emperor of China was the first person to unify the country. Under his rule, the wealth and power of the separate states came into the hands of the central government. The First Emperor was very anxious to maintain his power. He said to his Prime Minister, “Even now I find that some people are cherishing opposing ideas. Where do these opposing ideas come from? How do they circulate?”

The Prime Minister said, “O Emperor, these ideas are embedded in our ancient books, which are known as the five Classics, and also in the works of Confucius and others. When people read these philosophical works from the Golden Age of the past, they learn about benevolence, righteousness and other moral precepts. That is why they criticise you.”

The First Emperor said, “I clearly see that the only way to extinguish these ideas is to burn all the books. Not only the books, but also those found reading the books must be burned!”

The Prime Minister, who was extremely ambitious, immediately agreed. He said, “That is an excellent idea! We shall keep aside only medical books and books about growing crops. All others will be burned to ashes. If anyone is found reading those ancient classics, we will burn a mark on that person’s face and send him to the frontier to build the Great Wall. In this way, the old works will lose all their prestige in the minds of the people.”

The Emperor was very pleased with the recommendations of his Prime Minister, and he issued orders for them to be carried out. Those who did not comply with the regulations received the terrible punishment of being branded on the face.

In spite of these brutal measures, some books did manage to escape destruction, for the priests very carefully hid them in the walls of houses. Some priests even committed the books to memory. When the First Emperor’s reign came to an end after just fifteen years, those priests were able to write out the old classics word for word. In this way, the ancient Chinese wisdom was preserved. Even now, the Chinese culture is taken as one of the world’s most precious sources of wisdom.

The superlative fool

There was once a superlative fool. Nobody could be compared with him, for his stupidity knew no bounds. Wherever he went, people would poke fun at him and make his life miserable. Finally, the poor fool went to the king. He showed the king his sad face and said, “Your Majesty, please help me! Everybody is saying I am the worst possible fool. Nobody takes me seriously. Is there any way you can change my reputation?”

The king sympathised with the fool and said, “All right, let me examine you. If I find that you have some wisdom, then nobody will dare to call you a fool again.” The king thought for a few moments and then said, “I have a wife, as you know. People call her the queen. My wife is very, very beautiful. I have a daughter who is also extremely beautiful, and talented as well. She has a younger brother who is the prince. Although he is still a child, he is already quite strong. So these are three of the members of our family. But we actually have four members. Can you tell me who the fourth member is?”

The fool was stupefied. He said, “How do you expect me to know? Have I been inside your palace? Do I know your family members personally?”

The king felt genuinely sad, for the fool was even more dull-witted than he had imagined. He said, “The answer is so simple: I am the fourth member of the family.” Then the king added, “Although you could not pass my examination, let me see what I can do for you.”

The fool was so happy and proud that he had been permitted to have an audience with the king and also to know the answer to the king’s riddle. He was dying to show off his knowledge, so he went to see his dearest friend and said, “I have a very beautiful wife, an excellent daughter and a very strong and powerful son. There are four members in our family. Can you tell me who the fourth member is?”

The friend said, “Of course I can! You are the fourth member.”

“Oh, no,” said the fool, “you are wrong, you are wrong!”

The friend said, “In what way am I wrong?”

The fool replied very dramatically, “The king has told me privately that he himself is the fourth member of the family. I cannot tell a lie. The fourth person is the king!”

Eventually the king came to hear what the muddleheaded fool was saying, and he felt that the time had come to fulfil his promise to the fool. The king appointed a very learned member of his court to give this stupid fellow as many free lessons as he wanted. Not only would they be free of charge, but each time he attended a lesson, he would get some gold coins from the king. In this way, the king hoped to have one less fool in his kingdom.

The goddess and the businessman

There was once a very rich businessman. Every morning before going to work in the city, he would pray to the presiding goddess of his family. He always prayed for the same thing: the increase of his material prosperity. Finally, after many years, he said, “At last I am satisfied. I have so much money! I have a beautiful house and so much property. Now I do not have to pray to the goddess anymore; I do not need her.”

Soon afterwards, the goddess appeared to him in a dream and said, “Because you prayed to me for so many years, I gave you your present prosperity. Now you have become so ungrateful. Everything that you have, you will lose!”

The businessman became extremely worried and frightened. “O my God, O my God,” he repeated, “what have I done? If she really has this kind of power, I will become destitute!” Then he pleaded with the goddess, “Please, please give me another chance! You have been so kind to me over the years. Now I want to perform a magnificent puja in your honour. I will spend thousands and thousands of rupees. I will bring all my relatives from different villages and everyone will see how I worship you! You just have to give me a little time to make the necessary preparations.”

The goddess agreed to the businessman’s proposal. She said, “You do not have to perform this puja overnight, but in a few months’ time you must do it.”

The businessman promised to begin making the arrangements immediately. The goddess was very pleased that he would soon worship her with great pomp. She did not withdraw as she had threatened to do. On the contrary, she continued to bless the businessman and his family every day.

Days ran into weeks and weeks ran into months, but still the businessman did not even begin making arrangements for the puja. He postponed the event indefinitely. Finally, the goddess became disgusted. Once more she appeared before him, and this time she said, “You told me that in the near future you would worship me with a very elaborate puja, but I can clearly see that you have done nothing. Your promise was empty. Now I shall leave you permanently!”

This time the businessman was not at all frightened. He told the goddess, “If you go, then I will tell the whole world that you are a liar.”

“I, a liar?” asked the goddess, greatly surprised.

“Yes,” continued the businessman. “You assured me that you would stay with me for some time. You are a divine being. You have to honour your promise.”

“But weeks and months have now passed,” said the goddess.

“Do you not know that we mortals are full of weaknesses?” said the clever businessman. “I am just an ordinary man. It is in my nature to tell lies. But you are supposed to have compassion for humanity. You are supposed to have patience to help us overcome our weaknesses. That is why we worship you. You have all the divine qualities in infinite measure: forgiveness, patience, compassion, wisdom. Alas, we can only offer you our imperfections.”

The goddess decided to give the businessman yet another chance. She said to him, “Do you think you will be able to worship me on a daily basis once again? Can you give me your sincere promise?”

“Daily I shall worship you,” said the rogue-businessman in his most devoted voice.

For a few days, he did honour his promise and he worshipped the goddess before going to work in the city. Then, somehow, he managed to forget about her. He became very irregular in his worship and eventually he ceased to worship her altogether.

Once more the goddess appeared before the businessman. This time she came with her power-aspect. She cried, “You are such a rogue! You are full of greed, insincerity and dishonesty. I have decided to withdraw from your life once and for all. I will be the presiding goddess for those who love me and value me. But I do not want to remain a goddess for you. You stay with your money-power, since you are more than satisfied with it. But, I tell you, after I go away from you, all your money-power will disappear and you will become a street beggar. That is what you deserve!”

At this, the businessman was really horrified. He said, “How can you curse me like this? Only ordinary people curse others. But you are a goddess! I shall let the whole world know that you have come down to this level. How do you dare to claim that you have any divinity at all when you hurl your curses at innocent human beings like me?”

This time the patience of the goddess had run out. With a stern voice she said, “For you, I do not want to remain a goddess. I will definitely be there for those who love me and value me. I will go to them and I will help them inwardly and outwardly in countless ways. But in your case, from today you will see how your fate has changed!”

Then, in the twinkling of an eye, the goddess disappeared.

Thieves by nature

There were three thieves who had completed their jail terms and were due to be released one particular evening. At the appointed hour they passed out of the prison gates and found themselves in the street. Since it was already quite dark, they decided that instead of going back to their respective homes, they would spend the rest of the night just outside the walls of the prison.

It was a cold night and the three emancipated thieves lay down on the ground close to one another. One of their jailbird friends who had been watching them from the window of his cell saw that they had no blanket, so he handed his own blanket to the guard and asked him to go and give it to his three friends. The guard willingly agreed. He was deeply impressed by the selflessness and kindness of this particular prisoner.

The guard offered the three men the blanket and then he went back to his station. In a few minutes’ time, he observed that the thief who was sleeping on the far right had tugged the blanket to such an extent that it covered only him, and not the other two. He was sleeping comfortably, but the others were shivering.

After another thirty minutes had passed, the guard saw the man in the middle grab the blanket and wrap himself up in it very tightly. Now the other two were cold and miserable.

The guard waited to see what would happen next. Another thirty minutes passed and he saw the thief on the extreme left reach over and pull the blanket quite violently. Then he covered himself from head to toe and went to sleep. This kind of pulling and tugging went on all night.

When morning finally dawned, the thieves got up and started to leave for their homes. All of a sudden, the guard came over and arrested all three. He said, “I can see that you are not going to change your nature. You three are thieves to the very core!”

He put them back into jail and then he went to the cell of the sympathetic prisoner who had donated his blanket. The guard said to this man, “You have a good heart. You are extremely kind and sympathetic. You have shown that your thieving days are over. Therefore, I am allowing you to go free. You may gather your things and leave today. But, alas, your friends have not learned their lesson at all!”

The minister's test

One day the king summoned his most trusted minister. This minister had served the king for many years, and the king deeply valued his wisdom and advice. When the minister came before the king, the king looked at him compassionately and said, “I am extremely grateful to you. You have rendered devoted service to me for many long years. Now you are growing old. I do not wish you to discontinue your work, but I would like you to take an assistant, somebody whom you can train to do your duties. Please select somebody who is as honest as you are. As you know, I am so proud of you. Your honesty has saved me time and again. So do not take anybody who is dishonest.”

The minister interviewed many of the young men in the kingdom and finally he chose three whom he believed to have all the right qualities to be his assistant. Above all, they seemed to be honest. The minister informed the king, “Your Majesty, I have three candidates for you to choose from.”

The king said, “No, you choose.”

The minister replied, “O King, I would prefer that you make the choice, since you are the one who wants me to have an assistant. I personally do not want an assistant.”

The king said, “I feel it is for your ultimate good. You are no longer a young man. As the years go by, I am sure you will depend on this assistant more and more. But I would like it to be somebody of your own choice.”

Finally the minister agreed to select one of the three candidates. He asked each one to come to his home at a particular time. He said to them, “This evening I will have something very special to tell you.”

When the first candidate arrived at the minister’s home, the minister invited him into his private room. The room was in total darkness. The minister took a gold coin from his robe and flicked it into the air. As soon as it dropped on the floor, the minister said to the young man, “The king has asked me to send you to his palace immediately.”

The young man had started to feel for the coin in the darkness, but the minister whispered, “Do not delay! You risk the king’s anger.”

The young man immediately ran out of the house and did not stop until he reached the king’s palace.

When the second young man arrived, the minister followed the same procedure. He took the candidate into his private room, which was completely dark, threw the gold coin onto the ground and then told the young man that the king was calling him. Like the first candidate, this one also ran at top speed to obey the king’s wishes. He was so happy and proud that the king had asked for him.

Finally the third candidate arrived for his appointment. Once more the minister threw the coin and made his dramatic announcement. This time the candidate did not heed the king’s urgent summons. He continued to search for the coin on the ground. After about five minutes, he did find the coin and he gave it back to the minister. The next day, the minister brought all three candidates before the king. The king asked him, “Have you decided which candidate you will choose?”

“Yes, I have made up my mind,” said the minister.

“Which one?” asked the king eagerly.

The minister pointed out the candidate who had spent so much time searching for the gold coin.

“How did you manage to choose this one?” enquired the king.

Then the minister recounted to the king the whole story about the test. He added, “Now I am more than happy to have an assistant because I see this one will do an excellent job. And when the time comes, he will replace me as your minister. I know that he will take care of your kingdom honestly and carefully. He will serve you most devotedly because he will give everything its proper value. The other two ran away for name and fame. They wanted to enhance their own glory. But this one valued the gold coin that I had dropped. He searched and searched for it until he found it. He did not want it for himself. He immediately returned it to me. In the same manner, when he becomes your minister, he will preserve your kingdom and everything in it. He will care for it in every way. That is why he is the best candidate.”

The minister smiled at the young man whom he had chosen. With sad faces, the two candidates who had failed the test bowed to the king and left the room.

The hermit's peace-boon

There was a hermit who lived in a cave far removed from the hustle and bustle of village life. One day a villager came to his humble abode and asked, “Can you please make me peaceful? I have a successful business in the village. I have wealth, I have everything; but how can I have peace?”

The hermit replied, “Do you have any idea how you can attain peace?”

“Oh, yes!” said the villager without the least hesitation. “If I have more prosperity, I am sure peace will dawn in my life.”

The hermit said, “Granted! If you feel that more prosperity and more name and fame will bring you peace, then your wish is granted. When you return home, you will see that my boon has already taken effect.”

The villager returned home and, to his great surprise, he found that his wealth had literally doubled overnight. For a few years he was very happy. Then something prompted him to return to the hermit again.

The hermit recognised him and asked, “What do you want this time?”

The villager answered, “I am still seeking the same thing. I want to be happy and peaceful.”

“Then how do you want me to help you?” asked the hermit.

The villager looked a little embarrassed. Finally he said, “Someone has moved to our village who is infinitely richer than I am. He has really disturbed my peace! I feel that if I can defeat him in wealth, then I will be happy and peaceful once more.”

Again the hermit said, “Granted! I will give you the capacity to become richer than your rival, immediately.”

The villager returned home and discovered that his wealth now far surpassed that of his rival. The hermit had arranged everything to the villager’s utmost satisfaction. Once more he could be truly happy and peaceful.

Unfortunately, after a few more years another businessman who was exceedingly rich came to live in the village. Once again, the villager’s supremacy was challenged, so he went back to see the hermit.

“Please, please,” begged the villager, “tell me what I must do! I tried to get peace in my own way by amassing more and more wealth, but that peace never lasts. Somebody always comes along and ruins it. Now I would like to hear from you how I can become really peaceful. I have been coming to you for so many years, but I have never asked you for your advice. If it is not too late, please illumine me.”

The hermit said, “That is what I have been waiting to hear from you! Here is my advice to you: if you give away all the wealth that you have, you will be flooded with peace. And if you become my disciple, I will be able to offer you joy and happiness.”

The villager immediately prostrated himself before the hermit and said, “I want to become your disciple. I do not care for earthly riches anymore. I want only inner wealth. Please allow me to stay with you, or allow me to build a small cottage next to you so that I can pray and meditate with you every day. The atmosphere around you is full of peace and harmony. What a fool I was not to notice it before! I want to be your devoted disciple. Please grant me initiation.”

The hermit said, “Granted! I accept you as my disciple. I will give you all the peace of the inner world.”

Lo, the villager found immediate peace, happiness and fulfilment at the feet of the hermit.

In search of an infallible man

There was once a king whose favourite minister passed away. The king was anxious to fill the vacancy, so he interviewed several young, well-educated men. Finally, he narrowed his choice down to two candidates. To these two he said, “I would like you to answer this question: can one become infallible?”

One of the young men replied, “O King, it is not possible to become infallible. Human weakness is such that we are always prone to making mistakes. But, if God wishes, He can create someone who is infallible right from the dawn of his life. That special soul will be born without imperfections.”

The second young man then gave his opinion. “As human beings, we do have inherent weaknesses, true. But I believe that one can become infallible in this life by praying and meditating. If God showers His choicest Blessings upon us, then we can become infallible.”

The king said, “All right! One is saying that we become infallible on the strength of our prayers and meditations, and the other is saying that it is somehow pre-ordained; one must be infallible right from the beginning of his life. I would like to see such a person. Please go and find me a person who is infallible.”

The young man who had made this assertion left the palace and went in search of an infallible person. A long time passed by and still he was not to be found. Eventually he returned to the palace and he was forced to admit defeat. The king said to him, “Since you have not found anybody who is infallible, do you think there is a possibility that you are the one?”

The young man said, “Yes, perhaps I am one of those very few who are infallible.”

“Thank you! Definitely you are,” said the king. Then to his attendant he said. “Please bring the other young man, the one who said that with God’s Grace, and by praying and meditating, one could become infallible. He is the right one to get this post. I do not need someone who is bloated with pride and self-importance. I need someone who is humble and sincere. Then only can I have confidence that he will make the right decisions for my kingdom.”

The excellent dal

This story is about a very happy family. It consisted of a husband and wife and their two children. The son helped his father with the family business and the daughter was still at school. When the son came of age, his mother wanted him to get married.

The son said, “Why, Mother, why?” If I bring a wife home to live with us, you two will quarrel and make the entire family miserable. Right now we are all so happy together. But if you and your future daughter-in-law are at daggers drawn, then we will have serious problems.”

But his mother remained firm. “No, I really want you to get married. I promise I will never be unkind to my daughter-in-law. I will never scold her or quarrel with her — never, never, never! I am getting old, so I need somebody to help me with my household activities.”

Her husband had been following the conversation. He said to his wife, “Do you promise that you will never scold your daughter-in-law?”

“Yes,” she said, “I promise. I will treat her as my own daughter.”

So the son got married to please his mother, but alas, his mother totally forgot her promise. She used to find fault with her daughter-in-law at every moment. She would blame her for every mishap in the household, and then the daughter-in-law would cry and cry. The son suffered badly because his mother was making his wife’s life so miserable. His sister also suffered when their mother would scold the daughter-in-law in season and out of season, without rhyme or reason. They all felt sorry for the new member of the family. They saw that their mother had become a neurotic and impossible old lady. The daughter-in-law tried desperately to please her, but to no avail.

One day the mother’s brother was coming to visit the family. She was thrilled that her brother would be visiting after a very long time, and she wanted to feed him a most delicious meal, so she prepared quite a few dishes. The last item was dal. By then it was getting late, so the mother put the pot of water and dal on the stove and said to her daughter-in-law, “Look, Sita, I must go and take my bath in the Ganges before it is dark. I have put the dal on the stove. Let the water boil. Then, when the time comes, you will add some salt. I have already put in the other spices. You will only add the salt — without fail! Do not forget. You are quite often unmindful and careless. I do not want to scold you right now. I do not want to ruin the atmosphere, since my brother is coming after such a long time. We are so fond of each other! Nobody can ever imagine how close we were when we were young. I am only asking you to do this simple job. Do not disappoint me!”

The mother left to bathe in the Ganges. In a little while, Sita found that it was time for her to put salt in the dal, and she did so, very carefully and accurately. Then she was free to leave the kitchen and complete some other household jobs.

After five minutes had elapsed, Sita’s sister-in-law entered the kitchen. She was always very sympathetic to Sita. When she saw the pot of water boiling on the stove, she said to herself, “Perhaps my sister-in-law has forgotten to do her job. Poor girl, she is so nice! My mother always scolds her. My mother is too old to change her nature. Now, in case Sita has forgotten, let me save her.”

So the sister-in-law put some salt in the pot and went away. She was so happy that she had saved poor Sita from yet another scolding.

In a few more minutes, Sita’s husband happened to pass through the kitchen. When he saw the pot of water and dal boiling on the stove, he said, “I know my mother will behave in such an undivine way if my wife forgets to put salt in the dal. In fact, I am sure Sita has forgotten; otherwise, she would be here looking after the pot. I really love my wife and I am so sad that she has to put up with my mother day in and day out. Let me add the salt on her behalf.” So Sita’s husband took some salt and added it to the pot. He was sure that he had saved his wife from a terrible scolding.

Finally, the mother came back from bathing in the Ganges. As usual, she was convinced that Sita had forgotten to do her job. When she saw that the pot of dal was still on the stove, all her worst fears were confirmed. She said, “My daughter-in-law is so undivine! She is useless, useless! She does not even have the common sense or wisdom to turn off the stove. I am sure she has not set foot in the kitchen since I left; otherwise, she would have turned off the stove by now. As to adding salt, it is out of the question! As usual, I have to do everything myself.” With that, the mother added a generous portion of salt to the pot.

Later in the evening, the mother’s brother arrived and the whole family sat down to enjoy the feast. After the honoured guest had eaten, the mother asked her brother, “How did you like the meal?”

Her brother answered, “Everything was simply excellent!”

“But which dish did you like the best?” his sister asked.

“Without a doubt, the dal was absolutely the best,” he replied.

The mother became a little sad at this reply. The dal was the only dish which she had not prepared by herself from beginning to end; the matter of the salt she had left to her daughter-in-law. Then she consoled herself by saying that, since her daughter-in-law had forgotten the salt, she herself had actually been the one to give the dal its final touch.

She asked her brother, “Was it only the dal that you liked, or did the other dishes appeal to you also?”

Her brother said, “I did like them, but the dal was very special.”

The mother was so flattered. She asked her brother if he could elaborate a little. He said, “The reason your dal was so special is that now I do not need to take salt for ten more incarnations!”

“What do you mean? What do you mean?” cried his sister in dismay.

He replied, “I am saying that for this incarnation and for nine more incarnations I shall not have to take salt.”

“I cannot imagine what has happened,” said his sister pitifully. “Since you are our guest, I served you first. I have not even tasted that dish. We were all waiting for you to eat before we started. How could my food be so horrible?”

She went on moaning and holding her head. Meanwhile, her brother had to leave the table and go outside. Alas, from the dinner table they heard him vomiting. The whole family was so sad. The mother asked her daughter-in-law, “Sita, did you put salt in the dal?”

“Yes, mother,” replied Sita, “how could I disobey you? I did add salt — but I only added a small amount.”

Then the daughter confessed, “Mother, I thought that Sita had forgotten the salt. Sometimes she is unmindful, but we love her because she is so kind, so affectionate, so compassionate. I wanted to save her from your anger, so I added some salt on her behalf.”

Sita smiled gratefully at her sister-in-law. Then Sita’s husband said, “Mother, I am also to blame. I did not want you to insult my wife, which you so often do. I wanted to spare her, so I also put some salt in the pot.”

Then the mother said quietly, “I also added some salt, even though I had asked Sita to do it. When I came back from my bath, I saw that the pot was still on the stove after such a long time. I thought Sita’s common sense would have told her to turn off the stove. So I came to the conclusion that she had not been in the kitchen at all, and I, too, added salt. Please forgive me, Sita.”

The mother was deeply mortified that her food had made her brother violently ill. She was also embarrassed that this had happened only because the other members of the family were trying to save Sita from her endless scoldings. At that very moment she took an oath that, from that day on, she would love and care for Sita as her own daughter — and this time she did keep her promise!

The magnificent coat

There was a shopkeeper who used to sell very beautiful garments. He had many customers who deeply appreciated the special fabrics and beads that he had to offer. One day a young man was examining the coats in the store and he came across a most magnificent coat. It was so smart and so exquisite in every way. It was made of the finest silk. Even though the price was quite high, the young man finally decided to buy the coat.

The shopkeeper highly praised the young man’s selection. “When you wear this coat,” he said, “you will look like a real king. In fact, everybody will take you as the king!”

The young man was very pleased. He was anticipating the dramatic effect he would create with his new coat. He paid for it and then put it on, so that he could wear it home. As he was walking along, he began to attract a tremendous amount of attention. Everybody was admiring his new coat.

Then, all of sudden, a disturbing thought flashed across the young man’s mind: “When I am wearing the coat, people say that I look like the king. But I cannot wear it all the time. On those days when I do not wear it, will I not look like an ordinary commoner? People may begin to make fun of me, saying that one moment I am the king and the next moment I am a commoner. Why should I create more problems in my life? The best thing is to return the coat!”

So he retraced his steps to the store and returned the magnificent coat.