Amusement I enjoy, enlightenment I study, part 6

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An idle man changes his nature

Once there was an extremely idle man. He never did anything, either for the betterment of the world or for himself. He only wallowed in the pleasures of idleness. Then one day, for some unknown reason, he changed his attitude. He said, “Right now, everybody is hating me because I do not contribute anything to the village. I need to do something with my life.”

He did not even know how to go about looking for a job, so he went to the king and explained his situation. He told the king, “I am notorious for being lazy. I am sure nobody will want to give me a job. Will you not give me a chance? If people see that I am working for you very conscientiously, then perhaps they will stop despising me.”

The king said, “Certainly I shall give you a job. Tomorrow morning you can come back and I shall give you some tasks.”

The idle man returned to the palace the next morning and the king asked him to do some errands. He did them quite happily. However, the following day he came late. The day after that, he came even later. And he formed the habit of leaving the palace two hours earlier than everybody else. So it went on, day after day.

Finally, the matter was brought to the attention of the king. The king said, “This fellow wanted to turn over a new leaf. Now he has fallen into his old way of life once again. He always arrives late and he leaves before the actual finishing time. Laziness is in his nature.”

After many months, the king asked the idle man, “What are you doing, coming and going at any odd hour you choose? How do you expect me to tolerate a worker like you?”

The idle man said, “O King, every day, early in the morning, I go to the temple and sing and sing for two or three hours. Then I come here to work. As soon as I can, I leave here and go back to the temple to sing.”

Upon hearing this, the king’s minister became furious. Privately he said to the idle man, “The king appointed you specially. He gave you a job here, not at the temple. Instead of going to the temple to sing the Glory of God, you should come to the palace and sing the glory of the king!”

So the idle man came to the king’s palace early the next morning and started singing the glory of the king very loudly for about two hours. The first day, the king was amused. Then, after two or three days, the king grew irritated. He said, “Did I give you this job to flatter me or to do the needful? Get out, get out!”

“O King, please, please listen to me!” cried the idle man. “It was your own minister who advised me to sing here. I used to go to the temple to praise God’s Glory. As a result, I was usually late in coming to work. So your minister said I should praise your glory, since you are the one who gave me the job and you are paying me.”

The king looked at his minister and said, “In one sense, you have shown your cleverness. At least he is coming to work at a regular hour now. But, again, you are so stupid! Did I ask him to sing my glory? No, I only asked him to do some small jobs here and there.”

Then the king said to the idle man, “I shall keep you on one condition: you must remember that, for you, duty always comes first. From now on, you must work here for six hours every day. Those hours will be fixed. During that time, you must not sing God’s Glory or my glory. Afterwards, you can do anything, go anywhere and sing anything that you wish.”

The idle man agreed to the king’s condition and he changed his nature completely. He became a man of duty.

A saint by day and a thief by night

Every day a young girl had to fetch water from the village well. She came of a good family and she used to wear a very nice sari and a beautiful necklace. One day, as the young girl leaned over the well to draw water, her necklace fell into the well. She did not know that the clasp had somehow become loose. Helplessly she watched as her necklace disappeared out of sight. Needless to say, she was extremely sad and miserable.

After returning from the well, the young girl went to see someone who had the reputation of being an excellent swimmer. Other villagers had told her that he was the only one who could dive to the bottom of the well and bring up the necklace. Unfortunately, this man was a rogue. After the young girl had begged him to help her, he said, “First you have to give me five hundred rupees. Then only shall I find your necklace.” He knew that her parents were quite wealthy and he saw an opportunity to make a considerable amount of money from this adventure. When he quoted his fee, the young girl was horrified. She said, “Five hundred rupees? It is too much, too much!”

The rogue replied, “Nothing is too much for you! If your father comes to learn that you have dropped your necklace, I am certain he will give me as much as five thousand rupees just to make you happy.”

“No, no, you are wrong,” she said. “Instead of giving you five thousand rupees, my father will scold me for my negligence and carelessness.”

No matter what she said, the rogue refused to reduce his exorbitant fee. Sadly, she went home. The following day she returned to the well and sat there. She thought perhaps she would get some inspiration as to how she could recover her necklace. Soon she saw a vagabond approaching. She knew that this particular man happened to be a thief. It was common knowledge to everybody in the village that he was responsible for committing many robberies, but nobody had been able to catch him red-handed. He was extremely smart and tricky.

As soon as the thief was close at hand, the young girl began screaming and wailing, “I have dropped my necklace in the well! Is there anybody on earth who can help me?” She did not address the thief directly, but she wanted her words to reach his ears.

The thief merely passed by without paying any attention to her. The young girl began following him. She was screaming, “If you cannot help me, is there anybody whom you can recommend?”

The thief said, “What do you expect me to do? I do not know how to dive, and I do not know anyone else who can dive. I cannot help you at all.”

The young girl showed great annoyance at his callous attitude. As a last resort, she said, “If you can do it, I will give you three hundred rupees.”

The thief pretended that he did not care for her money at all. Like a saint, he was far above it. He paid no attention to the girl’s pleas and nonchalantly went away.

Later that day, the young girl spoke to some of the other villagers who had come to the well. She told them, “I was so desperate to get my necklace back that I even asked the thief to help me. He did not pay any attention to me. But, who knows? Perhaps he will come under cover of darkness and try to steal the necklace.”

The villagers saw their chance to catch the thief red-handed at last. Quite a few of them came to the well that evening and hid at various places. They made themselves completely invisible. Lo and behold, in the middle of the night, the thief came and jumped into the well. After a few minutes, he found the necklace. Then he climbed out of the well and started to run away. Suddenly all the villagers emerged from their hiding places and grabbed him. They thrashed him soundly and confiscated the necklace from him. The next morning, they gave it back to the young girl. She was deeply grateful to them, and they were also most grateful to her for helping them to catch such a notorious thief!

The Master's burden

There was a spiritual Master who always used to cut jokes. On his path, he liked to use humour to a great extent. He would pray and meditate with his disciples but, after the meditation was over, he would entertain them by cutting jokes or by asking the disciples to say amusing things. This spiritual Master was always cheerful, self-giving and very, very happy.

Finally it came to pass that the Master fell ill. He was running a high temperature and all kinds of diseases attacked him. Day by day, his case got progressively worse. The disciples asked him, “Master, Master, what has happened to you? Why are you suffering so much?”

In a weak voice, he said, “Do you think it is an easy task to take on the burden of four men? Do you think it is an easy task to give away the burden of four men?”

To the disciples, it seemed that the Master was talking in riddles. They could not understand him at all. With each passing hour, they became more and more alarmed at the Master’s condition. That very day, he left the body.

Now, this particular Master had only four disciples. They placed his body on a stretcher to carry it to the place of burial. As they all grasped the stretcher, they suddenly realised the meaning of the Master’s words. He had carried them; he had taken their burden. Then he wanted to give up the responsibility, but he found it difficult to unburden himself. It was too much for him to carry the burden of these four disciples. Finally, he left the body and they were compelled to take care of themselves.

So many spiritual Masters have developed serious illnesses from taking on the burden of their disciples. Sri Ramakrishna declared that he developed cancer because of the imperfections that he had taken from sixteen disciples. The Saviour Jesus Christ also took on the sins of his twelve disciples.

Sometimes the disciples do not believe that the Master has taken on their weaknesses and imperfections. Even if they are attacked by a headache, they say, “Here is the proof that you have not taken away all my problems. If you have really taken them, why am I still suffering?”

What can the poor Master do with this kind of disciple? Sometimes he escapes by saying, “You do not realise that you would have suffered infinitely more. Because of my intervention, your sufferings were much, much less than they would have been.”

And what does God do? He hears from Above the Master’s story and the disciple’s story. Then He says to the Master, “You rogue! It is I who have taken away all your disciples’ problems, not you.” And God tells the disciples, “You are also rogues! Can you not see that your sufferings are next to nothing in comparison with what you deserve?”

The rich man's "service"

There was a man who was exceedingly rich. He was actually an upstart who had accumulated his money in a very short space of time. He was extremely proud of his wealth and he always used to look for any opportunity to parade it in front of his neighbours. During the day he would act in a very arrogant manner, and at night he would remain awake making noise. He would open the drawers of his desk and then bang them closed deliberately. Or he would yell at his two dogs so that they would begin barking incessantly. Sometimes he would sing as loudly as possible. In every way, he tried to draw the attention of the villagers to himself so that they would constantly be reminded of his wealth.

His poor neighbours could not sleep. Every night the same thing would happen. The rich man would get the inspiration to make as much noise as possible. The whole day was not enough for him. At night also he had to prove that he was busy taking care of his house and all his financial affairs.

This went on, month after month and year after year. He made everybody’s life miserable, but his neighbours did not dare to raise any complaints. They were afraid that he would use his wealth to bring harm to them or to their families, so they remained silent.

One day a relative visited the wealthy man’s nearest neighbours. As usual, when evening set in, the rich man started his clanging and banging, opening and closing all the doors unnecessarily. His dogs were barking hysterically and he was singing tuneless songs at the top of his voice.

The visiting relative next door listened to the commotion in disbelief. He said, “Uncle, why do you allow this man to behave in such a way? What right does he have to disturb the whole neighbourhood?”

His uncle replied, “He is very, very rich, so we cannot silence him. He will not listen to our requests. We have to surrender to him.”

The relative was very smart. He told his uncle, “I am sure that from today he will surrender to you. I will make him surrender.”

The next morning, he went to the wealthy man and said, “I am a relative of your neighbour. I am just visiting for a few days. I have come here to express my gratitude to you on behalf of all your neighbours. How I wish I could have a person like you as my neighbour! We need someone like you in our village.”

“You need me?” said the rich man, in a surprised voice.

The relative continued, “Absolutely! Last night I heard you moving around and making noise. My uncle tells me that you do this every night. You have no idea how helpful this noise is! In other neighbourhoods, they have thefts and so on. But here it is completely safe because you are doing the work of ten guards. No other guard is needed. How selflessly and tirelessly you are performing this service for the sake of all your neighbours! They are so grateful to you because they can sleep in peace every night. Alas, in my vicinity we have no one like you who is prepared to do this kind of service on a regular basis!”

The rich man had a very mean streak. As soon as he heard what this young man had to say, he thought to himself: “O my God, I have been such a fool! Here I was, showing off every night how great I am and all the time I have been saving them the expense of hiring a night guard. Why should I do this kind of unpaid work for them? If they cannot afford to have a guard, is it my fault? Let them solve their own problems. I am not going to help them by making noise anymore!”

The priest who changed his profession

There was a blind man who used to go every day, early in the morning, and sit near a certain temple. He would place a small container in front of himself, and then he would begin crying most pitifully, “I am blind! Please take pity on me.”

Many devotees of the cosmic gods and goddesses would start arriving at the temple at an early hour to perform their worship. In India, we believe that one can gain merit by praying and meditating early in the morning before entering into the hustle and bustle of life.

As these devotees passed by the blind man, many of them would place some annas and even rupees in his container. They felt that the cosmic gods and goddesses would be pleased with them if they could help this poor, unfortunate man.

This went on for a number of years. The blind man was always to be found in his place near the temple, and every day he would receive enough money from the kind-hearted devotees to buy his food and have some comforts in his life.

Eventually a new priest got a job in the temple. This priest observed the blind man and saw that people were very generous towards him. The priest said to himself, “Every day this blind man earns so much money just by sitting there. I am sure he is very sincere, but who is to know the difference? Someone could easily earn the same amount of money just by pretending to be blind. I work so hard for the temple, but I earn a mere pittance! Let me give up my profession and become like this man. I will go to another temple and pretend that I am blind. I will cry and cry as this one does, and I am sure people will shower their money upon me.”

So he left his job as the temple priest and went to another village. There he dressed in some rags and took up his position outside the temple. He closed his eyes and began crying helplessly, using the same pitiful voice that he had learned from the man who was really blind. Many devotees were coming by on their way to the temple and he was very happy to hear the sound of the coins that they were dropping into his container.

The priest of this temple also happened to pass by. He, too, was moved by the cries of the blind man, but when he looked at the blind man, something did not seem to be right. The priest could not explain what it was. So he continued on inside the temple to commence the puja. At the same time, he decided to secretly observe the blind man and, from time to time, he glanced at him through the temple doorway.

After two or three hours, people stopped coming to the temple. Morning prayers were over and there was usually a rest period until the evening prayers began. The priest was watching the blind man and he saw him suddenly open his eyes and grab his container of love-offerings. He tipped the whole amount onto the palm of his hand and then very nicely hid it in one of his pockets. Then the so-called blind man replaced the container in its original position, closed his eyes and started his pitiful wailing once again. By now it was around ten o’clock in the morning and very few people were coming to worship. Even then, the blind man continued his performance. Greedy people are like that. They do not want to miss even a single rupee.

Day after day, the temple priest watched this charade. He prayed for the illumination of the blind man, but to no avail. Finally, the priest could tolerate it no longer. One day he stood in front of the beggar and said, “Oh, I see that you are blind. That is why you are earning so much money!” Then he gave the blind man three smart slaps. The priest continued, “Every morning you have been fooling the sincere devotees who come to pray and meditate here at this temple. I have been watching you for a long time. I have seen you open your eyes and count your money. Then you hide it in your pocket. But you cannot fool me! I know that you have perfect vision.”

“Is that so?” asked the blind man. “Then tell me, can you see a house about one hundred metres away?”

“Yes, I can see one,” said the priest.

“What colour is it?” asked the blind man.

“It is green.”



Then the blind man asked, “What else do you see?”

“I see a few coconut trees around the house.”

“Ah,” said the blind man, “that is what I cannot see at all. That proves I am blind! You can see so far — you can see not only the house, but also the trees around it. But, poor me, I am so blind, so blind! All those things in the distance are hazy for me.”

Then the temple priest became really furious and gave the beggar a few more slaps. The beggar cried, “I am calling the police!”

“All right,” said the priest, “you call the police! In fact, I myself will call the police to come. Now tell me the truth: whose house is it over there? It is newly built and I suspect that it has something to do with you.”

The beggar said, “It is my house. It is not a crime to own a house. I was able to build it with the money that I have earned from begging.”

“Now I am definitely taking you to the police station,” said the priest. He took all the beggar’s earnings for that day and was about to drag him to the police station.

Then, all of a sudden, the priest changed his mind and set the beggar free. He said to himself, “Let me remain inside the temple and try to be a sincere priest. Then people will appreciate me. If I do not do my job properly, then people will treat me in the same way that I have treated this fellow. Insincerity can strike in any profession. Whether he is just pretending to be blind or I am just pretending to be a good priest, it is all the same. The best thing is for me to become sincere and spiritual in every way so that I do not share his fate.”

Cincinnatus the farmer

In olden times the Romans were always trying to expand their Empire. They would make their army as strong as possible so that they could continually fight with other countries and conquer them. Once it happened that the Emperor himself was on his way to join his army. He wanted to lead his army to victory. The Emperor and his personal guards camped for the night at a hidden place. Unfortunately, some spies came to know where they were and the enemy was able to surround them. When morning dawned, the Emperor saw that he and his small troop of guards were trapped. Escape was impossible.

The enemy soldiers did not dare to touch the Roman Emperor until they had received instructions from their leader, and so they prepared to wait in that place for a few days. Meanwhile, a farmer from the area came to learn of the Emperor’s dire predicament. This farmer had tremendous loyalty to the Emperor. He decided to try his best to save the Emperor, even though he had no weapons and no military training.

The farmer gathered some other farmers and villagers and told them his plan. He said, “Tonight, when darkness falls, we will begin work. I want you all to come on foot, very quietly, carrying large logs. Some of you can make several trips while the others start building a solid wall around the enemy. We will divide ourselves so that we can completely surround them. There must be no gap in the wall. They are not expecting any counter-attack, especially not from a group of simple farmers. So we shall do this while they are resting. Our Emperor will suffer for only one day and one night. Then we shall free him!”

With these spirited words, the farmer inspired all the villagers to work through the night. Soundlessly, they built a wooden wall around the enemy. Then the farmers took up their positions at various places with rocks and other simple weapons to attack the enemy.

When morning came, the enemy soldiers found that they were now prisoners. They ran to and fro, looking for some means of escape, while the villagers pelted them with stones. Seeing the situation, the Roman Emperor gathered his personal guards and launched his own attack on the enemy. When the enemy realised that they were being attacked on all sides and there was no way to cross the wall, they were compelled to surrender.

The name of this brave farmer was Cincinnatus. How authentic the story is, we do not know; but it is very entertaining and, at the same time, inspiring.

The Brahmin's lie

Ramesh was the son of a Brahmin. He was a very good student and he had a few extremely close friends. One of his friends was a young girl. She was the daughter of a farmer and she did not have any education, but Ramesh liked her very much. He wanted to marry her, but he was afraid of breaking the news to his parents because he knew they would be horrified. In India, Brahmins are the highest class. This farm girl came of the lowest caste. Ramesh knew that his parents would not approve of his marrying someone from the lowest caste, so he became sadder and sadder day by day.

Ramesh spoke about his situation to several of his other friends and they said, “Go and tell your father. Who knows, he may change his mind when he sees how much you care for this girl.”

Ramesh said, “No, he will never give up his old ideas. Let me play a trick on my father. That is the only way he will agree to this marriage.”

“What kind of trick?” they asked.

Ramesh said, “I will bring my girlfriend home to meet my parents and I will tell my father that she belongs to our caste.”

“That is an excellent idea!” his friends responded. “There is no reason for your father to doubt that she is also from a Brahmin family.”

So Ramesh brought his girlfriend home and introduced her to his father. He said, “Father, we like each other very much and we want you to give us your blessings so that we can get married. You do not have to worry. She also belongs to our Brahmin caste.”

As soon as Ramesh had spoken these words, his girlfriend cried out, “Oh, no, no, no! How can you say that? I am of the lowest class. I am not of the Brahmin class at all. I come of a Shudra family. We are only farmers. I do not know why Ramesh is trying to deceive you.”

“My son, how can you tell me this kind of lie!” cried the father. He was absolutely shocked and horrified by his son’s behaviour.

But the worst was yet to come. Ramesh’s mother was so deeply shocked by this revelation of her son’s character that she had a heart attack and died then and there.

In spite of his suffering, the poor father then said to the farmer’s daughter, “You are a true Brahmin because you had the courage to tell the truth. I am going to visit your father and beg him to allow you to marry my son.”

So the Brahmin went to the farmer and said, “You and your family are true Brahmins. My son and I are Shudras. In spite of this vast difference in our caste, will you allow your daughter to marry my son?”

The farmer could not believe his ears. He knew that the Brahmin had deliberately reversed their castes. He asked the Brahmin, “Why are you pretending to be of a lower class?”

The Brahmin replied, “Whoever tells the truth is first-class. It is the duty of Brahmins to tell the truth. My son deliberately lied to me, but your daughter told me the truth. Therefore, yours is the true Brahmin family.”

The farmer saw that the Brahmin sincerely wanted this marriage to take place, and so he gave his permission.

Ramesh married his girlfriend and they were very happy together. The Brahmin was also happy at first. Then he began to feel miserable because he had lost his wife. He felt that his life was empty. One day he said to Ramesh, “My wife has died. I hold you fully responsible. You are the culprit who had to tell me a lie. Now there is nothing here for me. What is the use of staying on earth?” Then he had a heart attack and died.

Ramesh was completely shattered by his father’s death. He said, “Because of my one small lie, my mother died and now my father has died. What is the use of my staying on earth? I know that I shall never be happy in this life.” Then Ramesh himself had a heart attack and died.

After her husband’s passing, the poor wife went back to her father’s place. She cried, “Father, Father, what have I done? By telling the truth, I have become responsible for my mother-in-law’s death, my father-in-law’s death and now the death of my beloved husband. What is the truth worth if it can destroy so many lives? Why did I have to open my mouth?”

“No, my daughter, you did the right thing,” said her father. “Brahmins are expected to tell the truth, but Ramesh consciously told a lie. Now he and his mother and father have all had to pay the price of that one lie. You told the truth. Therefore, you did the right thing. Do not let this experience ruin your life. You are still very young. If you want to marry someone else, I will find somebody suitable from our class. I really want you to find happiness.”

His daughter looked at him sadly and said, “Ramesh loved me and I loved him, but I did not know he was going to tell a lie. Life is full of suffering. I do not wish to marry again.”

So the young girl remained a widow.

Paying for a beating

There were two men who were deadly enemies. They hated each other and, at the same time, there was constant rivalry between them. Eventually, it came to the point where one of them engaged a professional wrestler. This wrestler was huge and extremely powerful.

The employer said to the wrestler, “Here, take these hundred rupees. Now I will be so grateful if you can wait on the street where my enemy lives. When he comes home from work, I want you to beat him up. He has been torturing me for so many years. The time has come for him to be humbled.”

The wrestler said, “Definitely I will beat him up, since you are giving me a hundred rupees. Soon he will receive a sound thrashing from me.”

The following day, the man who had employed the wrestler was coming home from the market. He saw the wrestler waiting for him outside his house. He thought that the wrestler had some good news for him and so he hurried in his direction. Alas, when he came near the wrestler, the wrestler threw him to the ground and started beating him mercilessly.

As the man was lying flat on the ground screaming and kicking, he managed to cry out, “What happened? I gave you a hundred rupees to thrash my enemy and now you are giving me the same treatment! You are so bad! Why are you doing this?”

The wrestler replied, “Why? I was waiting for your enemy on the street, according to your instructions. He saw me as he was approaching his house and asked me what I was doing there. I told him that you had offered me a hundred rupees to give him a beating, so he immediately offered me four hundred rupees if I would beat you up instead. He gave me much more money than you did for the same job. So I accepted his offer and now I have done my job. But I do have a conscience. Because of my conscience, I am returning your one hundred rupees.”

The wrestler took one hundred rupees out of his pocket and gave them to his victim, who was lying on the ground in utmost pain. He kept the four hundred rupees that the second man had given him.

Stick to one god

There were two friends who were very spiritual. One of them eventually became a great seeker, but for some time he used to do something that seemed to indicate that he did not have any real depth: every day he would worship a different cosmic god or goddess. This seeker became very well known, and many people would ask him to pray to the cosmic gods or goddesses on their behalf. He did it quite happily. He used to tell them, “If you like Lord Krishna, then I will pray to Lord Krishna. If you like Shiva, then I will pray in front of Shiva’s image. If you like Mother Kali, then I will worship Mother Kali. It is up to you. Most sincerely I will pray on your behalf. But I cannot guarantee the results.”

So, people would give him money and then ask him to pray on their behalf for the deity of their choice to bless them and solve all their problems.

The seeker’s friend heard that he was making lots of money by worshipping this god and that god. This friend was not at all well known, although he was also an excellent seeker. He realised that his dear friend was doing something which would seriously affect his own spiritual progress. So one day he came and dug five deep holes in front of his friend’s house. The great seeker came out and said, “What are you doing? Why are you digging so many holes? Is one not enough for you?”

His friend stopped digging for a moment and said, “I am making these holes with the hope that, from one of them, water will spring up.”

The seeker said, “What do you mean? How will you know that any hole has water if you do not dig it deeper than all the others? My friend, I advise you to concentrate on only one hole!”

The friend smiled and said, “You have to give me this piece of advice? Every day you are praying to a different cosmic god or goddess with the hope that one day one of them will be pleased with you. By constantly changing, you are not giving the proper amount of time to any one of them. That is why I have dug these holes in your garden. It is high time for you to realise that if you want results, you have to stick to one god or goddess.”

This was how the friend taught the great seeker a most significant spiritual lesson.

The matchsticks

Two friends went to a village market and sold their wares. They were returning home quite satisfied when one friend said to the other, “Let us rest here for a few minutes and smoke. I have only one cheroot. Do you have anything?”

The other one said, “Yes, I have two matchsticks.”

“Then let us share the cheroot,” said the first one.

He held the cheroot while his friend tried to strike the first matchstick. For some reason, it did not strike. Now there was only one matchstick left. The first man said, “If this one does not strike, we will not be able to smoke at all. Everything depends on this matchstick.”

The other fellow closed his eyes and started praying with folded hands.

The first friend said, “Why do you have to pray to God for this trivial thing?”

The second one replied, “I do not want to take any chance. I am praying to God in case something happens to this one also and it does not strike.”

When his prayers were over, he tried the last matchstick. Again nothing happened. There was no flame. The first friend said, “Why did you bother to pray? Look at the result! Prayer is useless. When we pray, God never grants us our prayer.”

The second friend said, “No, He did listen. But when I prayed, God told me something.”

The first friend was curious. “What did God tell you?” he asked.

The second friend said, “God told me that at this place, all around us, is a large quantity of straw. It is extremely dry. If the matchstick had worked, we would have used it to light the cheroot and then we would have thrown it on the ground, the way we always do. Then the straw would have caught fire. Right beside this area is a beautiful park. That park would have been destroyed. And the park contains so many little animals and birds. All of them would have perished. You know that God is so fond of birds. If we die, God may not care; but if little innocent birds or animals die, then God will feel absolutely miserable. That is why God told me that He was not going to allow us to strike the match successfully and smoke the cheroot.”

Perhaps the first friend was secretly jealous that God had not spoken to him also. Outwardly he said, in a mocking tone, “I see! God cares more for his little birds and animals than He does for human beings! Then we should also become birds and animals. From now on, let us pray to God to change us into birds and animals so that He will care for us!”

The second friend remained silent, but in the inmost recesses of his heart, he was deeply grateful to God for not allowing the destruction of the park and all the little creatures dwelling there.

The clever poet and the wise poet

In a particular region there were two noteworthy poets. One was extremely clever and popular. His poems were very witty and amusing. The other one had much more depth, but his poems were not widely known. Once it happened that the local zamindar wanted to honour all the poets, and so he said that they should come to his palace on a particular day and read their poems.

The serious poet said, “So many poets will join this competition. I know that my clever poet-friend has been flattering the zamindar constantly of late. Naturally the zamindar will make him stand first, so it is useless for me to go.”

The competition took place. Many poets came and, as the serious poet had predicted, the clever poet won. He was showered with tremendous adulation and lots of material riches. Soon afterwards, the clever poet visited the serious one. He said, “Did you hear that I have won a huge sum of money? In front of so many other poets, the zamindar appreciated and admired my poems the most. I am now the most revered poet of the land!”

The serious poet felt sorry, but not because he had not joined the competition. He felt sorry because he knew that the clever poet’s poems were not all that good. It was only by flattering and flattering the zamindar that he had won first place in the competition. “I have to find a trick to make this boastful fellow learn some humility,” he said to himself.

After the clever poet had finally finished bragging, the serious one said to him, “I will recognise your talent only if you get appreciation from a particular zamindar.”

The clever poet said, “Definitely! Just tell me his name and I will go and read my poems to him. I am sure he will be deeply impressed by my command of language, my striking images, my use of metre and so on. I may even be inspired to write a special poem just for him!”

The serious poet continued, “I am telling you, if he says that you are an excellent poet, only then will I feel that you are really superlative. He is the only one whose opinion I value. He is a great person and he is very well educated.”

Full of confidence and self-assurance, the clever poet went to the zamindar that the serious poet had mentioned. This zamindar agreed to listen to a selection of his poems. So the clever poet started to read them out in a ringing voice. Now and then he glanced at the zamindar to get a little appreciation. On and on he went, until he had read out thirty poems, but still the zamindar did not offer any appreciation. Then, at one point, the poet got a faint smile.

He said to himself, “I have read out so many poems and all I have received in return is a faint, fleeting smile! What kind of man is this?”

He continued reading a little longer, but it was obvious that the zamindar was not impressed in the least. Finally, the poet stopped reading and said to the zamindar, “That concludes the poems that I brought with me. I have read out so many for you. Will you not do anything for me?”

The zamindar reached for a piece of paper and wrote “fifty rupees.” Then he gave the note to his secretary. The secretary handed the poet the sum that the zamindar had indicated. When the poet received the small sum of coins, he was badly insulted. The zamindar whom he had flattered had given him so much money and this one had given him next to nothing.

He said to the secretary, “Can you not give me some more? After all, I have travelled quite a distance to come here and read my poems.”

The secretary answered, “It is not up to me. I can only do what the zamindar commands me to do.”

So the clever poet went back to see the serious poet. He was filled with depression. He said to this other poet, “I read out all my best poems for him. They are all so nice. But he gave me only fifty rupees in payment for my trouble! I tried so hard to get an iota of appreciation from him, but he did not utter even one word.”

The serious poet said, “I told you, if you get appreciation from him, only then will I admire you. Otherwise, I will not. I hold his appreciation in very high esteem.”

Humbly, the clever poet asked the serious one, “Did you ever get appreciation from this particular zamindar?”

“No,” replied the serious poet, truthfully.

“Then why did you send me?” asked the clever poet.

The serious poet said, “I sent you because you think that you are the greatest poet of all.”

The clever poet said, “Now I do not feel that I am the greatest. Had I been really great, then surely I would have received some genuine appreciation and admiration from that zamindar. No, I have come to realise that I am only an ordinary poet or even a budding poet. I was clever enough to fool our zamindar with my empty flattery. But flattery is not poetry. This zamindar has opened my eyes. According to him, my poems were worth only fifty rupees. I am grateful to you, my friend, for illumining me in this way.”

Then the serious poet embraced the clever poet and said, “My friend, I beg you to forgive me. I have fooled you. There is a very simple reason why the zamindar to whom I sent you did not speak: he is mute. He can not utter a word, so that is why he did not appreciate you!”

Instead of getting angry, the clever poet laughed and laughed. He said, “You have really opened my eyes this time! You have defeated my cleverness with your wisdom. I promise that I will give up my silly flattery and try to write poetry that is beautiful, deep and meaningful in every way.”