Amusement I enjoy, enlightenment I study, part 7

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The king seeks wise advice

There was a king who had a very wise minister. This minister had been advising the king for many, many years and he was now quite advanced in age. When the minister felt that his death was approaching, he said to the king, “I shall not be able to serve you much longer. I am deeply concerned about who will advise you when I die. I have given the matter much thought and I would like to request you to bring three young men to the court after my passing. Each one should be wise. After observing these three young men for a while, please appoint one of them to take my place as your chief minister.”

Soon afterwards, the old minister did pass away. The king badly needed to find a replacement for him. Remembering the old minister’s advice, the king sent for three very wise young men. They came from various parts of the kingdom. When they arrived, the king said to them, “I have a serious problem and I would like you to advise me what course of action I should follow. There are two neighbouring kings who are always quarrelling and fighting. One of them is definitely much stronger than the other in terms of his wealth, his army and the size of his kingdom. But the weaker king compensates by holding many spectacular celebrations. The problem is that both of them want to have me as their friend, their ally. Each one has written to me that he will be so glad if he can have me as his friend. Now what should I do?”

One of the young men immediately answered, “O King, the answer is so easy! You should take the side of the stronger one. If anything happens to you, if anybody attacks you, then the stronger one will help you.”

The king listened to this advice in silence and then asked the second candidate, “What do you recommend in this case?”

The second one said, “O King, he is wrong! People who are strong and rich cannot be trusted. Quite often their character is not good at all. When you first become their friend, they promise that they will help you if you find yourself in unfortunate circumstances. But this kind of person never actually comes to your rescue. When you are in need, the people who are wealthy and powerful always invent excuses. They say they have no time to help you or they have something more important to do. My advice is not to go to the stronger king. Offer your friendship to the weaker one. Those who are weaker usually have good hearts.”

Once again, the king did not pass any comment on the advice that had been offered to him. Finally he asked the third young man, “Where do you stand? Are you in favour of my becoming friends with the stronger king or the weaker one?”

This young man said, “O King, this is my advice: do not go to anyone, good or bad, weak or strong. Now both of these kings want your help and friendship, but I feel that you should not go to either one.”

“Then what should I do?” asked the king. “I do not want to remain all alone, without any friends.”

The third candidate continued, “You will not remain alone for long. Tell both these kings that you will become their friend on the condition that they themselves become friends first. If they resolve their differences, if they stop fighting and become friends, then only will you become their friend. Otherwise, if you choose to become friends with the stronger one, he may fool you. When you need his friendship, at that very moment he may desert you. And if you make friends with the weaker one, he will not have the capacity to help you, even though he may have a good heart. So the best thing is not to choose either one, but to encourage them to become friends first. If they become friends, then you do not have to worry. The three of you will be peaceful neighbours.”

As soon as he heard this advice, the king knew that he had found a worthy replacement for his old minister. He said to this young man, “You are the right one!”

The treasurer's integrity

There was a king who was extremely powerful. At the same time, he had a most compassionate heart. He was very concerned because every day he received countless complaints against his ministers. He was simply shocked by the charges that were brought against these men, whom he had taken as his trusted advisors. At the same time, the king received tremendous appreciation for his treasurer. The treasurer was held in very high esteem by everybody.

One day the king decided to find out for himself why everybody appreciated the treasurer, whereas his ministers were subject to so much criticism. The king waited until evening and then went to the treasurer’s room in disguise. He knocked at the door and the treasurer invited him inside. The king said, “You do not know me. I am a new member of the king’s court. But I have not come to see you on official business. I have a personal problem. I shall be so grateful if you can help me solve my problem.”

The treasurer said, “Please sit down. I am doing something very important, but in half an hour I will be through and then I can listen to your problems.”

The king waited patiently for half an hour while the treasurer went on with his business, adding up columns of figures. When he finished his job, he turned to speak to the stranger. But first he turned off the electric light and lit a small lamp.

The king said, “May I ask why you turned off the electric light and put a lamp in front of it?”

The treasurer replied, “It is my duty. I am the king’s treasurer, so I cannot exploit government money. The electric light is paid for by the king, so I use it when I am doing official business. But this is my own lamp. From my home I bring oil for it that I pay for with my own money. I use this lamp when I am dealing with things of a personal nature. Yours is not an official visit. You have come here with a personal problem, so I cannot use the electric light. I can use only my personal lamp.”

The king was deeply moved by his treasurer’s integrity and sense of duty. He himself had not commanded the treasurer to use his personal things while dealing with personal matters. It was the treasurer’s own high standard that was compelling him to be so strict. Aloud, the king said, “Forgive me, but I cannot stay any longer. While sitting here, I have solved my problem. Now I have something else very important to do. But I shall come another time.”

The treasurer said, “All right. Please come another time. I shall be ready for you.”

The following day, the king went to the treasurer’s office again. This time the king was wearing his royal robes. The treasurer was delighted to receive the king in his office.

The king said, “I have heard so many reports about your wisdom. Now I have come to see you personally. Mine is not an official problem, a problem of state. It is absolutely personal and private. I would like to discuss it with you. Please tell me, what kind of treatment will I get from you?”

The treasurer said, “O King, if it is a personal matter, then I will give you personal treatment and not royal treatment.”

“What do you mean?” asked the king.

The treasurer explained, “If it is a personal problem, a family problem or something of that nature, I will treat you as an ordinary man. I will advise you in exactly the same way that I would advise an ordinary person. I will not treat you as the king at that time. I hope that you will not be offended.”

The king was most pleased. He said, “This is what I expect from everybody. You have shown that you are truly a man of duty, a man of integrity and a man of honesty.” Then the king offered to give him 20,000 rupees.

The treasurer said, “O King, how can I take even one rupee from you? It is my duty to serve you. Indeed, it is my duty to help any human being who asks me. If people feel that I have some wisdom, then I shall give it freely. I do not need any reward. Why should I charge for this kind of service? By your grace, I have enough money to meet with my expenses.”

“Surely you are my best friend!” exclaimed the king. “You know the true meaning of duty. You are the right one to take care of my treasury and also to advise others. Now I see why everybody appreciates you and admires you. Duty must always come first in our lives. I am so happy that I have someone like you in my kingdom.”

A mother-in-law is reformed

We all know how bad mothers-in-law can be! They are famous for torturing their daughters-in-law. There was one mother-in-law who took an oath that in her own life she would not allow this maxim to prove true. When her son reached the age where she felt that he should get married, she encouraged him to look for a wife. She vowed to be extremely, extremely kind to her future daughter-in-law.

The son said, “Mother, why, why? You are happy with me and I am happy with you. Why do we have to bring somebody else into the picture? You are still young enough to do the housework. Even when you are older, we shall have maids who can do your work and look after the two of us. If I marry now just so that you will have someone to help you with your work, then it will only create disharmony. You will torture the poor girl and I will feel miserable.”

The mother said, “No, I promise I will not behave in that way! If you find a wife and bring her here to live with us, I will be very kind and compassionate to her. Just wait and see.”

The son surrendered. He said, “All right. To fulfil your wish, I shall start looking for a wife. But I know my problems will start on the very day I bring her home to live with us.”

The son found a very nice girl to marry and she came to live with him and his mother. True to her word, the mother-in-law was extremely kind and affectionate to her new daughter-in-law. She would not allow the young girl to do any hard work in the house. All the cooking and cleaning the mother-in-law did herself. She tried to make her new daughter-in-law happy in every possible way. The daughter-in-law could not believe how kindly she was being treated. Before her marriage, she had heard so many bad things about mothers-in-law that she was frightened to death. Now she found that her own mother-in-law was just the opposite.

Usually the mother-in-law prepared excellent meals for her son and daughter-in-law. However, one evening, while the son and his wife were eating together, the son said, “Today the food is not as good as it is on other days.”

His wife said, “I am sorry that today Mother did not cook as well as she usually does.”

Her husband got the shock of his life. He exclaimed, “You do not cook my meals for me?”

“No,” said the wife, “your mother does everything.”

“My mother?” asked the son. “Then what are you here for? Who asked you to marry me if you were not willing to do any work around the house?”

“You asked me,” said the wife, pitifully.

“But why did you agree, if you do not even know how to cook?” shouted the son.”While I am at work, my poor mother has to do everything! And you have remained silent the whole time! When I think of how my mother must have been killing herself, my heart breaks.”

By this time the wife was sobbing. She said, “I wanted to cook for you, but Mother would not allow me to do anything. What was I supposed to do? She insisted on doing all her own work and mine also.”

Then the son became furious. He said, “My old mother has to do everything for you and you will not even lift a finger to help her with the cooking! You should have found a way to help her!” Then he got up and left the room.

The wife stayed in the room. She was utterly sad and depressed. After some time, her mother-in-law entered and found her looking miserable. With utmost compassion, the mother-in-law asked, “Why are you so sad, my child?”

The daughter-in-law remained silent. She did not want to bring any complaints against her husband and she could not blame her mother-in-law for being so kind. Seeing her weeping eyes, the mother-in-law thought, “The poor girl has not seen her parents for so many months. Perhaps that is why she is sad. She is still a young girl and it must be difficult for her, living in a strange place. I should have been more thoughtful.”

So the kind mother-in-law made all the arrangements for her daughter-in-law to visit her own parents in their village. When the time came for the girl to leave, her mother-in-law said, “Now you please go and be with your parents. After a short time, I will send someone to bring you back again. I know what it is like for you. I was also quite young when I was married and I used to miss my parents so much. In fact, I used to go quite often to visit them. I had forgotten that it can sometimes be very lonely for a new wife. I should have sent you long ago. Now please, please go.”

So the mother-in-law forced the young wife to go back to her parents’ place for a few weeks. On the one hand, the wife was happy that her husband would not be able to scold her anymore, but on the other hand, she was sad that her mother-in-law had to continue doing all the work.

When the wife arrived at her parents’ home, she observed the situation there. Her brother had recently married and his young wife was now living with them. Every day, from morning until night, this girl was being scolded and harassed by her mother-in-law. Nothing this girl did seemed to please her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law was constantly saying, “Could you not have done this correctly? You could have done this properly. You could have done that infinitely better!” The visiting daughter felt really miserable. She said to herself, “How can my own mother be so bad? I see that this girl is trying to do everything as perfectly as possible, plus she is trying desperately to maintain a cheerful attitude, but my mother is only scolding her and criticising her.”

One morning she said to her mother, “Mother, why are you behaving like this? You know that I also have a mother-in-law now. My mother-in-law is so kind, so compassionate, so self-giving. But if news had reached your ears that I was being treated the way you are treating my sister-in-law, if you had heard that I was being scolded and insulted mercilessly, how would you have taken it?”

Her mother answered, “I would have gone there myself and scolded your mother-in-law. I would have asked her what right she had to scold and insult my daughter unnecessarily.”

Her daughter said, “Exactly! If I had been mistreated, you would have become extremely upset. You would have gone to challenge my mother-in-law. Now look at your own case. How my sister-in-law is suffering from your constant scoldings! If she goes and tells her mother how you are torturing her, what will happen? Naturally her mother will come and berate you. Perhaps she will even take her daughter away with her. So now I am begging you to stop treating her like this. Please give her the work that she is supposed to do and take her as your own daughter, the way my mother-in-law has taken me as her daughter. Try to offer her all your love and kindness. If you want happiness in your life, then take your daughter-in-law as your own daughter.”

The mother saw the truth of her daughter’s words and from that moment on she wholeheartedly embraced her new daughter-in-law as her own daughter. Meanwhile, her true daughter returned to her husband’s house and convinced her mother-in-law to allow her to help with the household chores in every possible way.

So this is how one mother-in-law, by being good, was able to make another mother-in-law good also. When one person in this world is good, automatically that goodness spreads to others.

Give money and lose friendship

Once there were two friends. One of them was going out of town for a while, so he gave a large amount of money to the other one for safekeeping. He told his friend, “I must go to another country for some time. I know that it is not good to take excess money abroad. I shall take only enough to defray my expenses. You kindly keep the rest of the money safe. You are my good friend, my very close friend. You are the only one I can trust with my savings.”

The second friend said, “That is a very good idea. I shall definitely keep your money safe, and when you return you can come and ask me for it. It is very risky to carry a large amount of money with you when you are travelling. So many unfortunate things can happen.”

So his friend entrusted him with his savings, which amounted to two thousand rupees, and then he left on his voyage. One month later he came back, and the very next day he went to visit his friend. The two friends were so happy to see each other. Then the first friend asked to have his money back.

The second friend opened his eyes wide. “Money!” he exclaimed. “When did you give me money?”

The first friend could not believe his ears. He said, “The day before I left, I gave you two thousand rupees for safekeeping. Please do not joke with me! Now that I have returned, I need this money badly.”

His friend began laughing. “Two thousand rupees! When did you ever have two thousand rupees to start with, you liar?” And he went on scolding and ridiculing the friend who had given him the money.

The other friend cried, “How can you deceive me like this? Before I gave you the money, we were such good friends. I did not give you this money as a loan or a gift. When I gave it to you, I made it clear that I would be coming back for it. Since I was going abroad, I did not know where else to leave it. You promised to keep it safe for me.”

He was begging and pleading for his friend to return the money, but the friend only said, “What a liar you have turned out to be! You never gave me any money, and here you are accusing me of stealing it. This is what happens when you go abroad: all the undivine forces enter into you. Now you have destroyed our friendship!”

The first friend could not see any way to get his money back. It was impossible to reason with this deceptive fellow. In desperation, he went to the village court and told the judge the whole story. The judge believed him and immediately summoned the culprit. When the culprit appeared, the judge said to him, “Now tell me the truth! Are you in possession of his money? Are you keeping it from him?”

The culprit answered, “Oh, no, no, no! I would never steal somebody else’s money. The problem is that he went abroad. While he was away, some bad forces attacked him. Now he is talking like a lunatic and he has ruined our friendship.”

The judge asked the first friend, “There was no witness when you handed him the money?”

The friend said, “No, I did not consider having a witness because he was such a good friend of mine. I did not even ask him to sign a piece of paper. It was beyond my imagination that he would fool me in this way. Still I do not understand how it is possible for him to go on deceiving me.”

The culprit added, “There was definitely no witness. Here is the proof that I did not receive money from him!”

The judge remained silent for a minute. Then he took a long bamboo cane and started to threaten the culprit with it. He commanded, “Give him the money back or I will give you a thrashing that you will never forget as long as you live!”

“But I have not taken the money!” cried the culprit.

The judge proclaimed, “I know for certain that there were twenty-five witnesses. They have come to me with the true story. Some were inside the house and some were standing in the street. I can prove that there were twenty-five witnesses.”

When the culprit heard that the judge could produce twenty-five witnesses, he started trembling violently. Then he fainted and fell to the floor. When he opened his eyes, he saw the judge bending over him. Very sternly the judge said, “Now give him the money or I shall kill you here and now!”

When the judge uttered these words, the friend who had given the money began shedding copious tears. He begged the judge, “Please, please, do not kill him! I do not want my friend to be killed or beaten. Let him tell lies. Let him deceive me. I do not need my money. I want you to spare his life!”

So the judge dismissed the case, and the friend who had given the money did not get it back because he had such a good heart. First the judge wanted to punish the culprit, then the judge even threatened to kill him. The twenty-five witnesses that the judge spoke about were his own invention. They did not actually exist, but he fabricated the story in order to frighten the culprit into making a full confession. When the unfortunate traveller saw that the judge was going to thrash his friend, he said, “Please spare him! I do not need my money. My friend’s life is much more important.”

Solving half the problem

There were two childhood friends. As they grew older, one of them became very, very rich. The other one led a simple, ordinary life. He did not acquire any wealth or property. One day the poor man came to see his wealthy friend. He said, “I am truly glad that you have become very rich. We started our journey together. God did not grant me wealth, but I am really happy that He has blessed my dearest friend with material prosperity. I am very, very glad.”

His friend replied, “I have become rich, true, but I have such a serious problem.”

The poor man was shocked. He said, “How can a man in your position have a serious problem? Poor people, like myself, can have problems. But rich people do not have to have any problems at all. Your money can solve all your problems.”

His friend responded sadly, “No, money alone cannot solve all the problems of the world. It is not possible.”

“Why not?” asked the poor friend. “What kind of problem cannot be solved by money?”

The rich man explained, “In my case, I have been suffering for such a long time from back pain. You cannot imagine what kind of suffering I endure! I have tried so many expensive doctors and treatments, but nothing can cure me. My money is practically useless when it is a matter of curing my pain!”

The poor man said, “I have practised medicine for some time. I am not a qualified doctor, but I know a considerable amount about your kind of problem. How is it that the real doctors cannot cure you? I can easily cure you.”

“You can cure me?” asked the rich man.

“Certainly,” replied his friend. “I am astonished that you have not been cured by now. As soon as I start giving you a special medicine, I assure you that at least half of your problem will disappear.”

“All right,” said the rich man eagerly, “you can try. How much money do you need from me?”

The poor man said, “Unfortunately, I will need a considerable amount, because I have to go to a different town to get the medicine. I can start my journey tomorrow. I cannot guarantee that I will be able to solve your problem fully, but at least half your problem will be over.”

The rich man was ready to believe his friend, for he had implicit confidence in him. He felt that as soon as he started the new treatment, his pain would be reduced by at least half. Perhaps it would even disappear completely. He reflected that even if his pain were reduced by only a quarter, he would be satisfied. So he gave his poor friend a large sum of money to go and purchase the medicine.

Every month from then on, the friend sent him medicine. One month, two months, three months, four months, five months, six months passed by, but the rich man’s back pain remained the same. It was not going away at all.

Finally the rich man went to see his poor friend and said, “You have been sending me medicine for such a long time, but I have to say that my pain is still the same. I am suffering so much. What can be done?”

His friend said, “I told you that half your problem would be solved, and it has been solved.”

“What? I do not understand,” said the rich man.

“It is so simple,” responded the poor man. “You see, I needed money badly because I had accumulated huge debts. I charged you lots of money for the medicine. Now, for the last six months, I have been paying off my debts with your money. By this time, I have reduced my debts by half, so we can say that half our problem is over. You and I are one. Therefore, my problem is your problem. I told you that half your problem would soon be over, and my words have come true. I am so happy now, and I know that you will be happy in my happiness!”

The critical travellers

A man owned a huge and splendid mansion. Indeed, it was the most beautiful mansion in the entire town. One day this man was picking up some grains that had fallen on the ground in front of his house. At that moment, five travellers were passing by. Seeing the wealthy man performing this trivial task, they called out to him, “Sir, it seems that you are very rich. Why then do you have to carefully collect those tiny grains from the ground as if they were pieces of gold?”

The wealthy man looked up and replied, “It is not good to waste anything. By the way, it appears from your dusty appearance that you have been travelling for a long time.”

“Yes,” said the travellers. “We have been travelling for many days and our destination is still quite far.”

The wealthy man said, “Perhaps it will do you good if you come and eat at my place. I am sure that a nourishing meal will give you the strength and energy to proceed to your destination.”

“That is a splendid idea! You are so kind,” said the travellers eagerly.

The wealthy man opened the gate and said, “Please come in.”

They all went inside the house and the wealthy man invited them to be seated at the dining table. He said, “Please do not mind waiting for a short time. I am asking my servants to prepare most delicious food for you.”

As the travellers waited for their meal, each one was imagining what kind of dishes they would be served. They were all extremely happy and excited. Finally, the servants appeared carrying trays which they placed before the travellers. On the plates was not rice or any kind of vegetable. Each plate contained only a few pieces of gold.

The travellers were deeply dismayed. They asked their host, “What have we done? How do you expect us to eat gold?”

The wealthy man said, “You valued gold so much while I was collecting the grains that I have given you gold to eat. You did not feel that the grains were of any importance. You thought I was a fool for picking them up. It did not occur to you that perhaps we might want to eat the grains. So now I am giving you gold, since you value it infinitely more.”

The travellers got the point of the rich man’s gesture, and they felt ashamed and embarrassed for having mocked him earlier. Their host continued, “Even if you are rich, you must value things that are around you. Gold has its purpose and grain has its purpose. You were laughing at me when I was collecting the grain, so I gave you gold to eat. Do not try to find fault with people in season and out of season. It is always advisable to be sure of what you are saying.”

The rich man saw that the travellers were genuinely sorry for what they had done, so he asked his servants to bring them real food to eat. This time they ate to their heart’s content. As they were finishing their meal, their host appeared once again and said, “I am showing you my compassion and concern because I feel it will help you to make progress. That is why I gave you real food. Now you are ready to continue your journey. Try to value each and every thing that you see and do not find fault with others.”

With a new illumination the travellers went on their way.

The rich disciple's poor choice

There was once a spiritual Master who had many, many disciples. Most of them were not rich at all. They led very simple lives and somehow they managed to meet with their earthly expenses. But one disciple was extremely, extremely wealthy. This particular disciple was a merchant. Strangely enough, the life he lived was even more austere than that of the poorest disciples. This was not because he was more spiritual than those disciples; it was because he was the most miserly person imaginable. He was only interested in hoarding his money. He would not keep any proper furniture or valuable things in his house. He did not spend money on clothes and he never invited his fellow disciples for meals. Sometimes, if he happened to buy something in the market, he would punish himself for having spent a little extra money by skipping a meal. To compensate for the most trivial purchase, he would not eat! Yet, in spite of his ungenerous nature, the Master tolerated this particular disciple.

After many years, there came a time when the Master gathered all his disciples and said to them, “My days are numbered. Now I am telling you all: do not worry about the future. God took care of me and He will also take care of you. I came as your teacher, but the real Teacher is God. He is the One who will act in and through you. So do not cry, do not weep. God will take care of you.”

In spite of the Master’s compassionate words, all the disciples started crying helplessly. Then the Master said, “All right, I am ready to bless each and every disciple. Come one by one, my children, and I shall give you my last blessings. Since this is my last chance to see you all, I am ready to give you whatever you want. You have only to ask me.”

There were about forty disciples present. One by one, they all stood before the Master to receive his blessings. Each one said the same thing: “Master, I need only your blessing. I do not need anything else in my life. Now you will be leaving. Your blessing is the most important thing. Nothing else matters in my life.”

Finally, it was the turn of the last disciple to come for the Master’s blessings. This happened to be the wealthy merchant. The Master offered him a most compassionate smile and said, “Now, my child, tell me what you want. I shall fulfil your dearest wish.”

The merchant-disciple said, “Master, you know that I am rich, very rich, but I would like you to give me a special mantra which I can repeat to increase my prosperity. This is my last request to you. Today you have promised to grant all our wishes. Now please grant me this wish!”

The Master said, “Here I am dying and you are only thinking of how to accrue more money, more gold? You have so much material wealth! Why do you need more, for God’s sake?”

The merchant-disciple replied, “Master, I feel that one day I will be able to give all my wealth to charity. Right now I am collecting and collecting as much money as I can, but it is for a good cause. A day will come when I will be able to give it all away so that many people will benefit from it.”

All the other disciples were literally shocked that this disciple could be thinking of increasing his wealth at such a time. But the Master simply said, “Oh, I see. All right, I am giving you a special mantra. This mantra will transform a certain kind of iron into gold.” Then the Master picked up a piece of iron that was lying on the ground and said, “Look, I can prove it to you. I will say the mantra and then, as soon as I touch this piece of iron, it will become gold.”

The Master chanted the mantra and then touched the piece of iron. Before everyone’s eyes, it was immediately turned into gold. Then the Master taught the mantra to the merchant-disciple. When the disciple learned it, the Master said, “In the future, whenever you need more gold, you have only to obtain some of this kind of iron and chant the mantra. Then you will be able to transmute the iron into gold just by touching it, the way I did. But do not forget the mantra. Now I am giving you one more piece of iron to take home.”

The merchant-disciple was extremely happy that the Master had granted his wish. He left the Master’s home and went to the market, where he thought he would buy a large quantity of iron to keep in reserve so that whenever he needed gold, it would be available immediately. When he came to the ironmonger’s shop, he found that the price of iron had gone very high. It was much more than he had expected to pay. The disciple said to himself, “My God, even yesterday the price was much lower than this! How could it have gone so high in one day? The best thing is for me to use my wisdom. I know that nobody will buy it at this price. Eventually this greedy ironmonger will be forced to lower the price again. I can wait until then. I already have the piece of gold that the Master created and the second piece of iron that he gave me.”

So the disciple waited for a week or two. Then he went back to the market fully prepared to buy a considerable quantity of iron. To his greatest sorrow, the price had gone still higher. The disciple was so upset and dismayed. He said, “What is this? Now the price is even higher! I am not going to pay such a ridiculous price!” And again he went home empty-handed.

After an interval of two more weeks, he returned to the ironmonger’s place, only to find that the price of iron had risen even higher! This time, the disciple became furious with himself. He said, “Why did I not buy it when I had the chance the first time? How stupid I was! Even though the price was quite high, it was next to nothing in comparison with the amount of gold that I would have been able to produce. Now the price is so exorbitant! I refuse to pay such a high price. Luckily, I have the other piece of iron that the Master gave me. Let me transmute that into gold and then I can wait indefinitely to buy some more iron at a cheaper price.”

The disciple returned home and took out the piece of iron that the Master had given him. He was all ready to say the mantra but, lo and behold, he found that he had completely forgotten it! Not a single word came to his mind. In vain he struggled and struggled to recollect what the Master had taught him. Because he had only been thinking of buying that particular kind of iron at a cheap price, he had forgotten the mantra altogether. Now what was he to do? He was utterly miserable. “What have I done?” he cried. “I cannot transmute this piece of iron into gold and I cannot obtain more iron because of the outrageous price. I am at a complete loss. O Master, you fooled me! You knew that this would happen.”

The rich man’s fellow disciples came to hear of his accusations against the Master and they said to him, “The Master did not fool you. He only illumined you by exposing your greed. We all asked the Master for his blessings. Now he is not in the physical anymore, but we are all living so happily with his blessings. We feel that he is taking care of our spiritual lives. But you had to ask him for gold. How greedy you were! Perhaps by now you have learned your lesson.”

The merchant sighed, “Alas, I have lost both my Master and my mantra.”

The poor fellow died in utter misery because he had lost the things that were dearest to him in his life. This was how the Master punished him.

The honesty certificate

There was a Muslim who was very, very rich. At the same time, he had a very good heart. Once a year he would offer unlimited gifts to the poor. He would distribute money, lengths of fabric and food unreservedly. Everybody was most grateful to him for his kindness and generosity, especially the poor people in the village.

One particular year, many poor people came to this Muslim on the day he was going to make his charitable offering. They formed a long line outside his house. The Muslim stood behind some tables which were piled high with grains, fabrics, fruits, spices and many other necessities. As each person came up to him, the Muslim would put certain things inside a bag for that person. He told everyone not to open up the bags there, but to wait until they arrived home.

One particular beggar waited in line very patiently. When it became his turn, the rich man put only one thing inside the bag. Then he gave it to the beggar. This particular beggar was extremely poor. He and his wife lived in dire poverty. When he returned to the tiny hut in which they made their home, he opened up the bag and saw that the Muslim had placed a single gold coin inside it.

The beggar immediately said, “O my God, this kind-hearted man has made a mistake. Instead of putting a little rice or something else inside our bag, he has put in a gold coin. I am sure he did not do it deliberately.”

His wife said, “No, you fool, you fool! We are so poor. Do you not see that God has given us this coin to relieve our suffering?”

Her husband disagreed. He said, “No, no, God is not like that. He does things in a different way. If He wants to improve our condition, He will give me the opportunity to do some kind of work. In the past, this rich man has given us rice, dal and new pieces of cloth to wear. I am sure he did not intend to give us a gold coin. I have to return it.”

The wife cried, “You cannot! You must not! It is God who has given this piece of gold to us in and through the rich man. This coin will provide us with enough food for many, many months.”

The husband replied, “I do not believe in this kind of God. Very soon the rich man will feel sorry that he has made such a serious mistake. We have to believe in God’s Dispensation. God has given money-power in abundant measure to this man and not to me. So I have to be satisfied with my poverty, the way he is satisfied with his wealth. I must go back to his house and do the needful.”

Although the wife continued pleading with her husband, he refused to listen to her. He took the gold coin and walked back to the rich man’s house. There he very humbly returned the coin to the rich man. The rich man was extremely pleased and moved. He had never met such a sincere, honest man.

He said to the poor beggar, “I deeply appreciate your honesty. Now, this time I am giving you a hundred gold coins. I am telling you exactly how many I am putting inside the bag so that you do not think I have made a mistake. Kindly take them. I assure you, you do not have to bring them back.”

This time the beggar unmistakably knew that the rich man wanted him to keep the gold coins. He bowed to the rich man, offering all his gratitude, and departed with his bag. When he entered his hut carrying the bag, his wife said, “Again you have brought the bag! Now this time what did he say?”

Her husband replied, “He himself has said that we should keep it. And he has increased the amount from one gold coin to one hundred gold coins!”

He opened up the bag and showed his wife all the coins. Needless to say, she was astonished and delighted. Her husband said, “You did not want me to go back, but I went. And this is what happened! Instead of one gold coin, we now have one hundred. We do not have to worry about food and clothing again. When you conquer greed, you get this kind of result.”

The wife said, “Yes, yes, I can see it. You were one hundred percent correct. Please forgive me for doubting you.”

So the beggar and his wife lived very happily. But the story does not end there. While the rich Muslim was giving the one hundred gold coins to the beggar, a merchant happened to be passing by. He was not poor in the least. He had a very nice house and he was extremely prosperous. When he saw the Muslim counting out the gold coins for the beggar, he hid and watched the exchange. Then a brilliant idea struck him. He thought to himself, “Tomorrow I will come to this Muslim’s house in the guise of a poor man. I will put on dirty, filthy clothes and stand in front of his door. For bringing one gold coin this beggar has received one hundred. If I put fifty gold coins in my bag and give them to the rich man, I am sure he will reward me by giving me much more than one hundred in return. I can easily afford to take fifty gold coins from my business for one morning. I will tell exactly the same story as the beggar. Who ever thought there would be such an easy way to gain instant wealth!”

The next day the merchant went to the rich man in the guise of a beggar. He handed the rich man a bag containing fifty gold coins and said, “Yesterday, by mistake, you gave me this. I cannot imagine that you intended to give me fifty gold coins.”

Then he waited eagerly. He was full of expectation that he would receive a substantial amount of money from the rich man. Meanwhile, the rich man was surprised. He could not remember having given this particular beggar fifty gold coins. What is more, even though the beggar was absolutely dirty and unkempt, he was wearing a costly ring on his finger. The rich man wondered how a beggar came to be wearing such a ring, and he began to grow a little suspicious.

Now the time had come for the beggar to ask for more gold coins. He said, “With utmost sincerity I have come here to return your money. Now will you not give me any reward?”

The rich man beckoned one of his clerks and requested him to bring a special piece of paper. When the clerk brought it, the rich man asked him to write down that the beggar was an honest man. Then the rich man gave the piece of paper to the beggar.

“You are not giving me money?” cried the beggar-merchant in dismay.

The Muslim said, “Oh no, I am giving you something much more valuable. I am so pleased with you that I am giving you an honesty certificate. Money I can give to this person and that person. But because of your exceptional honesty, I want you to have this special certificate!”

The king's washerman

There was once a king who was very, very kind and compassionate. He was a real father to the poor and needy, and he always found ways to please each and every subject in his kingdom.

The king had a personal washerman. At the end of the day, this washerman would take the king’s garments home to launder them. But the king did not know that when the washerman arrived home, he used to put on the king’s garments and walk around his village showing off. All the villagers were deeply impressed that the washerman had such expensive clothes, so they used to salute him and offer him tremendous respect. Some of them thought that, since he was working for the king, perhaps the king had rewarded him for his services by giving him these magnificent clothes. At the same time, others suspected him. They wondered where he had acquired such costly garments.

So the washerman lived a dual life. During the day he was an ordinary worker, and at night he would pretend that he was a king. It was extremely gratifying to him when all the villagers admired him. Indeed, they were on the verge of worshipping him.

Unfortunately, everybody has enemies and this washerman was no exception. One of his enemies from the village went to the king and complained that the washerman was wearing clothes which were worthy of a king. He hinted that these clothes might even belong to the king himself.

The king could not believe it. “How could my own washerman do this?” he exclaimed. “All right, let me see what I should do. You return to your village and I will take care of the matter.”

That evening, the king put on the dress of a hermit and went in disguise to the village where the washerman lived. Before long he saw the washerman parading through the streets wearing the very clothes that he himself had worn earlier that day. All the people in the village came out to see the washerman and to offer him their admiration. But the hermit did not pay any attention to the washerman at all. On the contrary, he ignored him completely.

This made the washerman very angry, and he began to berate the hermit. He said, “How dare you ignore me? Can you not see who I am?”

The hermit replied very calmly, “No, I do not know who you are.”

The washerman became disgusted. He said, “If you just look at the garments I am wearing, you will see that I am the king!”

This speech failed to impress the hermit, who slowly walked away. The washerman followed him and started scolding and insulting him. He said, “You have no respect for the king. Stop and salute me properly!”

Suddenly the hermit turned and threw off his ochre robes to reveal his kingly garments. “I am the king!” he pronounced in a powerful voice.

When the washerman saw the real king standing before him, he was frightened to death. He immediately fell at the king’s feet and begged for forgiveness. Then he said, “One moment ago, you were a hermit. Now please bless me and give me some peace of mind.”

“What do you mean?” asked the king.

The clever washerman went on, “Only a hermit can ignore a king. You were wearing a hermit’s garments and I was wearing your garments. But a hermit is infinitely higher than a king. You were acting like a real hermit, a spiritual renunciate. Now I want to worship you, so you have to bless me.”

The king did not ignore or rebuff his washerman’s flattery. He gave him a compassionate smile and said, “From tomorrow on, you have to work at the palace. You have to wash my clothes there, not here.”

So the washerman’s flattery worked and, to his great relief, the king did not punish him.

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