Life’s bleeding tears and flying smiles, part 7

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On the most auspicious occasion of my brother Mantu’s 73rd birthday on 17 November 2000, I lovingly and gratefully dedicated to him 73 stories, which were published in five volumes. Now, I have decided to continue the series by writing an additional 100 stories dedicated to him. These 100 stories will be published in seven volumes, for a total of twelve volumes.

Author's introduction

These are not my own stories. These are ancient stories. I do not claim even an iota of originality. The original authors are buried in oblivion, but the successors are following in the footsteps of their predecessors with gorgeous embellishment. I, too, have indulged lavishly in my own way of embellishment. Long live my humour-wisdom-flooded predecessors, who loved anonymity.

May these tales liberate us from the heavy dryness of the mind, and may they transform the dryness of the mind into an ever-blossoming fountain-ecstasy.

— Sri Chinmoy

The shopkeeper and the dwarf

There was once a shopkeeper who loved to play practical jokes. One evening, as he was on his way home from work, he felt in a particularly humorous mood. He suddenly saw a dwarf who was shorter than the shortest and who was wearing a pair of glasses. The shopkeeper was overcome with the desire to make fun of this dwarf, so he called out to him, “My wife is a very good cook. May I invite you to come with me to my place tonight for dinner?” The dwarf agreed to the shopkeeper’s invitation, unaware that the shopkeeper only had in mind to poke fun at him and laugh at his expense. So together they went to the shopkeeper’s place.

At first, the shopkeeper’s wife was very kind and hospitable. She made the dwarf feel right at home and so, as they sat around the dinner table, he kept on talking and talking and talking. The shopkeeper was feeling very happy and proud of himself that the dwarf’s visit was such a success, and he felt that the time had come for him to start making fun of the dwarf. But the wife was getting annoyed with the dwarf. She thought to herself, “This fellow is talking so much and eating next to nothing. It is an insult to my cooking.” She turned to the dwarf and said, “You do not want to eat? You do not care for anything?”

The dwarf replied, “I get such joy in just talking!”

The wife was so frustrated that she commanded the dwarf to open his mouth. He obeyed, opening his mouth wider than necessary, and the wife put a huge portion of cooked goat meat inside. Then she forced the dwarf’s mouth shut so he had to eat it! What could the poor fellow do? He had no choice but to swallow the huge portion of meat. But, alas, there was a bone inside it. The bone got stuck in the dwarf’s throat and he died immediately!

Now the shopkeeper felt miserable. He said to himself, “What am I going to do?” He was blaming himself for the dwarf’s death. At the same time, he was worried that he would get into trouble. He said to his wife, “I have an idea. Let us cover his dead body and take him to the doctor. You follow me, crying and crying. We will tell the doctor that our son is sick and that we are afraid his case is very serious.”

So the shopkeeper carried the dead body of the dwarf to the doctor’s house. His wife followed behind him, crying pitifully. When they arrived at the doctor’s place, the doctor and his wife were eating dinner together upstairs. Seeing that he had a patient, the doctor wanted to go downstairs immediately, but the doctor’s wife insisted that he finish his dinner. “Sit down and finish eating!” she ordered. “I will go and see what they want.”

The doctor’s wife went downstairs and told the shopkeeper and his wife, “I am sorry, but you will have to wait. The doctor will see you, but you have come at an odd hour. He must finish his dinner first, and then he will come down.” Then the doctor’s wife went back upstairs, leaving the shopkeeper and his wife waiting outside the door.

The shopkeeper was truly a wonderful rogue. Recognising a chance to abandon the dead body, he said to his wife, “Let us put the corpse right up against the door. When the doctor opens the door, the body will fall down on the ground and roll down the staircase.” Quietly, the shopkeeper and his wife put the body against the door of the doctor’s house. Then, as the doctor still had not come down, they went home very peacefully.

When the doctor finally finished eating his dinner, he went downstairs and opened the door. In shock, he watched as the body fell tumbling to the foot of the staircase below. He ran down after it only to find the poor dwarf lying there, dead.

The doctor felt so miserable. He said to himself, “How could this happen?” The shopkeeper had informed the doctor’s wife that the case was extremely serious, so now the doctor was blaming himself mercilessly for not attending to the patient sooner. He thought, “Now I will be in serious trouble!” But since it was late at night, he picked up the dead body and placed it back against his door. Then he went upstairs. The eyeglasses were still on the body of the dwarf.

It happened that this dwarf was the court jester of the king. One of the king’s guards had been heavily drunk the previous day and had dropped his glasses on the ground and could not find them. Now, he happened to pass by the doctor’s office and saw his own glasses on the dwarf’s face. Still a little drunk, the king’s guard began punching the dead man mercilessly.

A passerby saw what was happening and shouted, “What are you doing?”

The king’s guard replied, “This man has stolen my eyeglasses! Look at this! They are mine!”

“But why are you punching a dead body?” the man cried.

The guard was immediately arrested and taken to the king. He said to himself, “Now I will be punished; I will be hanged.”

The doctor came to know that this guard was going to be hanged and he felt absolutely miserable. He felt that it was he who had killed the dwarf, and his conscience was bothering him terribly. So, at the last moment, just as the guard was about to be hanged, he ran to the king and made his confession. “It is not this man’s fault,” he exclaimed. “I am to blame!”

The king was very pleased with the doctor’s confession. While he was considering what kind of punishment to give the doctor, the first culprit, the shopkeeper, came to know what was going on and his conscience started bothering him. He ran to the king and said, “No, no, no! I am to be blamed! I was the one who brought about the death of this dwarf! I was the one!”

Then the shopkeeper’s wife cried out, “No! I am the culprit, I am the culprit! I put a piece of goat meat into his mouth and forced him to eat it. There was a bone inside the meat. It got caught in his throat, and he died immediately!”

In this way, all of the culprits made their confessions.

Then the king exclaimed, “I never thought that I had such sincere people in my kingdom! You all could have escaped, but one by one you have all confessed.” The king was so proud of all of these sincere people that he declared, “I shall not punish any of you. Instead, I shall give all of you rewards! You all deserve to be rewarded.”

So the king gave rewards to each and every one. Then the king said, “We should admire the court jester most of all, because even after his death he has made us laugh. He has made us all laugh even after leaving this world. Such an excellent jester!”

The king's stolen treasures

Once there was a very rich king who was very, very proud of his wealth. None of his fellow kings in the surrounding kingdoms were as rich as this particular king, and he used to enjoy showing off his wealth to all of them. Quite often, he would hold exhibits where he would display his collection of diamonds and other most expensive and most valuable treasures for all to see.

On one such occasion, all of the king’s friends and colleagues were assembled to view the king’s wealth, including his most expensive diamond, which was prominently displayed on a plate of gold. All of a sudden, the unthinkable happened: the diamond disappeared. The minister had to report to the king that his most expensive diamond was gone. Upon hearing the news, the king was sad, mad and furious. “I cannot understand it!” he exclaimed. “I consider all these people to be my friends! How could they steal from me?”

The king’s minister was a very, very wise man. He replied, “O King, let us not embarrass them. Let us simply say to them, ‘Please, please, we do not want to search you. You are our friends. It would be an unbearable embarrassment. The best thing for us to do is to turn off the lights. Then, whoever has taken the diamond will kindly put it back on the plate.’ These people are kings, after all!”

The king agreed to the minister’s plan. They turned off the lights, certain that the culprit would place the diamond back on the golden plate. But alas, when the lights came back on, to their great surprise, they saw that the plate itself had now disappeared!

The king said to his minister, “I cannot believe it! In the dark, the same person who took the diamond has now removed the plate, and he himself has disappeared!”

The majority of the kings attending the exhibit were very, very honest. They were so embarrassed by what had taken place. Some of them left the palace to try to chase the thief. Others felt it was beneath their dignity to be in such bad company, so they, too, left the palace. But some of the kings remained out of sheer curiosity, hoping to see the thief when he was caught. They were such stupid fellows! Two groups of kings had already gone and the culprit had fled, yet they remained.

After some time, the thief was found and caught by a small group of the kings. “I will not surrender this diamond or this golden plate unless you pay me for them,” he declared shamelessly. He quoted a price that was considerably higher than that which the very rich king had originally paid. One of the kings offered to pay the thief the sum. “Fine!” said the thief. “But I will only relinquish the diamond and plate on the condition that none of you will reveal my identity.” All of the kings assured the thief that they would keep it a secret amongst themselves. Then he took the money and ran away.

This thief was such a rogue. He began informing his friends that it was not he who had stolen the diamond and plate, but that he had seen these expensive things in the hands of the very king who had bought them from him! So they all went off in search of the other king.

Meanwhile, the very rich king came to learn who the first thief was. He had him arrested and thrown into jail. The thief told the king, “I have neither the diamond nor the plate. I sold them to somebody else for a higher price than even you paid for them.” So the rich king sent his guards to search for the second culprit.

With great difficulty they found the king who had bought the treasures. Unfortunately, he no longer was in possession of them. His son, who was very greedy, had taken both the diamond and the plate and disappeared. The father was caught and thrown into jail, but the son was nowhere to be found. “If in one week your son does not come back on his own and return my valuables, you will be hanged,” the very rich king declared.

The poor fellow did not know where his son had gone. He was crying and crying in his jail cell. His wife was praying and praying to God for their son’s return by the appointed day. Otherwise, she would lose her husband.

The son was quite far from the scene, but somehow he felt his mother’s heart-rending cries. So he came to the rescue of his father, returning the diamond and the plate to the very rich king. “Please, please, release my father!” he said. “I am the one who stole these belongings of yours. Do anything you want with my life. My father is innocent.”

“Your father is innocent?” the very rich king replied. “Who bought these things when they had been stolen from me? True, your father did not steal them, but was he not the culprit who bought them from the thief? He knew quite well that they were mine. Why did he buy them, instead of telling me where they were?”

The son replied, “O King, I was the last person to have them in my possession. Therefore, I am the one who is guilty. I am giving them back to you — both the plate and the diamond. Please, please, punish me any way you see fit, but release my father.”

When the very rich king saw his plate and diamond returned in excellent condition, he was simply thrilled and overjoyed. He said to the son, “Do not worry, I do not want to kill anyone. I just wanted to get back my most precious treasures. You and your father are free to go and do whatever you like. I am releasing you both. You will not be punished because both of you have kept my precious possessions in such good condition.”

The man who ruined the street

One day a gentleman was driving his car. Alas, at a certain point, his car got stuck. The street was muddy and full of big potholes, so the car could not go any farther.

A strong man happened to be nearby and saw that the gentleman was in difficulty. He asked the man if he needed help and he said, “Certainly, you can help me. I would be very grateful. You look so strong!”

The strong man lifted up the rear of the car and placed it on his shoulder. He was showing off how strong he was. Then he pushed the car forward, freeing the car so the gentleman could easily continue his journey. As the gentleman was about to leave, the strong man extended his hand to signify that he wanted a tip for his efforts. The gentleman was very pleased, so he said, “Oh, you have worked very hard. I could not have managed it myself. You are so strong!” Then he offered the strong man a fair amount of money. The strong man was delighted.

All of a sudden, a lady came running up to the gentleman and said, “Yes, he has worked very, very hard. My husband has worked very, very hard, and he deserves the money. In fact, he deserves even more, because every night he takes a bucket and collects water from the swimming pool. With that water, he ruins the street! That is why every day people are in serious trouble when they try to drive here!”

What kind of wife was this! The husband was simply furious with her. The gentleman said to himself, “What am I going to do? How can I change this fellow’s nature?”

In the meantime, the strong man’s teenage son arrived on the scene. He had heard his mother talking and was very angry. “How can you expose my father like this?” he cried.

The mother replied, “Expose him? It is beneath my dignity to remain his wife! How can he do this kind of thing? Every day he gets money in this way and I find it very difficult to bear. With this money he buys our groceries and all the other things that we need. But he is so strong. Why can he not go out and do some honest work?”

The gentleman was very kind. He said, “All right, if your husband does not want to work, why do you not come and work at my place? My wife will be very kind to you. She is quite old. You can help her with the housework and I will pay you.”

At this, the strong man became furious with the gentleman and said, “My wife will work at your place? How dare you suggest such a thing!”

The wife replied, “I am ready to do it. I see that he is a very kind-hearted gentleman.” To the gentleman she said, “I will be happy to work at your place.”

But the strong man said, “No, I will not allow you to work.”

The son always took his father’s side. He said to his mother, “You cannot work.” Both father and son felt that it was beneath their dignity for her to go and work at somebody else’s place.

Again, the gentleman said to himself, “What am I going to do? This strong man is not going to change his nature, and they need money.” To the husband and wife he said, “I have no idea how I can solve this problem.”

Then the teenager said to the gentleman, “I know the answer. If you give my father a very large amount of money, he will stop ruining the street.”

But the wife cried, “No, no! Do not trust my son and do not trust my husband!” The wife herself did not trust her own son and husband.

The gentleman said, “All right, somebody has to be brave.”

The wife was very sincere and brave. She wanted to work at the gentleman’s place, but her husband and son would not allow her to do so.

Now the boy saw tears in his mother’s eyes and he realised that she was suffering very deeply. So he said to the gentleman, “I can solve this problem. I will work at your place. I can even work as your servant. I will do whatever you want. Then if you give me a large amount of money — whatever I deserve — I will not allow my father to do the kind of mischief that he does. Every night he goes out with a bucket and collects water. Then he deliberately ruins the street so that he can take money from kind people like you.”

Then the father and son began to fight. The father exclaimed, “Look, I cannot give this up. I have formed a habit. Even if you get money from this gentleman, even if you go out and work, how can I get rid of this habit? It is impossible! Right now, money is not the problem. I have money, but I cannot get out of this habit!”

The gentleman said, “Let me go to an astrologer and see if he can tell us how you will be able to give up this profession of ruining the street as well as the joy of all the drivers who pass this way.”

The gentleman left and came back with an astrologer. The astrologer immediately cast the strong man’s horoscope and said, “I can clearly see that you are going to die very shortly. In a month’s time you will no longer be in this world.”

The wife was very smart. She did not cry, nor did the son. The strong man said, “What is this? I will die in a short while, and even then you two are not crying? How can it be? Do you not realise that I will soon die?”

The wife turned to the astrologer and said, “Please, can you not see if there is any way to stop this from happening?”

The astrologer replied, “I can clearly see that if you do not ruin the joy of the drivers any more, then your horoscope indicates that you will be able to have a very long life.”

“Then I am giving up the habit right from this very moment!” the strong man exclaimed.

From that day on, the strong man did give up his mischief. He never ruined the street again. So in this way the astrologer saved the family, the street and all the drivers who came by that way every day.

The so-called blind beggar

There was once a rogue who used to beg on a street corner near a temple. Every day, he would spread his mat and sit there begging, while hundreds of people came to the temple. Of course, they came not to realise God but to fulfil their countless desires. They thought that if they gave alms to the poor, God would be pleased with them and their desires would all be fulfilled. The rogue knew this, so every day he would sit there and beg. He kept his eyes tightly closed and he would call out to everyone who passed by, “I am blind, I cannot see. Please help me!”

On their way back from the temple, after they had prayed and meditated, people would say, “Poor, helpless fellow!” Then they would put money on the mat for him.

One day, a very, very kind-hearted man passed by and put lots of money on the mat. Then, after he had gone about thirty metres, he said to himself, “Perhaps I should have given him a little more money.” He turned and walked back so he could give the beggar even more money.

When the man returned to the spot, he was shocked to see that the so-called blind beggar had opened his eyes and had started counting his money! He obviously could see quite well! The man watched in disbelief as the beggar put the money into his pocket and again began to beg.

The man exclaimed, “Oh, so this is what is happening!” He had been so moved by this beggar that he had been ready even to ask others to give the fellow money. How pitifully the rogue had been crying, saying that he had nobody, he had nothing! How convincing was his performance! But then he had opened his eyes and started counting the money! He was not blind in the least!

The kind-hearted man was so disgusted. He said to himself, “He is such a bad fellow, but today I do not have the strength to do anything about it. Tomorrow I will teach him a lesson.” Then he went home and told the story to his son.

The son was a strong young man. The next day, he went to the temple and prayed and meditated. When he came out, he passed by the beggar and put a large amount of money on the mat. Then he started addressing everyone who walked by, saying, “Please, please give something to this beggar! He is helpless, absolutely helpless! Please, please, let us all be kind to him.”

The beggar’s eyes were completely closed. He was so happy because he knew that he was getting so much money.

The young man said to the beggar, “I am so happy that I have been able to help you. How I wish God would give you back your vision! I will pray to God to restore your vision.” Then he went about twenty or thirty metres away to hide. From what his father had told him, he knew what the beggar was going to do next.

Just as he had done before, the beggar opened his eyes and began counting his money. The strong young man ran up to him and cried out, “Rogue, rogue, rogue! You are not blind after all! Either I will beat you up or I will take away all your money!” He felt that it would not be good to beat the fellow near the temple, so he took all the money and ran away.

Now this so-called blind fellow started chasing the young man, shamelessly running with his eyes wide open! The young fellow ran directly to the zamindar’s place. The beggar knew that if he followed, he would be caught there. So he stopped chasing the young man and disappeared into the crowd.

When the young man told the zamindar what had happened, the zamindar sent his guards to chase the beggar. They caught the so-called blind beggar and brought him back to the zamindar.

The young man said to the zamindar, “Sir, I am not a thief and I am not a liar. What I have been telling you is true. This rogue has fooled countless people, including my father, so I wanted to punish him. He has been fooling people for such a long time, so he deserves some kind of punishment. Quite frankly, I do not need his money. I did this only to catch him and teach him a lesson.”

The zamindar was very, very pleased with the young man.

Now it was time for the punishment. The zamindar said to the beggar, “Tell me, are you going to give up this profession? If not, today you will be thrown into jail.”

The beggar said, “I am ready to give it up, right from today!”

“Very well,” the zamindar replied. Then he proceeded to divide up the money. Most of the beggar’s money, a very large amount, he gave to the young man. He said, “You deserve it! Today you have transformed this fellow. Nobody else could have done it. This rogue has been taking people’s money for such a long time. You caught him, so you deserve the money as a reward.”

Then the zamindar took the remaining money and gave it to the beggar on the condition that he would go out and get a job. The blind man, who was not really blind, would have to find work. On that condition the zamindar allowed him to go free.

One smart dog for sale

There were two friends. One friend was very rich. The other one was not so rich. His name was Abhoy. The one who had money-power was extremely haughty. He thought that he could buy the whole world with his money-power.

Abhoy told him again and again, “Do not be so cocksure. You cannot buy everything.”

But the rich friend insisted, “I can buy anything.”

One day both of them were going to the market separately and they met on the way. Abhoy was not actually poor, but in comparison to his rich friend, he seemed poor. Anyway, Abhoy had a dog. The dog was very nice-looking and very, very smart.

Abhoy’s rich friend said, “Your dog is so nice and smart. Can I not buy it?”

Abhoy said, “Yes, you can buy it.”

The rich friend offered him two hundred rupees, but Abhoy said, “Two hundred rupees? How can I sell you my dog for two hundred paltry rupees?”

The rich friend answered, “I have offered you more than enough. Now hand over the dog.”

Abhoy said, “No. This is my most faithful dog. I am not going to sell it for even one paisa less than seven hundred rupees.”

In India, seven hundred rupees is like seven hundred dollars. The rich man said, “Seven hundred rupees for your dog! Who wants to buy your dog for seven hundred rupees?”

Abhoy said, “Then you do not have to buy it. Am I asking you to buy my dog? You were the one who was eager to buy my dog.”

The rich friend said, “Be reasonable. I have offered you two hundred rupees, which is more than enough.”

Abhoy said, “I am extremely reasonable. I am always reasonable. I can easily sell this dog for seven hundred rupees.”

The rich friend said, “I will give you two hundred rupees if you can sell the dog to anybody for seven hundred rupees.”

Abhoy said, “Two hundred rupees you will give me? All right. I will sell my dog, and you will be the witness. Then you have to give me two hundred rupees.”

The rich friend said, “When did I ever tell you a lie? I will definitely give you two hundred rupees if you can sell this silly dog for seven hundred.”

The two of them went to the market and Abhoy led the way to his uncle’s pet shop. Inside was a cage containing several most beautiful parrots. Abhoy said to the owner, “Uncle, uncle, your parrots are so beautiful! I have never seen such beautiful birds in my life. Where did you get them from?”

Then Abhoy and his uncle started talking about the history of the parrots, their markings and so on. At last Abhoy said, “I think you should get at least three hundred and fifty rupees for each parrot.”

His uncle looked at him. “How will I get three hundred and fifty rupees?” he asked. “Who will buy a bird for three hundred and fifty rupees?”

Abhoy said, “Why do you have to sell them at a cheaper price? They are such beautiful birds. I tell you, someone should buy each one for three hundred and fifty rupees. All right, since I am so fond of these birds, I would like to buy the two birds from you. Will you sell them to me for seven hundred rupees?”

His uncle got the shock of his life. He immediately said, “Why not? Where can I find another person who will pay this price?” He was eager to sell them at that very moment.

Before Abhoy gave his uncle the money, he said, “There is one condition. If I buy your birds for seven hundred rupees, are you going to buy my dog for seven hundred rupees? My dog is so smart and healthy.”

His uncle at once agreed. He said, “I like your dog very much. I will definitely buy it for seven hundred rupees. I deeply appreciate your dog.”

Then Abhoy said, “Now let us exchange. I will give you my seven hundred rupees because I liked your birds first.”

So he gave seven hundred rupees to his uncle and his uncle gave him the two birds. Abhoy was so pleased. Then he said, “Now you have to keep your promise. You are supposed to buy my dog.”

“Certainly,” said his uncle. “I really like this dog.”

The uncle took the dog and returned the seven hundred rupees to Abhoy.

Meanwhile, the rich friend had observed the entire exchange. He saw that Abhoy had fulfilled the terms of their agreement.

Abhoy said to his friend, “Since I was able to sell my dog for seven hundred rupees, now give me your two hundred rupees.”

The rich friend had to agree that he had lost the bet.

This was not the end of the story. The funniest thing is that after the transaction was completed and Abhoy was going home with the two birds, his dog started following him. Abhoy’s uncle was chasing it, crying, “Now I am your owner. You have to stay with me. Come back!”

Abhoy said to his uncle, “I am telling you, you are now the rightful owner. I am not denying it. But what am I going to do? You take your dog and go home.”

But the dog did not want to go with the new owner.

Abhoy said, “What am I going to do now? You take it. I have absolutely no objection. You have paid me for it.”

Then he said, “All right, I tell you frankly, your two birds are not worth even fifty rupees, but I am generous. I will give you one hundred rupees for the birds and keep my dog.”

Abhoy gave one hundred rupees for the two birds and said, “Now we are all happy. I have the birds, you have one hundred rupees and I have my dog back.”

An old lady defeats Birbal

One day the Emperor Akbar was galloping through a village and his bodyguards were following behind him. They were also mounted on horses. At one place Akbar saw a very old lady standing outside her cottage. She was holding a sword that was very old and tarnished. She was looking at the Emperor so pitifully.

The Emperor said, “Grandmother, what do you want with this sword?”

The old lady answered, “I do not want anything. Only I would like you to touch it and bless it. You are the Emperor. It is the greatest honour for me to have you bless my sword.”

Akbar took the sword and blessed it. Then he returned it to the old lady.

Immediately the old lady started crying and wailing.

Akbar was puzzled. He said, “Why are you crying? I did not tell you that I was going to buy it from you. You did not tell me a price.”

The old lady said, “No, it is not for that reason that I am crying. I was told that if the Emperor touches anything, it will turn into gold because our Emperor is so good, so kind, so compassionate. I gave you my sword. You touched it and examined it, but it has not turned into gold.”

The Emperor said, “I cannot turn your sword into gold, but I can give you some gold.” From his pocket he took out a handful of gold coins and gave them to the old lady. Then he said to his guards, “Here is someone who can outsmart my Birbal!” Birbal was the court jester and his wit and wisdom were renowned.

“Birbal has to accept defeat,” continued Akbar.

“Birbal will never accept defeat!” said one guard. “He will find some way to outwit her.”

“No, Birbal will be no match for this old lady,” insisted Akbar.

Akbar returned to the palace and summoned Birbal to come at once. The guards said to Birbal, “The Emperor says that this time you will have to accept defeat.”

“I will never accept defeat!” said Birbal. “Nobody can outwit me.”

When Birbal came before Akbar, Akbar related the incident with the old lady. “See how easily she parted me from my gold,” said Akbar. “Birbal, you could not have done better yourself!”

“Emperor, I am going to bring the old lady and also her sword to the court,” replied Birbal. “Then we shall learn the truth.”

The Emperor said, “I do not think the old lady will come.”

“The old lady will definitely come,” said Birbal.

“How will you bring the old lady?” asked the Emperor curiously.

Birbal said, “I can bring her just by telling her one thing.”

Akbar said, “Say anything.”

Birbal said, “Then will you forgive me?”

Akbar said, “When have I not forgiven you? And how many stupid things you have said over the course of time! Yet I have always forgiven you.”

Birbal said, “I will tell the old lady that you are going to marry her!”

The Emperor said, “All right, since I have already told you that I will forgive you, I forgive you. Now go and bring her, if you can. But, I tell you, she is not going to believe you. She is not going to come.”

Birbal said, “Emperor, I have another way.”

“What is your new plan?” asked Akbar.

Birbal said, “I will tell her that the Emperor was not just. The Emperor did not give her enough money.”

“I gave her so much money. How can you say that?” said Akbar.

“I know,” said Birbal. “I will tell her that the Emperor had no respect for her sword.”

Akbar said, “I did not have respect? I touched it very carefully, plus I gave her so much money.”

“No,” answered Birbal. “I will tell her that this sword belonged to her great-grandparents, her ancestors. When something comes down from your ancestors, when it has been preserved for generations, the value goes very high. When you yourself say anything about your father Humayun and your grandfather Babar, immediately you shed tears of joy, love, gratitude and pride that you came from their family. Your ancestors were so great and good. Similarly, if I say something about them, you get such joy. And when I tell you stories about your forefathers, even though you already know them, you become so pleased with me that you always give me lots of money, because it brings them to your mind. When you think of them, you feel such joy in your heart.

“I will tell her that, since this sword belonged to her ancestors, it is invaluable. Therefore, you must give her more money. Whatever you have given is not enough. She may not believe that you are going to marry her. But the idea that she deserves more money will definitely appeal to her. Like you, I am sure, she has such respect for her parents, her grandparents and all her relatives. So she will definitely come. I am confident that I will be able to bring her.”

Akbar said, “All right, if you can bring her, I promise I will give her more gold coins.”

As soon as Birbal left the palace to bring the old lady, Akbar started praying, “Allah, let me defeat Birbal this once! For me, it is nothing to give the old lady more money, but I really want to defeat Birbal.”

In the meantime, Birbal was absolutely certain that he would be able to bring the old lady by giving her a lecture on her ancestors. He went to her village, but alas, she had disappeared. After she received the gold coins, she left her cottage and moved to some other place.

The neighbours said, “She has left. We do not know where she has gone.”

Poor Birbal had to come back to the palace and accept defeat. And Akbar was so proud of himself that for the first time he was able to defeat Birbal!

The king's clever servant

Once upon a time there were two kings who were great friends. Then they started enjoying rivalry. That was not enough: they wanted to exercise their supremacy. They fought and fought and fought, pitting their armies against each other.

During one particular battle, one king was on the point of defeating the other, but the neighbouring kings joined forces to prevent him from vanquishing his former friend. Then the winning king had a dream. In the dream, a goddess appeared before him and said, “It is not good to fight. You are my son and he is my son. All kings are my special children. If you who are the rulers fight, then how will your subjects, all my children, be peaceful? Do not quarrel, do not fight, do not declare war.”

The king wanted to abide by the soulful request of the goddess. He invited his former friend to come to his kingdom for negotiations. He said to his friend, “Let us have peaceful negotiations. Once upon a time we were friends. Let us go back again to our old life of harmony and oneness. We should enjoy our friendship, and not quarrel and fight.”

The other king, who had been on the point of losing the battle, was so surprised and happy. Both of them were in the seventh Heaven of delight now that they were becoming friends again.

It happened that on the day of their meeting it was very, very hot. A close personal servant of the host king brought two glasses of juice — one for each king. This servant was extremely loyal to his Master. All of a sudden, he became afraid. What should he do? Whom to serve first: his king or the king’s guest? He thought that if he offered the juice to his king first, in order to show his loyalty, then the guest king would be offended. He would say, “This stupid servant does not know that the guest always has to be honoured first. I am the guest. How is it that he is not honouring me? He has no manners.”

If he offered the juice to the guest king and not his king, then his king would be slighted. He would say, “Can you imagine? My own servant does not have any respect for me! How does he dare to serve somebody else before me? Perhaps he does not remember who is feeding him, who is keeping him here. I am the one! He is my slave. Is this how he shows his loyalty to me?”

Thus ran the thoughts of the poor servant. So many conflicting ideas were passing through his mind and he was struggling to find the correct solution. He was holding the tray and yet he did not know whom to serve first.

Then a brilliant idea flashed across the servant’s mind. He went to his king and said, “My Lord, according to our ancient tradition, when two kings meet together, the host king himself gives some refreshment to the guest. I am a mere slave, so I feel that you should give this to your guest, because he is, after all, your guest.”

So the host king gave the first glass of juice to his friend and he drank the second one himself. As he did so, he said to his friend, “How smart my servant has become! I simply cannot believe it.”

The other king was also laughing. They were laughing together at the servant’s clear solution to the problem. Then the guest king said to the servant, “Now tell me frankly. You came and gave these two glasses of juice to your Master and asked him to serve me. But while you were pouring the juice, whom did you think of? You know which glass you poured first. Whom did you think of at that time? And whom did you think of when you poured the second glass of juice?”

In this way, the guest king was trying to examine the servant.

The servant replied, “O King, I know everything about my own king. He has been so kind to me for years, so naturally I was thinking of my king only when I poured both the glasses of juice.”

“You never thought of me?” said the guest king, pretending to be shocked. “You knew that there were two kings present. How is it that you never thought of me?”

The servant said, “Why should I think of you? Do I know anything about you? It is only that you happen to be my king’s friend. You became enemies and now you are friends. You are his guest. That is the full extent of my knowledge of you. Since I know next to nothing about you, your name never occurred to me. That is the truth.”

Meanwhile the host king was observing the situation and wondering how the story was going to end.

The servant added, “I always value the one who is good and not the one who is great.”

“What do you mean?” asked the guest king.

The servant answered, “My king proved to you on the battlefield that he is good. He gave up his greatness. He could easily have defeated you. Had the other kings not intervened, you would definitely have lost. Yet my king was so kind-hearted. He not only renounced the victory, but he showed his generosity by inviting you here. He is truly good. And you are truly great in the sense that you accepted his invitation. If you are a really great man, you accept an invitation. But the good man is the one who comes first in our hearts. So my king is good; you are great. That is what I meant when I said that I always value the one who is good. And that is also why I only thought of my king when I was pouring the two glasses of juice.”

Both the kings laughed and laughed because they had received a lesson on goodness and greatness from a simple servant.

The lazy son and the hard-working son

There was an old farmer who had two sons. One was lethargy and idleness incarnate. He had a reputation as a good-for-nothing. His name was Samarendra, but you could say that nothingness was his real name.

The other son always worked very hard. This son used to help his father plough the fields, cultivate the crops and so forth. His name was Amarendra.

In the evening of his life, the old farmer distributed his lands, half to each of his sons. To the lazy one, the father said, “I am giving you an equal share of my property. So, my son, give up your lethargy. You should turn over a new leaf and work industriously.”

Samarendra said, “Yes, yes, Father. Now I depend on you, but once you go to Heaven, I will become very active and dynamic.”

His father was very pleased, but he did not trust him to carry out his promise. He said to Samarendra, “Half of the land I have given to you, but I wish to show you a particular place in one of the fields. When you are badly in need of money, just dig at that particular place. Under the ground I have hidden a large amount of money for you. Although you have proved to be a useless son, my fatherly affection for you is such that I wish to make sure you have no financial worries in the future.”

The farmer’s good son, Amarendra, received his portion of the land, but there was nothing secret hidden in his fields. Amarendra knew what his father had done for his brother, but he did not feel sorry. He said, “Father is always wise. He knows I am active, dynamic and industrious. Whatever happens, I will be able to manage.”

Amarendra had such love for his father that he did not question his father’s decision. He used to admire his father’s wisdom all the time. Again, although his younger brother was useless, he had tremendous affection and concern for his younger brother.

At last the time came for the father to pass behind the curtain of Eternity. After his death, the younger one, as usual, did nothing by way of work. The older one was ploughing his share of the fields and getting a good harvest of grain, while the younger one allowed his fields to go to waste.

One day the younger brother came to his elder brother and said, “Please, please, please, it is getting late, brother. The season is nearly over. Will you help me plough my fields and do everything that is necessary? From next year on, I will be very careful to do all these things at the proper time.”

Amarendra said, “It is already too late. The proper season is almost over. I can help you, but you will not get the same results as I will get.”

Samarendra said, “No harm, no harm. Whatever help you can give me I will deeply appreciate.”

Amarendra started helping his younger brother. Naturally, the crops that his own fields yielded were infinitely better than those of his younger brother. Samarendra said to him, “I see you have reaped much more than I have.”

Amarendra replied, “I told you when to plough the fields and plant the crop, but you waited and waited. What can I do?”

Then Samarendra said, “Brother, you have the magic touch with regard to farming. Anything that you touch becomes golden. You get miraculous results. My land, I can easily see, is fallow. Nothing will grow there. It is useless. Father has given you the really good land and he has given me the bad plot of land.”

Look at this ungrateful creature! Amarendra protested, “No, no! Do not say such things. Father has been very, very kind to you. You delayed and delayed unnecessarily. You did not listen to Father. That is why your results are poor.”

Then Samarendra begged him, “Please, please, Amarendra, can you not exchange your plot of land with mine? Mine is useless, I can see. Can you not take it?”

The elder brother agreed. He was all compassion for his younger brother. He said, “All right, I will exchange my land with yours, but you should start ploughing when I start.”

Then Amarendra took the so-called bad plot of land. He started working in the fields and transforming them. One day he came across the secret place where his father had said that there would be something hidden for the younger son. Amarendra uncovered the place and discovered a large amount of money that his father had intended for Samarendra. He said, “Father was always so wise. My younger brother is absolutely useless. Now he needs money desperately. Father always cared for him. Tomorrow morning I shall go and give him this money. I know that he is not going to do a day’s work in his life. I am going to give him the money that I got from under the ground. It is rightfully his.”

Amarendra went to his brother’s place and discovered that overnight Samarendra had sold his new plot of land. He was able to sell the land at a very high price by displaying the results of his brother’s labours. Then he disappeared. Amarendra was so sad because his younger brother could have had this extra money that their father had hidden for him. He searched for his brother, but his brother had completely vanished after selling the property.

The moral of the story is that good people are good to the end. Again, no matter how kind good people are towards bad people, sometimes the fate of a bad person cannot be changed.

Who deserves the money?

There were two villagers who were simplicity and sincerity incarnate. Their names were Jadu and Madhu. Now, Jadu bought a plot of land from Madhu and started ploughing the land most diligently. He was very happy. One day, in a corner of the field, he discovered a small earthen container, and inside it there were gold coins. He went to Madhu and said, “I bought the land from you, but I was not supposed to get these gold coins. You take them. The land is mine, but it is not right for me to keep this money.”

Madhu said, “No, the land belongs to you, so whatever is on it is all yours.”

Between these two friends, neither of them wanted to claim the money. They even went to the length of quarrelling and fighting. Jadu insisted, “I want to be sincere. I discovered the money on your land. It is you who sold the land to me, so you deserve it.”

Madhu replied, “You paid me for the land. How can I deserve any more money? No, it is yours.”

Back and forth they went.

“I will not take it.”

“No, you have to take it! It is your money.”

“No, it is not. It is yours. It is your property.”

A wonderful fight ensued between these two good souls. Finally, they went to the village chief and asked him to decide what they should do. The village chief was so pleased to find that in his village there could be people like this. He was so proud of them. He said to them both, “Do not quarrel, do not fight! You two are so good! I have never seen people like you. I can easily solve your problem.”

Then he asked Jadu, “Do you have children?”

Jadu said, “Yes, I have a son.”

The village chief asked Madhu, “Do you have children?”

Madhu replied, “Yes, I have a daughter.”

Then the village chief said, “I have solved the problem. Now, it is my command that your son and his daughter must get married. I can easily see that they will both derive great joy from this union.”

The two villagers stopped fighting immediately. They were so happy that their son and daughter would marry each other.

The marriage ceremony took place in due course. At the wedding, the village chief said, “This money that was found in the field shall be given to the newlyweds.” So both the parties were very, very happy. The village chief had solved their problem.

A good day of hunting

This story concerns a king and his minister. The king was a middle-aged man and the minister was an old man. The minister always appreciated, admired and adored the king. Only one aspect of the king’s life he could not appreciate and that was the king’s love of hunting. The king spent a considerable amount of time hunting. He knew that his minister was not in favour of this pursuit, but he did not mind. The minister was good in so many ways. He was so kind, loving and faithful.

One day, God knows why or how, the king invited the old minister to join him in a day of hunting. The minister was shocked. At the same time, he did not dare to disagree with the king. He wanted to please the king by all possible means, so he accompanied the king.

The king and his entourage, including the minister, spent the whole day hunting. Fortunately or unfortunately, they did not come across any animal. The king was extremely sad. In order to console him, the minister said, “At other times you were always successful. This time I carried bad luck. That is why no animal appeared. In the future, please do not take me if you really want to be successful in your hunting.”

The king said, “Fine! I shall not invite you any more, if that is what you wish. Or do you want to come with me again?”

The minister said, “No, no! I am absolutely sure. I prefer to remain in the palace.”

That evening the minister returned to his own home. His wife was very curious to know how the hunting went. She asked, “How many tigers and how many lions did you come across today?”

The minister replied, “I had an excellent day, a simply excellent day!”

“Tell me all about it,” demanded his wife. “How many animals did you hunt?”

The minister said, “How many? Can you not see that I have come home so happy?”

“Yes,” said his wife. “I am seeing that you are beaming with happiness. That is why I am asking you about your hunting expedition with the king.”

“You fool!” exclaimed the minister. “Had I seen a tiger or lion, would I not have fainted immediately? I would have died on the spot! Then you would have felt miserable that you had lost your husband. I am so happy because I did not see any tiger or lion or any other animal. I am very happy and you should also be very happy that we did not see any animal. Because of that, you still have a husband!”

Who is the greatest fool?

One day a horse trader brought a white horse to the king’s palace. This horse was most beautiful. It was stronger than the strongest and smarter than the smartest. The king was very pleased with the horse, and he was eager to buy it immediately. He said to the horse trader, “I am offering you one hundred rupees.”

The minister whispered, “O King, since you like this horse so much, in the future perhaps you would like to have more. The best thing is to buy ten white horses from this man.”

The king asked the horse trader, “Do you have more?”

“Yes, I can bring you as many as you want,” replied the horse trader.

Then the king asked, “How long will it take? If I give you money now, when will you be able to bring nine more horses?”

“In three weeks or a month I will be able to bring them,” said the horse trader.

The king gave the horse trader one thousand rupees in advance to bring the other nine horses, and the horse trader departed. Now, the king was very pleased, and the minister was also very pleased, but the court jester had serious reservations.

This particular king was extremely fond of humour. A few days later he asked his court jester, “Can you bring to the court the worst possible fool in my kingdom?”

The court jester replied, “The worst possible fool? He is already here in your palace. Why should I go any farther?”

The king said, “Who is that fool? What is his name?”

The court jester said, “Without a doubt it is your prime minister. This fool asked you to buy nine more white horses. Your prime minister is such a fool that he encouraged you to pay for them in advance. This horse trader is not going to come back with nine more horses, that is certain.”

The prime minister became furious. He said, “How do you know the horse trader will not honour his promise?”

The court jester said, “It is plain to see he is not going to come back.” Then the court jester said to the king, “In three weeks’ time I will be able to present to you the worst possible fool. If the horse trader does not bring nine more horses, then your prime minister is the worst fool in our kingdom, and if he does bring them, then he himself is the greatest fool. After being paid in advance, why should he keep his promise?”

The king was a little perplexed. Then the court jester continued, “But there is somebody else who is infinitely worse than either the prime minister or the man who brought the horse.”

“Then where is he? Bring him here!” commanded the king.

The court jester said, “He is also already in the palace.”

“Do not waste my time!” said the king. “I want to see how much joy I can get from him.”

The court jester bowed to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you yourself are that fool. It is your own noble self. So now you can enjoy your own foolishness. How could you trust your minister? He is a fool! He believed the horse trader. And if the horse trader comes back, then that fellow is also a real fool. But to start with, you gave him the money in advance, so you are the worst fool!”

When the minister heard the court jester’s speech, he got furious. He said, “If the horse trader does bring back the nine additional horses, what kind of punishment will you receive for your outrageous remarks?”

The court jester replied, “Whatever punishment you or the king decide, I am ready to receive. But if the horse trader does not bring these nine more horses, what will be your punishment, Prime Minister?”

The prime minister said most sincerely, “I will tell the king to fire me.”

Then the king said, “All right, if the horse trader does not bring the horses, the minister will be fired and I will put my court jester on the throne for one day. For one long day he will be the king.”

The minister repeated, “What will the court jester’s punishment be if the horse trader really brings the horses?”

“Whatever you decide,” answered the king.

The minister said, “We will bring the strongest man and he will strike the court jester one thousand times with a cane. This will be his punishment.”

The king said, “I fully agree with this punishment. The court jester will be beaten by the strongest man one thousand times.”

Now, the minister had the address of the horse trader and he secretly sent for him. The man came to see the minister and he was absolutely sincere. He said, “In three weeks those nine horses will arrive. It may take even less time. I am waiting for my son to bring them. Already I had seven white horses. I needed only two more. My son is bringing them from another village. Once he brings them, I will be able to appear before the king with all the horses.”

The horse trader kept his promise. In two weeks’ time he came to the court with nine horses. The king was so surprised and thrilled. The king said to his court jester, “Now who is the fool? Show him to me.”

The court jester remained silent because he knew that he himself was the fool. Meanwhile the minister was still very angry because he had been so rudely insulted. He said to the court jester, “Now, this is your time to be punished! One thousand times you will be beaten with a cane.”

The strongest man was summoned to come and give the punishment. The poor court jester suffered so much. Each stroke of the cane was more powerful. He was being thrashed ruthlessly.

After five hundred strokes, the king felt sorry for him and asked the strongest man to stop. The king said, “I hope you have learnt your lesson. In this world we have to trust people. If we do not trust people, there will be only calamity and chaos. Even if others fool us, we must trust them again and again. This is the only way to build trust in this world. I forgive you, but you must always trust people.”

Do not touch gold, do not touch women

There was a hermit who was absolutely pure. The nearby villagers built him a little cottage and they revered him deeply. They wanted to bring him fruits and other kinds of food every day, but he refused their kind offer. He said, “No, I shall beg from door to door. I shall come to your homes and there you will give me whatever I need.”

The villagers were very happy with this arrangement and they served him most lovingly and devotedly. In the course of time, two young men came to the hermit. They wanted to become his disciples.

The hermit said, “No, no! You are both too young. Young people are not meant for spirituality. The spiritual life is all austerity. You come from good families, I can see. If you adopt this way of life, your parents will come and create problems for me. No, I cannot accept you as my disciples at the present time.”

One of the young men, whose name was Kalo, said, “No, no, no, our parents will have no objection, we promise. We want the spiritual life.”

The other one, Bhulo, added, “We need it desperately.”

Finally, the hermit agreed. He said, “All right, you will have to face many austerities. Are you ready?”

The two aspirants were very, very sincere. They said to the hermit, “Whatever instructions you give us, we shall gladly abide by.”

The hermit was silent for a few minutes. Then he said, “I am giving you two special instructions. Never touch gold and never touch any woman. This is the first instruction. My second instruction is never to be familiar with people. If you are familiar with people, then they will only expect things from you and you will expect things from them. So do not be familiar with others. Just keep a few acquaintances, but do not become familiar with them, and never touch gold and never touch a woman.”

Both disciples took the hermit’s instructions very seriously. Every morning the hermit and his two disciples would go out and beg from door to door for alms. Sometimes they used to set off together and then they would go to different homes and return to the cottage. Then they would eat the food they had received.

One particular day, as usual, the hermit and his disciples set out. They went in separate directions but remained in the same vicinity. Kalo was walking in the direction of the river. On the way he saw a little boy crying pitifully. He said to the little boy, “Why are you crying?”

The little boy sobbed, “I had a gold chain, but a man took it from me. My Master asked me to take it to the goldsmith and sell it. Then I was supposed to bring the money to my Master.”

“Do you know who did it?” asked Kalo.

“No,” said the little boy. “A man just grabbed it from me and went away.”

“In which direction did he go?” asked Kalo.

The little boy pointed towards the river. “He ran that way,” he said and started crying again.

“All right,” said Kalo, “Come with me.”

The little boy and Kalo ran and ran towards the river. To their great surprise, they saw the thief sitting on the bank of the river.

Now, it happened that Kalo was physically very, very strong. So he went and pushed the thief over and snatched away the golden chain. Then he gave the chain to the little boy. The little boy was so happy. He carefully put the golden chain inside his pocket and went on his way to the goldsmith.

Kalo was about to continue to various places to beg for food when out of the blue he saw a young woman approaching him. She was weeping bitterly. Kalo said to her, “Please tell me why you are crying.”

She answered, “A friend of mine has brought me the message that my husband is very, very sick. He is now on the other side of the river. I have been waiting in this place for a ferry to take me there so that I can take care of him. Alas, I do not see any sign of the ferry. How am I going to cross the river? I am so worried. Perhaps my husband will not live until I reach him. I want to go to him immediately.”

Kalo said, “Do you not know how to swim?”

The young woman replied, “I am a woman. In our village, women are forbidden to swim. It is thought that if they learn to swim, they will become smart, and the villagers do not like smart women. They like only simple and sincere girls.” Then she went on crying pitifully.

Kalo said, “All right, then climb on my back. I will take you to the other side.”

Kalo placed her on his back and he swam to the other side of the river. When they arrived, the woman was full of gratitude to him. Then Kalo swam back to the other side of the river.

It happened that when Kalo was chasing the thief with the little boy and when he was crossing the river with the young woman on his back, somehow Bhulo observed him. Bhulo saw both of the incidents with his own eyes. He could not believe that Kalo handled a golden chain and, what is infinitely worse, that he carried a woman on his back to the other side of the river.

Kalo spent a little more time begging for food. Then he returned to the cottage. In the meantime, Bhulo came home and said to the hermit, “You cannot imagine what Kalo has done today! He did not obey you at all.”

The hermit said, “He did not obey me?”

“No, Master,” said Bhulo. “You gave us instructions not to touch gold, not to touch women. And what has he done? I saw with my own eyes that he touched a gold chain on somebody’s neck. Then he snatched it away and gave it to a little boy. And what is infinitely worse, I saw him place a young, beautiful woman on his back and carry her across the river.”

The hermit said, “Kalo has done these things?”

“Yes,” said Bhulo. “He has done these terrible things this morning.”

Now the hermit was waiting for Kalo to return. Eventually he came back with his alms bowl and the hermit said to him, “Is everything all right?”

Kalo said, “Yes, Master, everything is all right, but something eventful happened.”

The hermit said, “I would like to hear about it in detail from you later on. Now go and take a bath and then come back.”

Kalo went to take a bath. The hermit said to Bhulo, “You are such a fool! I told you not to be familiar with anybody. Why are you becoming involved in Kalo’s life? Let me see what Kalo comes and tells me.”

In a short time Kalo came back and began his story: “I saw two persons this morning. The first one was a little boy. He was so miserable. He was crying and crying. Afterwards I saw a young woman. She was also crying and crying.”

“And then what happened?” asked the hermit.

Kalo said, “I do not know what actually happened. I was there and yet I cannot even remember what I have done. I saw the boy crying pitifully and I know that I helped him, but I do not remember the details. I also remember that a young woman was crying and I helped her. But I cannot remember what I have done. I simply cannot remember.”

Then Bhulo said, “How is it that you cannot remember what happened this morning? Who touched a gold chain? Who was carrying a beautiful girl on his back?”

Then Bhulo described the two incidents in great detail.

Kalo said, “My friend, I truly cannot remember all these things.” He was not pretending. They had literally vanished from his mind.

The hermit said to Bhulo, “You rascal! Kalo has understood the meaning of my message. When I said, ‘Do not be familiar with anybody,’ I meant, ‘Do not be attached to anybody.’ If somebody is badly in need of your help, as those two badly needed Kalo’s help, you should help them.

“In Kalo’s case, he helped the boy to get back the gold chain, and he helped the young woman to cross the river. He was not attached either to the boy or to the young woman. He did them a big favour, but while he was doing the favour, he was keeping in his mind my instruction never to be attached, never to be attached.

“When I said, ‘Do not touch gold, do not touch women,’ what I actually meant was, ‘Do not be attached to any material thing or any human being.’ Look at Kalo’s spiritual height! He cannot even remember what happened! He is not fooling me, he is not fooling himself. When he saw that those two were overwhelmed with sorrow and grief, he felt that it was his duty to be of service to them. So he served God inside them.

“I can see inwardly that he is not attached to the young woman or the little boy. He has fully understood my message. In the future, Bhulo, you should also try to find the inner meaning of my instructions. Then you will become an excellent disciple like Kalo.”

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