THE HOLY MAN
Akbar liked everything to look perfect. ‘The palace gardens and the public halls should always be neat and clean so that they make a
good impression on visitors,’ he said.
One day, as he was walking around the palace inspecting his land with pride, he saw a man taking a nap right in the middle of the garden
under the shade of a tree. His ragged clothes were saffron, the colour worn by Holy Hindu men. His beard and moustache were so shaggy
that you could barely see his face. Akbar was irritated. This was no place for an unsightly beggar to rest! He went up to the man and ordered him to leave.
The man awoke from his sleep and stretched. Unconcerned by Akbar’s air of authority, he asked, “Why should I leave? Does the shade
of this tree belong to you?’
‘Of course it belongs to me!’ Said the infuriated emperor. ‘So does the tree itself, the garden, the palace and everything in it, too.’
‘How about the river – is that yours too?’
‘Yes, this river and all the rivers in the kingdom belong to me. In fact, the whole of India belongs to me! I am the emperor.’
The saffron-clad intruder pondered this for a while. He was still not impressed by Akbar’s importance. “And before you were born,
who did all of this belong to?’
‘My father, of course.’
‘And before him?’
Akbar began to understand what the man was getting at. He dropped his arrogant attitude and sat down on the grass next to the
holy man. ‘The kingdom belonged to my grandfather before my father.’
The holy man said: ‘So, like them, you will possess all these beautiful things during your life and afterwards they will pass on to your
son and then to his son?’
‘That is true,’ agreed the emperor, now deep in thought, ‘These possessions are mine only temporarily. I own them only while I am on this earth. Then they pass on to someone else.’
‘Exactly!’ Said the holy man with a wise smile. ‘All material things are temporary. No one really owns the shade of a tree or a rest house.’
Akbar, who was quite fond of musing about the meaning of life, said thoughtfully, ‘The whole world is like a rest-house. We all stay here for a while and then move on. Is that what you are trying to tellme?’
‘You are correct, Your Majesty! Being arrogant about one’s material possessions is false pride.’ Akbar looked up, startled at the change in the holy man’s tone. He recognised the familiar voice.
‘Birbal! I should have known it was you. Always provoking me to think further and deeper aren’t you!’ The holy man stood up laughing and peeled off his shaggy false beard. He made a deep bow to the smiling emperor.
‘It was my privilege and duty King of the World, to remind you of the true meaning of life. Vanity and arrogance are not becoming of a great mind like yours.’
The Universal Storyteller www.facebook/thedivineatplay