I wrote the following story in 1991 to capture the essence of many philosophies and religions. It is an adaption of a parable shared by one of the Indian masters I connected with. It is quite long but I am sure you will enjoy it.
THE KING AND THE SAGE
By Brian Schaefer
Once a prince was restless within himself and was seeking the highest Truth in Life. He set off to find the wisdom he needed to settle his mind and to instil peace in his heart. He travelled far and wide, spending time with many great teachers and wise men. After many years of roaming, a seer he told him it was time he returned to his homeland and his father’s kingdom. He reluctantly accepted the instruction and journeyed back to the palace where he had grown up.
He returned to find his father gravely ill, and it became evident that he would soon die. This meant the prince would have to prepare to inherit the throne. He undertook the necessary training from his father’s advisors and received what guidance his dying father was able to impart. A short time later the father died and the prince became the king.
After all the ceremonies were over, the new king confided in his closest advisor. He had some reservations about his ability to rule and be the righteous king he aspired to become. The king’s advisor suggested he put forward his doubts to a sage who gave counsel to the people of the kingdom. The sage would come and sit outside the palace walls daily and share his truth and wisdom freely to all those who sought it.
The next morning the king went and sat in line with the peasants and other pilgrims, waiting to put forth his queries. When it came the king’s turn, he said to the sage “I have three questions I need you to answer for me.”
The sage smiled warmly and replied, “I am unable to answer your questions, but if you go to see the man living on top of that distant hill – he will answer them for you.”
The king said, “OK then, would it be alright if I go tomorrow morning?”
The sage added, “That would be fine, but on one condition - you must go there alone.”
The next morning the king and a platoon of his soldiers set off to see the man. They arrived at the foot of the hill, where the king instructed his soldiers to wait for his return. The king then set off through the forest and began his climb to the top. On arriving at the summit, he found a clearing in the trees with a small hut in the centre. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer, so he decided to check if there was anybody around the back of the hut. He walked around the back of the hut to find the very same sage digging the earth with a pick.
The king was confused as to why the sage had suggested that he come all the way to the top of this hill, when it was the sage himself living here. The king decided not to question it and accepted that there must be a reason as to why. He walked over to the old sage, who looked up, nodded and smiled, then continued digging. The king respectfully stood waiting to be addressed by the sage, who just continued to dig the soil.
After some time, the morning sun began to bear down heat, so the king thought he should offer to help the old man. He stepped forward and gestured that he should take over the digging. The sage stood upright, smiled and handed the pick to the king, then stepped aside. The king rolled up his sleeves and began to dig with great gusto. The king thought to himself that he had better demonstrate that he was a hard worker to help win the sage’s approval, to be worthy of his help in answering the questions.
After a few minutes, the sage went and sat down under a tree. The king continued digging with great enthusiasm and didn’t notice the sage’s retreat. He was digging away, when suddenly he realised he didn’t know how wide the sage wanted him to dig the hole. He looked around for the sage to find him sitting under a tree, smiling and gesturing with his hands how wide he wanted the hole.
The king thought it very strange how the sage could know what he needed without even having to ask. He continued digging, then he realised he didn’t know how deep to dig the hole. So, he turned to ask the sage to find him smiling and gesturing with his hands how deep he wanted the hole.
Again, the king thought it was strange the sage knew without him asking but he continued on digging. A short time later he realised he didn’t know what direction he should be digging in. He again turned to the sage to find him extending an arm in the direction he wanted the king to dig.
The king was now feeling quite embarrassed that he had started digging without knowing what to do first. However, he now knew how wide and deep to make the hole and what direction to dig. So he happily continued, then awhile later he realised he didn’t know how long to make what was now a trench.
He stopped in awe of his foolishness, and thought he would again have to check with the sage. Just as he was about to turn around and ask the sage, a man came running out of the forest all covered in blood. The king dropped the pick and ran over to the wounded man, who collapsed into his arms. The king laid him gently on the ground, looking at the man’s many wounds.
The wounded man looked up at the king and said in a weak voice “Don’t help me your Highness, I am not worthy of your help!”, and with that, he fell unconscious. The king was deeply disturbed at hearing this. He thought, “What is this man thinking to say such a thing? He must be a hardened criminal on the run to say such a thing, which means maybe I shouldn’t help him. Either that, or because he is a common man he is thinking he isn’t worthy of a king’s help.”
The king was slightly confused, but thought, “Regardless of who this man is, or thinks he is, he is still a child of God and we are all equal, so I must help him.” The king picked up the wounded man, then wondered, “Where should I take him?” He turned around to find the sage gesturing to take the man into the hut.
They took the man inside and lay him on a bed, then attended to all his wounds. After some time the man regained consciousness, he looked up at the king and said, “Your Highness, you’ve made a grave mistake, you shouldn’t have helped me!”
The king retorted by saying, “Why do you say that? It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, you are still worthy of a king’s help.”
The wounded man shook his head, “Your Highness, you don’t understand! I was hiding in the forest to kill you on your return, when two of your scouts saw me waiting to sniper you. It was in fleeing from them that I was wounded.”
The King asked, “Why on Earth did you want to kill me?”
The man explained, “Well you see, I come from a province on the edge of your kingdom. All the people in my district have been experiencing great hardship for many years. We are continually being raided by thieves and soldiers from neighbouring kingdoms. They have committed great atrocities and taken nearly everything we had. It has being going on so long now that it has left us with nothing.
We have received no help from your father, despite many pleas, and we haven’t had any relief since you have been king. So yesterday, I went to get advice as to what to do from this sage. I was sitting behind you when I overheard him tell you to come here alone. That was when I was overcome with hatred and revenge, and decided I would hide in the forest and kill you. That is why I am not worthy of receiving your help.”
The king listened in shock. He then pleaded, “Please forgive me sir, I had no idea that such things were happening in my kingdom! I will repay you and the people of your district tenfold what you have lost, in compensation for all your pain and suffering. But first, I must apologize sincerely for my father’s and my ignorance and failure to protect you. Please, you must forgive us”
The wounded man said in return “Your Highness, please forgive me for wanting to kill you, I had no idea you were such a righteous person. I am sorry I had such bad intentions towards you. You must forgive me” The king consoled him and said, “That is OK, it’s quite understandable. I probably would have felt the same way if I was in your position! I forgive you, and please forgive me and accept my offer in return for you suffering?
The wounded man had tears in his eyes “Yes, I forgive you, and thank you for forgiving me. I gratefully accept what you offer me and my people - and thank you for saving my life.”
They continued to talk and discuss matters whilst attending to the man’s wounds. The king offered the man a seat on his advisory board, to ensure he remained in touch with the situations the people were facing. He would also permanently station soldiers in the district to protect the people.
The man was eventually well enough to go home. They bid their farewells and allegiances to each other. The peasant went home a happy man, feeling extremely grateful to be alive, to have met the king, and to have received the compensation.
Once the man had left, the king turned to the sage and said, “I still have those three questions I need to ask you?”
The sage frowned and shook his head “You are a fool, you have answered them yourself today!”
The king was surprised “I don’t understand, how have I answered the questions myself?”
The sage looked disappointed, “You came to me wanting three questions answered. You want to know:
WHAT is the right thing to be doing in each moment?
WHERE is the right place to be in each moment?
WHO is the right person to be within each moment?
You have answered those questions today yourself!”
The astounded king declared, “That is exactly what I need to know! But I’m sorry, I still don’t understand how those questions have been answered for me today. Can you please explain it to me?”
The sage quietly explained, “You came to me yesterday wanting to find the answers to all your questions. Without these questions answered, you will not feel at peace within yourself and know that you are being the best and most righteous king you can possibly be.”
The king whole-heartedly agreed, in awe of the sage’s ability to Know.
The sage continued, “I told you to come up here today alone. Instead you came with a group of your soldiers. You instructed the soldiers to remain at the foot of the hill and await your return. Instead, they decided to scout around to ensure your safety. After I spoke to you yesterday, I spoke to that man and suggested he put forward the problems of those he represented to you directly in a private meeting. I told him you are a righteous king and would remedy their situation immediately. Instead, he was overcome with hatred and emotion and plotted to kill you. Therefore, on all three accounts, no one did as they were instructed!
“When you came here to see me, had I answered your questions straight away, you would have left earlier. Your soldiers would not have found the man waiting to kill you, so you would have been killed! The soldiers would have then tracked the man down and killed him. Instead, you waited and helped me.
When the wounded man came running and fell unconscious in your arms, you could have let him die, thinking he was unworthy. Instead you listened to your heart and helped him as an equal. In doing so you became aware of a big shortcoming in your proficiency as a king. Had you left him to die you may not have found out about the plight of those people, and your reputation as a king would have been greatly undermined. Now, you are a great king for having unconditionally saved a poor man’s life and shown immense compassion for your people.
You listened to your heart and you have received great joy in having done so. That man did not listen to his heart and did the opposite, so he suffered for it.
So when you look at everything that happened today:
- you didn’t get killed
- the people of the kingdom still have their righteous king
- you became aware of your shortcomings
- you learnt true forgiveness, understanding and compassion
- the wounded man learnt to listen to his heart - and wise men
- he learnt forgiveness and humility
- his wife still has a husband and children their father
- the people he represented receive ten-foldwhat they’ve lost
- and they willnow all get the ongoing protection they need.
So whichever way you now look at it - irrespective how much suffering was involved, and despite whether people did as they were instructed or not - on ALL counts, the best thing took place for ALL the people involved! In addition to this, everything turned out perfectly for everyone else connected to these people! Therefore, you are ALWAYS doing the right thing, at the right place and with the right person! – PLUS, the moment the man came out of the forest and you stopped digging, which happened to be all I needed. That means - I got my trench finished!”
He beamed a smile at the king. The king stood in awe, elated at having been shown the answers to his problems. He expressed his enormous gratitude to the sage and turned to leave. The sage abruptly said “But that is not all!”
The king stopped and turned around. With a puzzled face he looked the sage.
The sage continued, “When you came here to me see me, you were acting with the noble intentions of fulfilling your role as righteously as possible. When you offered to take the pick and dig for me, you acted selfishly; otherwise you would have asked me out of humility – how wide to dig; how deep to dig; what direction to dig and how far to dig. Whenever you act out of your own needs to get a result, you will lose sight of the steps required at each point along the way. Before you do anything, you must have the humility to learn everything involved – only then you will be able to fulfill all that is required of you!”
The king acknowledged the truth in the sage’s words. He expressed even more gratitude for his help and turned to leave. The sage held up his hand and proclaimed, “But wait, that’s not all!”
The king again turned back to listen to the old man explain, “When you took the pick, you did it to win my favour. You didn’t take it with the intention of helping an old man. Instead, you were only interested in impressing me with your willingness and effort so that I would give you your answers. You thought by putting in such a big effort it would help, but I was going to explain this to you anyway.
You came up here with the best of intentions, but still acted selfishly out of insecurity that your needs may not be met. In so doing, you totally missed the point and overlooked the role you needed to play in that moment! So never be fooled into thinking that the effort you put into things will determine the results – it is only essential that the intentions in which you act be clear!”
The king was humbled and expressed his apologies and gratitude, and turned to leave. Once again, the sage exclaimed, “But that’s still not all!”
The king turned around and the sage continued his explanation, “You came to ask me three questions – you now have had six answers given to you!
You wanted to know WHAT to do, WHERE to be and WHO to be within each given moment. Now you have also been given the answers as to WHY to do things – to fulfill your duties and roles in service to others; HOW to do this – with clear and humble intentions, according to what is in your Heart, and knowing all the factors being asked of you; and WHEN to do this – in each and every passing moment!
You have been given twice as much as you were seeking. The universe will always provide more than we even know to ask for!
You must only live and do what you are here to be and do, as best you can, with what you have and are given in each moment – the rest will unfold perfectly according to the Divine Plan.
Everything you need will ALWAYS come to you! Living this way is the Highest Truth. This Knowledge will enable you, and all those around you, to live with the deepest Peace! Now that you are aware of this, you may go!”
Brian Gerard Schaefer :)
If you want to know more about how to live consciously, read my eBook THE NATURE OF LIFE: How to remain at Peace while living in the modern world. Click on the link below to purchase your copy now.