Thursday, November 4, 2004

nice story

Mail from Piyush :) Nice story

Three Questions

One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers

to three questions, he would never stray in any matter.

1. WHAT is the BEST TIME to do each thing?

2. WHO are the MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE to work with?

3. WHAT is the MOST IMPORTANT THING to do at all times?

The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever

could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the

decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different


In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make

up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year

for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then

could he hope to do every task at the right time.

Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that

the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to

everything in order to know what to do at what time.

Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to

have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each

and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the

Wise and then to act according to their advice.

Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and

could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what

was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers.

The responses to the second question also lacked accord.

One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in

administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others

recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors.

The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science

was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others

claimed the most important thing was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was


After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit

who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The

emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though

he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only

the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power.

So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his

attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed

the slope alone to seek the hermit.

Reaching the holy man's dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit

digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he

nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously

hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the

ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily.

The emperor approached him and said, "I have come here to ask your help

with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the

most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do

at all times?"

The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the

shoulder and continued digging. The emperor said, "You must be tired.

Here, let me give you a hand with that." The hermit thanked him, handed

the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit

and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but

instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, "Why don't you rest

now? I can take over again." But the emperor continued to dig. One hour

passed, then two. Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain. The

emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, "I came here to ask if

you could answer my three questions. But if you can't give me any answer,

please let me know so that I can get on may way home."

The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, "Do you hear someone

running over there?" The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with

a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his

hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the

emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning.

Opening the man's clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had

received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then

used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it

within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second

time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped.

At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of

water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh

water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to

turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the

hut where they laid him down on the hermit's bed. The man closed his eyes

and lay quietly. The emperor was worn out from the long day of climbing

the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell

asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a

moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked

over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in

confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then

said in a faint whisper, "Please forgive me."

"But what have you done that I should forgive you?" the emperor asked.

"You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy,

and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you

killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were

coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise

you on your way back to kill you. But after waiting a long time there was

still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out.

But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized

me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn't met

you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead

you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I

vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children

and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness."

The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a

former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the

man's property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the

man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take

the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to

the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time.

He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before.

The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. "But your questions have

already been answered."

"How's that?" the emperor asked, puzzled.

"Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with

digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way

home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore

the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the

most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to

help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time

was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for

him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled

with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most

important pursuit was taking care of his wound. Remember that there is

only one important time and is Now. The present moment is the only time

over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the

person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you

will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important

pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for

that alone is the pursuit of life."

Leo Tolstoy

No comments: