A King heard about a special thirty days’ discipline by which he could be blessed with the gift of Proclaimed Wisdom—namely wisdom and the ability to declare it. The discipline was harsh, but the king was delighted to discover that it contained no requirement as to mental control, which would have ruled him out. The only necessity was endurance. He managed to follow the drastic reduction in his diet, the total abstinence from alcohol and opium, the limitation of sleep to three hours, but he found it increasingly difficult to keep himself away from his queen and concubines. On the twenty-seventh day he realized that he was not going to be able to do so by his will alone.
He had himself dressed in poor clothes, and then the chief minister locked him in a deep dungeon underneath the palace. A stupid and fanatical pair of guards were borrowed from the train of a visiting ambassador, who told them (as he had been told) that a dangerous conspirator was to be kept in that dungeon, and that they were being given the privilege of guarding him for the three days. They were only to pass him in some poor food and water. They could not speak the language, of course, but they were also to pay no attention to signs.
For three days and nights the king shouted and raved and pleaded and wept, and fell ill and nearly died, and cursed the guards for their stupidity. They followed their instructions. On the completion of the last three days, the guards were returned with a reward, and the king (an exhausted shadow of himself, but in the royal robes) waited in the courtyard.
Soon after dawn a heavenly messenger came flying toward the kingdom, bearing a little pot which contained dew that had fallen on a certain altar on a certain sacred mountain, collected every morning. When drunk, it would give the blessing of Proclaimed Wisdom. As he neared the capital, the messenger saw some girls bathing in a stream, and found himself suddenly submerged by a tidal wave of desire. He put the pot on a rock at the top of a high cliff, and went down to them. When he came back he found the pot upset and the nectar all spilt; a squirrel had investigated it, knocked it over, and fled.
The messenger, aghast, refilled the pot with water from the stream, and went on. He alighted in the courtyard and presented the pot to the king, who in the presence of all the people, slowly drank it. The audience prostrated themselves.
Under the pretense of giving an initiation, the messenger drew near the king and whispered what had happened, continuing, “It will take a month till the pot can be filled again. When it is, I shall bring it to you secretly. It will be my last commission, as I shall have to pass three lives as a quadruped, having become a quadruped on my way here. You will be expected to proclaim wisdom. My own wisdom is limited, but I can tell you some things which you can say to gain time till you actually drink the water and can speak wisdom from yourself. For instance, I can tell you the method of controlling passion.”
“You are hardly the one to do that,” retorted the king. “But in any case, that’s not the sort of thing I want. Tell me some things that are going to happen, so that I can prophesy to my people.”
“O king,” said the heavenly messenger, “it was the great wave of your frustrated desire which overwhelmed me on the way to your palace; I had never expected to meet anything like that outside hell. It took me by surprise. I do know the method of controlling passion, but I did not apply it, and I shall suffer for that failure. As to prophecies, I can tell you only one thing: There is bound to be an earthquake tonight, as a result of the thwarting of the proper course of things. After that, you must bluff your way with ambiguous announcements, as most oracles do. Don’t answer more than one question a day.”
He took his leave and rose into the air. The people raised their heads and the king motioned them to get up. “O my people,” he shouted, “do not remain in your houses tonight. Sleep in the streets or in the fields. There is going to be an earthquake!”
The people hurried home and brought out their furniture and beds into the streets, while the king had everything and everyone taken from the palace. Sure enough, there was something of an earthquake which brought some houses down. But thanks to the king’s warning, no one was injured except a few who had refused to believe.
Next day in the court, the king announced that for the next month he would answer just one question each morning. A minister asked, “In the neighbouring state, a general is rebelling against the king (a different one). Will he be successful or not?” The king did not like the neighboring monarch, and on an impulse said, “The general will be successful.” That king, who had heard about the earthquake prediction and the events that led up to it, at once made his submission to the general in order to save needless bloodshed in a lost cause.
Next day the king was asked about a famous poet and writer who had become ill. The king did not like this man either, and said, “The illness will be fatal.” When this was reported to the writer he turned pale, lost all desire to eat, and died.
In this way the king created the future by his predictions, which became more and more potent as each one was confirmed.
After a month, the heavenly messenger appeared secretly in the king’s bedroom, with a pot full of the nectar. “This,” he said, “will give you true wisdom, not these prophecies you have been making, which have nothing to do with wisdom. When you are wise, you will not make them.”
“Then you can keep your nectar,” snapped back the king. “I am satisfied that what I am doing is far better than preaching to people about controlling passions and that sort of thing. What I do has real results.” (Soon afterwards he had his first and only failure, having predicted that he himself would live forever.)
The messenger took the pot, and rose into the air, not knowing what to do. With his divine sight he saw another messenger, on his way to give spiritual illumination to a saintly man. He said, “I will come along with you, and give him what I have as well.”
“But he does not speak at all,” said the other. “He has taken a vow of silence because the people round here are such terrible gossips. He may have the wisdom, but I do not see how he will be able to proclaim it.”
Nevertheless the blessing of Proclaimed Wisdom was given along with the blessing of Illumination. They slipped the two potions into the drink of herbs which one of the saint’s disciples prepared for him each evening. When the saint tasted the sweetness of it, he looked inquiringly at the disciple, who stared back blankly. The master drank it up without pursuing the point; he supposed that the disciple had put in something sugary without realizing how sweet it was.
Thereafter, when the people of the town saw the saint, they often found a sort of peace coming into them; their passions were quieted, and they had courage and inspiration to face the battles of life.
One man, who was shouldering heavy responsibilities, had always been a target for jealous gossip and envious slanders, along with the host of anxieties and worries connected with his position. He saw the saint, on his way to visit a dying woman, passing through the monsoon rain. He was not huddling under the eaves like others on the street, but walking calmly through the wall of water, head thrown back and obviously enjoying the feel of the warm rain, not at all put out by the soaking of his simple dress. It made a vivid picture, which remained in the mind of the onlooker. Later on, when that worried man was confronted with the usual mosquito swarm of his anxieties, the image of the holy figure in the rain came to him, rising before his inner eye again and again. At first obscurely and later more clearly, he found that in himself there was something which could walk serenely through the downpour of inner apprehensions and outer disparagement. He felt that it was all nothing more than a monsoon rain, which would pass away of itself.
Another man of the town had undertaken, or rather been burdened with, a long task which seemed never-ending. He felt he would never be free from it. Sometimes he would work energetically for a week or so, but it seemed to make no impression on the magnitude of what remained, and then he would sink into apathy. Whether he tried hard or did nothing, it made no appreciable difference.
The town was not far from a desert, and if a strong wind blew up from a certain direction, the houses on that side would have their little gardens covered with sand drifts. One of these was the saint’s small place. The townsman happened to pass that way after a sandstorm, and he saw that the garden was piled with sand, round the flowers and bushes, on their leaves, everywhere. He saw the holy man with a tiny brush, slowly and rhythmically sweeping sand off the leaves into a little pan, and thought to himself, “At that rate, it will take him weeks to get it clear.”
He noticed in the neighboring garden a little boy of about three, who was piling up the sand with his hands into little hills and then laughing as they collapsed. Looking at the two, he realized that the saint too was enjoying the shifting patterns made by the sand as he brushed it. He felt a sort of cool breeze in his heart. When he got home, the endlessness of his own task took on a new dimension. He found he could now enjoy each little bit of it as he did it, without thinking further, and felt himself freed from a crushing burden.
In the last years of the saint’s life, a stray dog turned up. It looked as if it had traveled a long way, and gone through terrible experiences. It attached itself to him, following him around with great devotion, but never getting in the way. It seemed to understand many things about his life. One day when the dog was sitting on the little verandah beside the teacher, two disciples in the garden below were discussing traditional stories about aspirants who for some fault had to undergo animal existence, but nevertheless retained their memory and higher awareness through the time of imprisonment in a lower body. One of them was saying confidently, “Oh, rather impossible, I’d have thought.” He recalled one of the stories about a camel, and said rhetorically, “How could he retain spiritual consciousness during a camel incarnation? The brain of a camel simply couldn’t entertain the thoughts.” He suddenly felt the dog’s intelligent eyes on him, and stopped with an inexplicable sense of embarrassment.
Above, the saint nodded, and patted the dog affectionately