The Guru's Five Wisdoms

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8 min

Tale from India.

Once upon a time there was a handsome young man named Ram Singh. He befriended everyone he met and should have lived a happy life, had it not been for his only enemy – his stepmother. They were impossible for them to agree on. In the end, Ram Singh decided to leave his home and seek his fortune in the wide world, although he was not really old enough for it. He went to a guru, a wise man, who had taught him since he was a small child. He told the guru about his desire to leave home, but the old man dissuaded him from this. β€œStay in your father's house. It is better to have half a loaf of bread than to seek a whole one out in the world,” explained the guru. But Ram Singh did not give up. He had already made up his mind and just wanted a well wish from his old teacher. "Well," said the Guru. "Then you will get five wise pieces of advice from me. Remember them on your journey and all will go well for you. Number one: Always obey without hesitation the order your master gives you. Number two: Never speak unkindly or with harsh words to anyone. Number three: Never lie. Number Four: Never try to appear as nice as those who are nicer than you are. Number Five: Wherever you go, always stop and listen when you hear a wise man speak.” Ram Singh thanked his guru and wandered out into the world. After a few days he came to a big city. There he learned that one of the city's powerful men, the vizier, had just fired his closest servant and was looking for a replacement. Ram Singh sought out the vizier, and as the youth was wise, kind-hearted and handsome, he was immediately employed as a servant of the great man.

Some time later the vizier received a command from the raja, his ruler, that they should set out on a long journey. Ram Singh also accompanied a large retinue of elephants, camels, merchants, servants and soldiers. Their journey took them through a great desert. All too soon the water ran out and the caravan began to look for a village or town. Soon they found a small village, but there the people declared in horror that they could not quench the thirst of the entire royal entourage with their little well. The only option was a spring located in the ruins of a palace outside the village. But this place was said to be haunted by demons and evil spirits, for no one had ever returned from it. The visor stroked his long beard and thought for a while. Then he called out to Ram Singh. "Come my servant," said the vizier. "There is a saying: No man can be trusted until he has been tried. I know you are wise and not the superstitious kind. Go to the ruins of the old palace and fetch water for the raja and his people.”

Ram Singh tied two copper vessels to a donkey and himself took a vessel in each hand. Then he set off for the ruin. When dusk fell he was there. At the bottom of a white alabaster staircase he found a spring, from which a steady stream of clear water flowed into a basin. Here he lowered the copper vessels and filled them with water. But just as he finished he heard heavy footsteps coming thundering down the stairs. It was a giant with a grim look. In one hand he carried a lantern and in the other he carefully carried a human skeleton. "Tell me, O mortal, what you think of my fair wife!" rumbled the giant. Being a wise and perceptive young man, Ram Singh immediately understood what the giant meant. The skeleton he carried had once been his wife, an ordinary human woman. But since the giant was immortal, she had faded away with old age, and in his grief the giant had kept her legs, and in his imagination she was as beautiful and alive as ever. "Surely I have never seen such a beautiful woman!" said Ram Singh. "Finally someone who has eyes to see with!" exclaimed the giant. "The others who came here replied that she was just a pile of dried bones and therefore I killed them all. Since you are a polite, clear-sighted young man, I will help you.” Carefully the giant laid the skeleton on the floor and grabbed the heavy copper vessels filled with water. He carried them easily up the alabaster steps and set them down on the ground outside the ruin. "Since I like you, you may ask me a favor, any favor," said the giant. "Perhaps you want me to show you where the gold treasures of dead kings are buried?" But Ram Singh only shook his head and said, "No, in that case I only want you and your wife to leave this ruin, so that people can come here and fetch water." The giant must have expected a more difficult task, for his face lit up and he lifted up his wife's legs and immediately left the ruin with great strides.

When Ram Singh and the donkey returned to Rajan's camp with the water, he did not tell what had happened, but explained that the spring was now open for anyone to use. The Rajan was greatly impressed and immediately ordered the vizier to exchange Ram Singh for one of his own servants. So now Ram Singh became the servant of one of the most powerful men in India.

As time passed, Ram Singh impressed everyone in the palace and he made friends everywhere. Finally the raja made him treasurer of the great treasury. But one man looked at Ram Singh's success with great envy. It was the raja's own brother, who had plans to overthrow the raja and make himself ruler. His cunning plan was to win over Ram Singh to his side in order to gain access to the treasury. Then he could use the money to equip his own army. Rajan's brother began a long campaign to win Ram Singh's confidence. At first it was all about flattery. This turned into small gifts and finally he offered the young man his daughter's hand in marriage. Ram Singh was flattered, but remembered the guru's words of wisdom: "Never try to appear as nice as those who are nicer than you are." So he refused the marriage.

Rajan's brother couldn't believe his ears! Now he was so furious that instead he started slandering Ram Singh to the raja. He told him that the young man had started stealing from the treasury and laughed at the king behind his back. Rajan was understandably upset by this and gave his brother a free hand to deal with the problem as he wished. So the raja's brother devised a diabolical and cunning plan. He wrote a letter to an outpost of guards, guarding the outskirts of the city. This letter stated that the guards would immediately kill the person who delivered the letter, cut off his head and take it to the raja's palace. Rajan's brother gave Ram Singh the message and sent him off to the outpost. But next to the guards' camp was a small temple. As Ram Singh passed it, he heard a guru lecture inside and remembered his own guru's words of wisdom: "Wherever you go, always stop and listen when you hear a wise man speak." So he sat down among the others who were listening and put the letter beside him. Hours passed and the raja's brother waited impatiently for Ram Singh's head to be delivered to him. Finally, he disguised himself in merchant clothes and went to the guard post to see what happened. There he caught sight of Ram Singh among those listening to the wise guru. The letter lay on the ground next to the youngster. Rajan's brother was so enraged when he saw this that he did not think twice. "You were supposed to deliver this!" he growled at Ram Singh (who did not recognize him) and seized the letter. "How hard can it be to cope??" With these words the raja's brother stepped up to one of the sentinels and left the letter. When the guard read the letter and saw the raja's own seal on it, he dutifully drew his sword and cut off the head of the raja's brother.

Sometime later that day, a sentry appeared at the raja's palace and delivered a head wrapped in a blanket, along with the fateful letter. Rajan was horrified to see his brother's head but when he read the letter and was told that it was actually Ram Singh who would have delivered it, he began to put two and two together. He knew that his brother was an ambitious man and soon figured out the plot that was meant to overthrow his rule. Thus, Ram Singh was able to continue his life as treasurer in the raja's palace. Eventually he married a simple girl from the people and together they had a lot of children and lived as happily as any human could ask for in life.

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