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Monday, July 23, 2012

Tale of Birbal 4

Akbar Birbal Stories 1 (The Sadhu)

Akbar came to the throne when he was only thirteen years old. 
In the years that followed, he built on of the greatest empires 
of his time. He lived in unimaginable splendor. He was surrounded 
by courtiers who agreed with every word he said, who flattered him
and treated him as if he were a god. Perhaps it was not surprising that 
Emperor Akbar was sometimes arrogant and behaved as if the whole
 world belonged to him.

One day, Birbal decided to make the great emperor stop and think 

about life.

That evening as the emperor was going towards his palace, he noticed 

a Sadhu lying in the centre of his garden. He could not believe his eyes.
A strange Sadhu, in ragged clothes, right in the middle of the palace 
garden? The guards would have to be punished for this, thought the 
emperor furiously as he walked over to that Sadhu and prodded him 
with the tip of his embroidered slipper.

"Here, fellow!" he cried. "What are you doing here? Get up and go 

away at once!"

That Sadhu opened his eyes. Then he sat up slowly. "Huzoor," he said 

in a sleepy voice."Is this your garden, then?"

"Yes!" cried the Emperor. "This garden those rose bushes, the 

fountain beyond that, the courtyard, the palace, this fort, this empire, 
it all belongs to me!"

Slowly that Sadhu stood up. "And the river, Huzoor? And the city? 

And this country?"

"Yes, yes, it's all mine", said the emperor. "Now get out!"

"Ah", said the Sadhu. "And before you, Huzoor. Who did the garden 

and fort and city belong to then?"

"My father, of course", said the emperor. In spite of his irritation, he 

was beginning to get interested in the Sadhu's questions. He loved 
philosophical discussions and he could tell, from his manner of speaking, 
that the Sadhu was a learned man.

"And who was here before him?" the Sadhu asked quietly.

"His father, my father's father, as you know."

"Ah", said the Sadhu. So this garden, those rose bushes, the palace and 

the fort all this has only belonged to you for your lifetime. Before that they
belonged to your father, am I right? And after yours time they will belong 
to your son, and then to his son?

"Yes", said the Emperor Akbar wonderingly.

"So each one stays here for a time and then goes on his ways?"


"Like a dharmashala?" the Sadhu asked. "No one owns a dharmashala. Or the shade 

of a tree on the side of a road. We stop and rest for a while and then go on. And 
someone has always been there before us and someone will always come after
 we have gone. Is that not so?"

"It is", Emperor Akbar quietly.

"So your garden, your palace, your fort, your empire... these are only places you will 

stay in for a time, for the span of your lifetime. When you die, they will no longer belong 
to you. You will go, leaving them in the possession of someone else, just as your 
father did and his father before him."

Emperor Akbar nodded. "The whole world is a dharmashala", he said slowly, thinking

 very hard. "In which we mortals rest awhile. That's what you are telling me, isn't it? 
Nothing on this earth can ever belong to a single person, because each person is 
only passing through the earth and must die one day?"

The Sadhu nodded solemnly. Then, bowing to the ground, he removed his white beard 

and saffron turban and his voice changed. "Jahanpanah, forgive me!" he said, in his 
normal voice. "It was my way of asking you to think about..."

"Birbal, oh, Birbal!" the emperor exclaimed. "You are wiser than any philosopher. Come,

 come at once to the royal chamber and let us discuss this further. Even emperors are
 but wayfarers on the path of life, it is clear!"

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