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XXV. The Sage's Compassion

The pointed words of the father inflicted great pain on the tender heart of Sringi, the son; they fell like sword thrusts or hammer strokes; the poor boy could bear them no longer; he fell on the floor and grasping the feet of his father, he wailed, "Father, pardon me. I was overcome by anger that the king himself should behave so outrageously, insolently, so irreverently, so inhumanly. I could not control my resentment at the insult hurled on you. It is not proper that a king should behave like this, in this most inappropriate manner, having come into a hermitage; isn't it?"

Seeing his plight, Sameeka, the ascetic, took the son beside him and said, "Son, the compulsion of the moment is inescapable. The dictates of reason are often brushed aside by man, due to that compulsion. The drag of destiny will destroy the reins of reason. The force of the moment faces man with all its power and he cannot but yield. This king is a staunch theist, a deep devotee. He has earned spiritual splendour. He is established in moral behaviour. He is the lord of all the regions; his fame has pervaded all the three worlds. He is served always by thousands of loyal men and minds. When he leaves his mansion and moves out, he is accompanied by many guards who await with folded hands and eyes fixed on him, his least command, so that they may win his favour by executing them to his satisfaction. As soon as he enters a kingdom, the ruler thereof accords him a glorious welcome, offers him magnificent hospitality and respectful homage. A person accustomed to this rich routine was naturally shocked when he did not receive any sign of welcome here; he was not even recognised and respected; the neglect was so serious that he did not get a cup of water to alleviate his thirst. He was torn by the pangs of hunger and of humiliation, for there was no response even though he called out many times. So, unable to bear the agony and the shock, he was led to commit this improper act. Of course, it is a fault but, just for this small misdemeanour, when you reacted so harshly, you brought irreparable damage to the entire community of ascetics and hermits. Alas! What a terrible calamity have you called down!"

The aged hermit closed his eyes and sat silent for a while, seeking some means by which the king can be saved from the curse. Finding none, and realising that God alone can set such things right, since He is all-powerful and all-knowing, he prayed with all his heart, "O, refuge of all the worlds! This immature little boy, with no knowledge of right and wrong, of what is one's duty and what is not, prompted by ignorance, has committed this great blunder, harmful to the king. Pardon this boy or punish him; but, promote the welfare of the king".

The hermit opened his eyes. He saw the ascetics and the young comrades of his son who stood around him. In sadness, he told them, "Did you notice the injury that my son has perpetrated? It is not right that we, hermits, should insult and injure the king who is the guardian and guide of humanity, isn't it?"