This time, I am going to narrate an old folk tale from Ancient India.
Long long ago in the ancient city of Varanasi there lived a learned Pandit who ran a Patashala (school) and had many students studying scriptures under him.
This Pandit had a daughter who was as beautiful as she was virtuous. The daughter was of marriageable age.
In the ancient days, weddings were performed at a very early age and the suitor for the child was generally chosen by the parents. Also, usually the boys got married as soon as they finished their studies in a Patashala.
The Pandit and his wife were anxious that they should find a bridegroom who was as virtuous as their daughter.
“You have got so many disciples who are finishing their studies this year, can we select any one of them for a bridegroom?” asked the wife.
The Pandit said, “If their intelligence was only the criteria for selection, I can do it within seconds” said he. “But, we need a boy who is has good values and virtues, not brain alone…” He paused for a while and said, “Well, I will give them a test by which we can find out who is the most virtuous of them all”.
The next day, he called a few of them who were completing their studies that year. They were going for a short break to their homes. He told them, “Boys, now I have a test for you. You have to obey as I say”.
The puzzled boys were wondering what the test was, when the Pandit said, “ In the coming ten days, when you are at your home, you will have to steal small but valuable trinkets from whomever you can, and come and give it to me. But the condition is that no one should see you stealing. I repeat, NO ONE should see you”.
The boys were baffled at this strange order but they had been taught that they should never disobey their teacher at any cost and so they did not dare to question him and meekly went off to their homes.
Whilst at their homes, they visited their relatives and friends and faithfully stole small trinkets here and there, bundled them up and took it with them when they went back. Back at the Patashala (school), each of them met the Pandit and gave the bundles containing the things stolen by them. The Pandit thought to himself, “I will have to keep them safely with identification, for I will be returning them shortly” But he did not display any emotion on his face.
All the boys except one, gave the things they had stolen to the Pandit. Ramu, the lone boy who did not bring anything for the Pandit was looking visibly disturbed. He was an extremely intelligent boy.
The Pandit called him in the evening and asked, “What happened Ramu? You look very disturbed…”
Ramu was hesitant. “Guruji… er… er…” he stuttered, not able to take the dialogue forward.
The Pandit persisted. “Tell me my boy. What happened? Why are you so disturbed? Were you able to do the job I told you to?”
The moment the Pandit talked about the ‘job’ Ramu broke down. “Panditji” he said, almost in tears, “I was not able to steal a single thing from anyone Panditji. I know I have disobeyed you but this is what it is…” He was on the verge of sobbing.
“Why Ramu?” asked the Pandit. “Why could you not get anything? Were there people around always??”
“No Panditji!” said Ramu. “There were occasions when nobody was present… but…”
“But what?” asked the Panditji. “What prevented you from stealing anything when nobody was seeing you?”
“Well” he said “I thought nobody was watching me but whenever I tried to take something, an inner voice seemed to tell me that what I was doing was wrong. It seemed that the inner being was witnessing everything right from my thoughts. Since you had told us that no one should see us while stealing, I could not steal anything as I am being watched by this inner being always. Panditji I am so sorry!”
He seemed to be sorry for not being able to follow what the teacher had said. He stood there looking forlorn.
There was so much of joy in the Pandit’s eyes. “Well done Ramu!” he exclaimed and hugged him. Ramu was at a loss to know why the teacher was so happy.
The Pandit said, “Ramu, I am not in need of any wealth. This was a test intended to find out the most virtuous student amongst you all. And I have found you!”
He then called all the other students and said, “Stealing for any cause, and on anybody’s bidding is absolutely wrong. I am not in need of any wealth as you people would have thought. I was testing your virtues and only Ramu has passed my test. I am not returning all the bundles you gave me with a request to you all to return them to where they belong”
Ramu felt happy in passing the ‘test’ of his teacher and the Panditji felt very happy at having found a suitable bridegroom for his daughter.