Before several centuries, there was a very large, dense and dark forest. A group of monkeys arrived at the forest. It was winter season, and the monkeys struggled hard to survive the freezing cold nights. They were hunting for fire to get warm.

One night, they saw a firefly and considered it a dab of fire. All the monkeys in the group shouted ‘Fire, Fire, Fire, Yeah we got fire!’

A couple of monkeys tried to catch the firefly and it escaped. They were sad as they could not catch the fire. They were talking to themselves that they couldn’t live in the cold if they didn’t get the fire.

The next night, again they saw many fireflies. After several attempts, the monkeys caught a few fireflies. They put the fireflies in a hole dug in the land and tried to blow the flies.

They blew the flies very hard without knowing the fact that they were flies!

An owl was watching the activities of the monkeys. The owl reached the monkeys and told them, ‘Hey those are not fire! They are flies. You won’t be able to make fire from it!’

The monkeys laughed at the owl. One monkey replied the owl, ‘Hey old owl you don’t know anything about how to make fire. Don’t disturb us!’

The Owl warned the monkeys again and asked them to stop their foolish act. ‘Monkeys, you cannot make fire from the flies! Please hear my words.’

The monkeys tried to make fire from the flies.

The Owl told them again to stop their foolish act. ‘You are struggling so much, go take your shelter in a nearby cave. You can save yourself from the freezing cold! You won’t get fire!’

One monkey shouted at the owl and the owl left the place.

The monkeys were simply doing the foolish activity for several hours and it was almost midnight. They were very tired and realized that the words of the owl were correct and they were trying to blow a fly.

They sheltered themselves at the cave and escaped from the cold.

We may go wrong many times and should seek and accept the advice / suggestions provided by others.

Once upon a time, there were three brothers named Samuel, Timothy and Xander, who lived in a cottage by the woods. They were honest and hardworking. Every day, they would venture into the forest to fell wood. Later, they would sell it in the market where it would fetch a decent price. Thus, their life continued in this manner.

However, the brothers were always sad and morose. Even though they lived a good life, they were unhappy. Each one hankered for something or the other and would pine for it.

One day, while Samuel, Timothy and Xander were returning home from the woods carrying their bundle of logs, they saw an old haggard woman bent low with a sack on her back. As they were kind and compassionate, the brothers immediately approached the poor woman and offered to carry the sack all the way to her home. She smiled and expressed her gratefulness, while replying that the sack actually contained apples that she had collected in the forest. Samuel, Timothy and Xander took turns in carrying the sack, and at last, when they reached the woman’s home, they were very tired indeed.

Now, this old woman was no ordinary person and had magical powers. Pleased with the brothers’ kind and selfless nature, she asked them whether there was anything she could help them with, as a reward.

“We are not happy, and that has become our greatest cause of concern,” replied Samuel. The woman asked what would make them happy. Each brother spoke of a different thing that would please him.

“A splendid mansion with plenty of servants would make me happy. There is nothing more that I would want,” said Samuel.

“A big farm with lots of harvest would make me happy. Then I could be rich without having to worry,” said Timothy.

“A beautiful wife would make me happy. Every day, after returning home, her sweet little face would light me up and make me forget my sorrows,” said Xander.

“That is fine,” said the old woman, “If these things will give you happiness, you deserve them in every respect for helping a poor helpless person like me. Go home, and each of you shall find exactly what you have wished for.”

This took the brothers by surprise as they did not know about the woman’s powers. Nevertheless, they took leave and returned home. But lo behold, beside their cottage, there was a huge mansion with a doorman and other servants waiting outside! They greeted Samuel and ushered him in. At some distance, a yellow farmland showed itself. A ploughman came and announced that it belonged to Timothy. Timothy gasped. Just at that moment, a beautiful maiden approached Xander and coyly said that she was his wife. The brothers were beside themselves with joy at this new turn of events. They thanked their lucky stars and adapted to their new lifestyles.

The days passed and soon a year was over. The situation was however, now different for Samuel, Timothy and Xander. Samuel had grown tired of owning the mansion. He became lazy and did not supervise his servants into taking proper care of the mansion. Timothy, who had built a decent house next to his farmland, found it burdensome to plough the fields and sow seeds from time to time. Xander too, grew used to his beautiful wife and no longer found any joy in keeping her company. In short, all of them were unhappy again.

One day, the three of them met up and decided to visit the old woman at her home. “That woman has magical powers which turned our dreams into reality. However, since we are no longer happy, we must go and seek her help now. It is she who will be able to tell us the secret to attaining happiness,” said Samuel.

When they came to the old woman, she was cooking stew in a pot. Greeting her, each of the brothers recounted how he had turned unhappy again. “Please tell us how we can once more be happy,” said Timothy.

“Well,” replied the old woman. “It is all in your own hands. See, when each of you made his wish and it was granted, you were happy. However, happiness never lasts without a very important thing – content. Earlier, since you were happy but never really content or satisfied, boredom and misery overcame you and you became sad again. Only if you learn to be content, can you truly enjoy the bliss of happiness.”

Samuel, Timothy and Xander realized their mistake and went back home. They saw how lucky they were to have the gifts for which they had once craved. Samuel felt grateful for being the owner of a mansion and began taking good care of it. Timothy began to plough his land diligently so as to have a good harvest in time. Xander too learnt to appreciate his pretty wife’s chores in the house and her devotion towards him. Remembering that happiness and content went side by side, never again did the brothers take their blessings for granted. And thus, they lived happily ever after.

What The Drop Taketh

The anecdotes of Emperor Akbar and his trusted aide Birbal are entertaining as well as enlightening. Once, the Emperor received the gift of a rare perfume. As he opened the bottle, a drop of perfume fell to the floor. Akbar instinctively moved to retrieve it by wiping the floor with his finger. As he looked up he noticed a bemused look on Birbal’s face… his eyes seemed to mock the Emperor for being scrounging.

To change Birbal’s perception, Akbar summoned him the next morning to his bath. He asked his attendants to fill up the bathtub with the best of perfumes. Akbar sought to show Birbal that as Emperor he could afford to waste as much perfume, as he wanted. Birbal when asked to react said the immortal lines, “Boond se jati, woh haudh se nahi aati” (An entire tub full cannot retrieve what the drop took way!)

Birbal sought to tell the Emperor that his earlier instinctive action (that exhibited miserliness) could not be undone by an intentional action (aimed at big-heartedness). Our character is determined by our reactions, not by forced posturing. It is better to be transparent then wear favorable masks. In fact every little action and reaction, every spoken word and emerging thought reflects our true self!

The Well Dispute

Once there was a complaint at King Akbar’s court.

There were two neighbors who shared their garden. In that garden, there was a well that was possessed by Iqbal Khan. His neighbor, who was a farmer wanted to buy the well for irrigation purpose. Therefore they signed an agreement between them, after which the farmer owned the well.

Even after selling the well to the farmer, Iqbal continued to fetch water from the well. Angered by this, the farmer had come to get justice from King Akbar.

King Akbar asked Iqbal the reason for fetching water from the well even after selling it to the farmer.

Iqbal replied that he had sold only the well to the farmer but not the water inside it.

King Akbar wanted Birbal who was present in the court listening to the problem to solve the dispute.

Birbal came forward and gave a solution. He said ” Iqbal, You say that you have sold only the well to the farmer. And you claim that the water is yours. Then how come you can keep your water inside another person’s well without paying rent?”

Iqbal’s trickery was countered thus in a tricky way. The farmer got justice and Birbal was fairly rewarded.

The King of Iran had heard that Birbal was one of the wisest men in the East and desirous of meeting him sent him an invitation to visit his country.

In due course, Birbal arrived in Iran.

When he entered the palace he was flabbergasted to find not one but six kings seated there.

All looked alike. All were dressed in kingly robes. Who was the real king?

The very next moment he got his answer. Confidently, he approached the king and bowed to him.

“But how did you identify me?” the king asked, puzzled.

Birbal smiled and explained: “The false kings were all looking at you, while you yourself looked straight ahead. Even in regal robes, the common people will always look to their king for support.”

Overjoyed, the king embraced Birbal and showered him with gifts.

A man who made spears and shields once came to Akbar’s court.

“Your Majesty, nobody can make shields and spears to equal mine,” he said. “My shields are so strong that nothing can pierce them and my spears are so sharp that there’s nothing they cannot pierce.”

“I can prove you wrong on one count certainly,” said Birbal suddenly.

“Impossible!” declared the man.

“Hold up one of your shields and I will pierce it with one of your spears,” said Birbal with a smile.

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?”

“Yes.”

“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!”

Famous musicians once gathered at Akbar’s court for a competition.

The one who could capture a bull’s interest was to be declared the winner.

One by one, they played the most heavenly music but the bull paid no attention.

Then Birbal took the stage. His music sounded like the droning of mosquitoes and the mooing of cows.

But to everyone’s amazement the bull suddenly became alert and began to move in a lively manner.

Akbar declared Birbal the winner.

One day the Emperor Akbar stumbled on a rock in his garden. He was in a foul mood that day and the accident made him so angry that he ordered the gardener’s arrest and execution.

The next day when the gardener was asked what his last wish was before he was hanged, he requested an audience with the emperor.

This wish was granted, but when the man neared the throne he loudly cleared his throat and spat at the emperor’s feet.

The emperor was taken aback and demanded to know why he had done such a thing. The gardener had acted on Birbal’s advice and now Birbal stepped forward in the man’s defence.

“Your Majesty,” he said, “there could be no person more loyal to you than this unfortunate man. Fearing that people would say you hanged him for a trifle, he has gone out of his way to give you a genuine reason for hanging him.”

The emperor, realizing that he had been about to do a great injustice, set the man free.

One day Emperor Akbar was inspecting the law and order situation in the kingdom. One of his ministers, who was jealous of Raja Birbal, complained that the Emperor gave importance only to Birbal’s suggestions and all the other ministers were ignored.

Akbar wanted the minister to know how wise Birbal was.

There was a marriage procession going on.

The Emperor ordered the minister to enquire whose marriage it was. The minister found out and walked towards the Emperor wearing a proud expression on his face.

Then the king called Birbal and asked him too to enquire whose marriage was going on. When Birbal returned, Akbar asked the minister “Where are the couple going?” The minister said that the king had only asked him to enquire whose marriage was going on.

Then Akbar asked Birbal the same question. “O My Majesty! They are going to the city of Allahabad,” replied Raja Birbal. Now the King turned towards the minister and said, “Now do you understand why Birbal is more important to me? It is not enough if you complete a task. You have to use your intelligence to do a little more work.’ The minister’s face fell. He had learnt the importance of being Birbal, the hard way.