Short story – King and the Blind Beggar: The Divine Treasures

KingBeggar2

The king arrived at a dirty street corner, carried by his servants in a golden sedan chair. The king stepped down and ordered one of his servants to cast cold water on the blind beggar who was sitting at the street corner.

“Why don’t you bow down to the king, you filthy beggar?” the king said.

“Oh, please accept my apologies, I did not see that the king was coming,” said the blind beggar.

“I will forgive you, but only if you answer my questions, you measly beggar, or else I shall cut your head off with my own sword.”

“Questions?” asked the beggar. “But I am just an old and weary beggar and I don’t know anything of value. Why would someone as dignified as the king ask questions of such a man?”

The king said: “Indeed, for the very reason that you are only a scabby beggar and yet you are not weeping for your poor luck, that is why I want to ask questions of you.”

“But I am very old and the heat of the day is making me tired and weak,” said the blind beggar. “I am very tired and I must rest.”

The king was getting irritated with the old man. “Give the old man some water, for he is old and weary and he is suffering from the heat of the day,” said the king to his servants and again they cast cold water on the beggar.

“Thank you, good king,” said the beggar, “for now I no longer am suffering from the heat, but you must know that I haven’t eaten in five days and four nights, and my stomach is spasming from the hunger. A man who is starving in the street corner cannot certainly answer any important questions, oh good king.”

“You rickety old beggar,” said the king. “You are wasting my time, for you are nothing but a poor beggar and I am the king of this land, and I have more important tasks than to argue all day with a foul man like you.”

The king ordered his servants to bring a piece of bread to the blind beggar, and the beggar ate the bread and said: “Thank you, oh wise king. You have made me the luckiest man in your kingdom, for no man suffers like the hungry man, and no longer am I a suffering hungry man because you have given me a piece of royal bread. Your generosity shall be rewarded with great gifts.”

“What do you have to give me, you wretched beggar? Nothing have you to give to a great king who has more riches than all the riches of the Seven Kingdoms combined, more gold than there is water in the Great River, and mightier armies than even the gods themselves could ever imagine. But I have not come to you in search of worldly riches, you pitiful derelict, but after heavenly treasures have I come to you. And I have given cold water to a man suffering from the heat of the day and bread to a man suffering from starvation, and now you must answer my questions, or else I shall cut your head off with my own sword.”

“But venerable king,” said the beggar. “You must understand that I am but an old man, and there are no answers that I could give to a mighty king like you that would satisfy your brilliant mind. Although some have said that wine maketh man’s tongue dexterous and his words divine. So I have heard some say, but sure I am not whether it is true or false.”

“Enough with this nonsense!” the king shouted, took his sword and pointed it at the blind beggar. “How dare you speak such things to your king, when you are nothing but a heap of dung in my eyes? What has gotten into you when you believe that it is appropriate to make demands to the king, you sickly layabout? I will cut your head off with my own sword, that I swear in the name of my great kingdom!”

The blind beggar did not budge, but remained calmly sitting in his usual position. “But if you kill me, oh honoured king, who is going to answer your heavenly questions?”

“I should not waste my precious time on this unworthy creature, for I am the great king and I have more important matters to attend to than to cut off the heads of pitiable men. Instead, I shall order you to be hanged in front of the people in the square, so that everyone shall see what happens to men who defy the king’s will.”

“It is generous of you, oh beloved king,” said the blind beggar. “For I am but an old and decrepit beggar and my back is hurting from all the years sitting at this street corner begging for alms. For years have I been praying for God to release me from this pain, and now I know that my prayers have been answered, for I am sure there won’t be back pains in heaven. I hope you make haste with preparing the gallows for me, because the pain is only getting worse as days pass, and it surely doesn’t help that I am disturbed and made to listen to such trivial nonsense, because you see, oh good king, that I am only an old beggar and I must bend my neck so as to hear you properly, because you are up there and I am down here, and it makes the pain all the more worse.”

The king’s face turned red and one could almost see smoke coming out of his ears, for such was his anger. The king looked at his servants, but they were all as baffled as he was. “Were you only a worthless blind beggar, I would cut your head off with my own sword immediately or at least send you to the gallows to be hanged in front of the people, but because I have come to you not in search of appraisal or worldly riches, I forgive you your insolence. But I also warn you that my patience is quickly running dry, so I advise you to obey my kingly orders and answer the questions that I have come to ask you.”

The beggar smiled and said: “Praised be the king! For thine mercy truly demonstrates thine royalty and godliness. May my tongue be at your service and may you ask any questions you will, oh great king, for you have saved me from the heat of the day and from starvation and now even from the blade of the sword and the rope of the gallows.”

Suddenly the king fell down on his knees and started weeping in front of the blind beggar. “See, this is why I have come to you,” the king said mournfully. “Even with all my glory and with all my riches and with all my armies I am nothing but a sorrowful man and I cannot seem to find that which I am looking for. In fact, I don’t even know what I am looking for. The most beautiful women have held me in their arms and my servants treat me with the most delicious foods this world knows and I have such power that I can do more than any man in the human history could have done, and yet I am in deep misery. So this I ask of you: What is the secret for heavenly bliss? What is the secret that makes a great king fall on his knees in front of a crippled beggar to ask for advice? This secret you must reveal to me, for without it I no longer want to live in this vain world. I know that you are only making fun of me and I know that you know the answers to all my heavenly questions.”

The blind beggar started laughing and slapping his thighs with his palms. “You sure are great in your ability to amuse me, oh venerable king. It sure seems like a dreadful dilemma that you have there, for you have achieved everything a man can achieve in this world, and yet you are in sorrow and misery. And now you have come to me in search of heavenly riches, as you have found that the worldly riches are nothing but vanity and mere dust under your feet. You have come in great distress, expecting me to reveal to you the heavenly secrets, but I can sense that you might not be ready to receive them, oh mighty king.”

The king grabbed the blind beggar’s feet and screamed: “I am ready, I am ready! Can’t you see? I have taken ahold of your dirty feet, even when I myself am the great king. Can’t you see that my heart is starving in this world of vanity?”

The blind beggar laughed again and said: “I am only a blind beggar, so I cannot see your desperation with my eyes, but I can hear your suffering words with my ears. Clearly you have a desire in your heart to know the heavenly secrets, but it remains a mystery whether this desire is truly sincere or not. The only way to know whether or not it is a sincere desire is for you to sacrifice your entire kingdom, to give up your throne and your gold and your armies and your beautiful wives and the comfort of your palace and so to show that your desire truly is sincere. Only then can I impart to you the heavenly secrets that your heart desires to know.”

“You are a fool!” shouted the king in outrage. “How could I ever give up my kingdom and my throne and my gold and my armies and my beautiful wives and the comfort of my palace for a mere promise from a decaying beggar who has nothing to give but his slimy words? What would the people think of me, of their king, if I would take the advice of a blind beggar and become myself like him? I would be ridiculed and mocked and they would think I have gone entirely mad! Even the gods would laugh at me! Many preposterous words have I heard in my life but this goes beyond anything else! I have come to you, a sickly beggar, and kneeled down before you and touched your dirty feet and still you ask for more! Still you ask me to give up everything I have achieved and become a puny derelict like you. If I were an insensible man, I would immediately cut your head off with my own sword or at least send you to the gallows, but because I have come to you with sincerity and with an aching heart, I forgive you one last time and ask you to impart your heavenly secrets to me, or else I shall show you what happens to men who disobey the orders of the king.”

“Oh kind king, I am eternally grateful for your graciousness,” said the blind beggar. “But you have come knocking to the doors of the divine, unprepared and with a heart that is not yet ready for the ultimate knowledge. Even though I am nothing but a blind and crippled beggar, I can sense your kingly immaturity and your unwillingness to truly give up the treasures of this world for the treasures of heaven. And indeed are the treasures of heaven glorious compared to the bleak treasures of the earth. But nonetheless, I can hear in your voice a despair which I have only heard in a few individuals throughout my lifetime. As you are not yet ready for the impartation of the divine secrets, I can promise you that in five years time you shall be ready for them, but then, I am just an old weakling and I have great pains in my back because sitting at this street corner begging for alms is very tiring, so I may not be alive in five years time when you finally are ready for the secrets.”

The king stood up and declared thus: “So it shall be, that in five years time this crippled beggar shall impart to me his heavenly secrets, because then I shall be ready for them. And in order to ensure that this man is still alive after five years have passed, I shall invite him to live in my palace, sleep in the comfort of a featherbed and enjoy the foods of the royal kitchen.”

And so the king ordered the blind beggar to climb in the golden sedan chair and made the servants carry him to his royal palace, while the king himself was walking beside the chair with a big smile on his face, as if he was transporting his most treasured possession.

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