Short story – King and the Blind Beggar: An Arduous Path

Arduous

The blind beggar was enjoying the comforts of the royal palace, for he had promised the king that in five years time the king would be ready to learn about heavenly secrets, and so the king, worried that the beggar might die in the streets before that, had brought him to his kingly palace to be treated like a noble guest to protect him from the threats of street life and thus make his life longer.

But so it was that the king was very impatient. Waiting five years felt like an eternity, and so the very first morning of the beggar’s life in the palace, the king came to him and said: “For one night you have now enjoyed the comforts of my palace, and I know that you said that in five years time I shall be ready, but much has happened in one night, for I am an impatient man and I believe that now I am ready for the impartation of all heavenly secrets.”

The blind beggar was eating a luscious breakfast at the royal dining hall and food flew out of his mouth as he bursted into laughter and said to the king: “Indeed, for one night I have enjoyed royal luxuries, and if I am not mistaken, I shall enjoy them for one thousand and eight hundred nights more, because so it is, that one cannot possibly hasten the process of maturation. Mere wishful thinking won’t make it so, oh beloved king.”

The king got irritated. The whole night he had been awake in his kingly bed, thinking about the coming morning. He had been sure that the beggar would comply to his request. Thus he said: “You are but a raunchy beggar, and I have graciously taken you to live with me in my royal palace and be treated like a royal guest, and you still dare to defy my will, as if my might and power and the size of my kingdom was nothing but dust under your feet. And if I were not a merciful king, I would forthwith behead you with my own sword, but because my revered father taught me mercy as the greatest of virtues, I shall forgive you one last time. I will wait five long years, and then you shall impart me the secrets of heaven, but now I ask you this: What will happen at the moment of impartation of the heavenly secrets? Please tell me, for otherwise it will be an agony to wait for so long. I need to know, so that I can comfort myself knowing that it is worth all the pain of waiting.”

The beggar was chewing his food loudly like a dog and didn’t seem to have heard the king’s question. So the king got more irritated, slammed the table with his fist and said: “Answer me, you abject runt, or else I shall call the guards and send you to the gallows to be hanged immediately.”

The blind beggar seemed barely frightened by the king’s threats, but after he swallowed the food in his mouth he said: “So you want to know what happens at the time of impartation of the divine knowledge?”

“Yes, I want to know, I need to know!” the king said impatiently.

“So be it,” said the beggar. “But I must warn you: what you are going to hear might not be what you have expected, and it might frighten you so that you no longer can sleep at night for five years without first drinking so much wine that you pass out on your bed. For after the impartation of this knowledge, whoever receiveth shall die.”

The king’s eyes went wide open. It certainly wasn’t what he had thought. “What do you mean, you unctuous imp?” the king asked furiously. “How can one die after having received the heavenly knowledge? Your tongue is like the tongue of the snake and it should be cut off immediately so that no more lies come out of your repugnant mouth. A dozen times have I spared your life out of pity, but now I am very close to slashing your head off, you abominable rapscallion.”

The blind beggar was already swaying from laughter and banging the table with his palms, and when he calmed down he said to the king: “Oh mighty king, you should not be anxious of something that is still years ahead. But I guarantee you that this death is worth your patience, for to trade the worldly treasures for the heavenly treasures is the highest achievement a man can accomplish and the greatest gift one can ever receive. And it only suits the prestige of a man like you to attain the highest peak of human existence…”

The king interrupted the blind beggar and said: “Nonsense! How can I know whether you are merely using words to bamboozle me and trick me into believing your ludicrous stories? What if you are nothing but a loopy old beggar who knows nothing of divine matters? And besides, if the impartation of these heavenly secrets leads to death, then how are you still sitting here and not lying six feet underground rotting with worms and maggots in the graveyard or in the trench?”

Again the blind beggar started laughing. He took a bite out of an apple, chewed it and then said: “I am not talking about death of the body, oh formidable king. I am speaking of a different kind of death, one which you will only know at the moment of impartation. It is a death of the old and the birth of the new. But I must not reveal you too much, for all ideas and expectations about this death will only hinder your progress.”

The king grabbed a golden goblet and ordered his servant to pour wine into it. Then the king drank all the wine and placed the goblet back on the table and said: “I have fought many battles in my life, conquered walled cities and slain thousands of enemies, but none of those challenges compare in difficulty with you. The words that you speak truly are mysterious and elusive, but I know that if it were not by the will of God, I wouldn’t have kneeled and wept before a brittle old beggar and brought him into my palace to enjoy the fruits of my labour and the labour of my forefathers. I know that your words are the words of a wiseman, because I have never before known a man who is brave enough to defy my will and my command not only once, but several times and with no hesitation or remorse whatsoever. That is why I know that your words are not the words of a mere madman. And I also know that our destinies are bound together by a string that is invisible to the eye and yet stronger than chains made out of gold. And it has occurred to me in a vision that one day, when the time is ripe, you will impart me the divine secrets that are to banish all misery out of my life and bring about eternal bliss.”

“Indeed,” said the blind beggar, “you shall be filled with such bliss that all worldly pleasures pale in comparison. And not only that; all your worries shall be cast away by the heavenly secrets that I will impart to you in five years time, after I have slept one thousand and eight hundred more nights in a royal featherbed and eaten one thousand and eight hundred breakfasts and dinners in this royal dining hall. Then you, oh mighty king, shall be ready for the divine impartation of the secrets that shall bring peace to your restless soul.”

So it happened that upon hearing these words the king started jumping with joy and he ordered the servants to pour more wine in his goblet and also in the goblet of the blind beggar and ordered more food to be brought on the table so that they could fill their bellies with endless delicacies and cuisines.

After the two unusual friends had filled their stomachs with food and wine, the blind beggar said: “Now that we have filled our bellies with food and our hearts are full of joy from the sweet wine, I shall tell you, oh admired king, that we have a long, arduous road ahead of us, for in order for you to be ready in five years time, there are many obstacles that you must surpass and many painful sacrifices that you must do. One doesn’t become ready and receptive to the divine truth merely by sitting on his buttocks at a table filled with otherworldly foods, tastes and smells and sleeping with the most beautiful women, but by making it the foremost priority of his existence and of every breath that he takes.”

The king’s face turned sour and he clenched his teeth together and he said to the blind beggar: “You retarded fool. I have already agreed to wait five long years in order to become ready to receive the heavenly secrets that you carry within you, and now you are saying that there will be much arduous work and struggle and many painful sacrifices! I don’t know what you are up to, but I am beginning to smell a rat in your frivolous words, you dumb, filthy, slimy beggar. I should cut your head off with my own sword without hesitation, but because I have seen in my dreams that you are the man who shall impart to me the heavenly secrets that will bring peace to my restless heart, I must spare your worthless life.”

So the blind beggar said: “You are most kind, oh venerable king, for I was already starting to get used to living in this magnificent palace with all its comforts and luxuries, so it would have been a pity had you used your sharp, kingly sword to end my days. And what comes to the challenges ahead: Don’t be disheartened, for every man who is to be shared into the divine secrets must complete the tasks allotted to them by the divine will. And I am sure that a man of your position and prestige will have no trouble to traverse the path towards truth.”

And so it happened that the king gave the blind beggar his trust and agreed to follow the arduous and difficult path that the divine will would lay before him.

 

 

 

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