There is an old story. Two friends were studying in a Gurukul. They spent their childhood together and acquired vast knowledge from their Guru. Both were bright and attentive in their study, so the Guru was confident they will grow as successful men in the future.

After leaving the Gurukul, both friends went on to their own ways to live with their families and implement the knowledge they had acquired from the Gurukul. A few years later, one of them became an influential advisor to the King. While on a tour with the King, he met a monk on the outskirt of a jungle. He instantly recognised the monk as his friend from the Gurukul. Out of curiosity, he inquired, why he became a monk and lived on rice and bread despite having the kind of education he had acquired from Gurukul. He added that if the monk had the wisdom to use his knowledge properly, he would be able to serve the King in his court, rather than living a life of deprivation. The monk responded by saying that if the advisor had learned to live on rice and bread, he would not need to serve the King, or anyone else, and could live a free life.

How true it is. We have to serve the King because we cannot disassociate from the desire to gain more than our needs and live a simpler life. Whoever we are serving, it’s because we don’t know how to live on rice and bread. How to distinguish between our needs and desire. Rather than freedom over time and activity, it is position and possession which take priority. It leads us to accept a life of bondage. We become slaves of time and work tirelessly for no reason. To prove to others that we are important in society, we keep toiling ourselves day and night. Sagacity lies in identifying priorities and putting the knowledge to good use for larger purposes than shortsighted show-offs. But we all fall prey to this tendency of looking at our life from the perspective of a neighbour.

Unless we develop daring like the monk, we all aim to be an advisor to the king. Not only aim to be, but toil to be, and take pride in being. Unfortunate thing is that we ridicule the monk who has made his decision to be free, undervaluing the true wisdom. Although it’s an individual choice whether one wants to be an advisor to the king or a free monk, making a judgement on the other’s choice is also a poor decision. Victory will be decided when we stop being slaves to others’ opinions and listen to the inner voice.

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