There lived a king who was in search of answers to three questions in life. He felt he would always be victorious if he knew the answers. The questions were:
  • When is the right time to begin something?
  • Which people should he listen to?
  • What is the most important thing for him to do?
The king was confused about the three questions!
The king announced publicly throughout his country, that if anyone could answer his questions. he will reward them with a huge amount of money. Many wise men came, but each one of them gave different answers to the king's questions.
Many wise men gave different answers to the questions.
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Many wise men gave answers, but all were different!
For the first question, the opinions were:
  1. Prepare a timetable and follow it strictly - so that everything can be done at the proper time.
  2. It is not possible to decide all things before doing.
  3. The king should not spend too much time on hobbies to pass away time, be always aware of what was going on- and do what is appropriate at the necessary time.
  4. The king should have a council (a group of wise people chosen to make rules and to give advice) - the council can help him to decide, as one man cannot take decisions separately.
  5. There may be urgent matters which needed quick decision - in such times council may not be useful.
  6. It is good to know about the future, so the king should hire magicians who can look into the future.
For the second question (which people should he listen to/who are the most important people), the answers that the king received were:
  1. Councillors (members of the council)
  2. Priests
  3. Doctors
  4. Soldiers or warriors
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Who are important - councillors/doctors//priests/warriors?
For the third question (what is the most important thing to do), the answers were:
  1. Science
  2. Fighting
  3. Religious worship
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Most important thing to do - warfare/science/worship?
Since the king got all variety of answers, he was not satisfied at all. He was unable to give the reward to anyone. So he decided to meet a hermit (sage) who was famous for his wisdom.
The hermit lived in a small forest, all alone. He never came out of the woods. He met only simple people - the common men.
The old hermit lived in the woods!
If the king went in his usual clothes, full of riches, the hermit would not see him. So the king wore ordinary clothes. Before reaching the small hut, where the hermit lived, he left his horse with the bodyguard who had accompanied him, and he walked alone to meet the hermit.
As he neared the hut, he saw the hermit digging the ground in front of his hut. The hermit greeted the king (without knowing he was a king) and he continued his work. The hermit looked very old and weak, and he was panting for breath because of the heavy work.
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The hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut!
The king went near him and asked politely if he could answer his three questions:
  • How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time?
  • Who are the people I need most?
  • What affairs are the most important?
The hermit heard the questions but chose not to answer. He spat on his hand, continued his digging work. The king patiently told the hermit that he looked tired and asked if he could work in his place. He asked for the spade to start digging.
The hermit thanked the king and gave him the spade. Then he sat on the ground.
The king was digging the ground while the hermit was resting. After he had dug two small patches of ground, (where plants are grown), he stopped and tried to get the answer from the hermit for his questions. Again the hermit heard but did not answer him. Instead, he stood up and put his hand out, asking for the spade; he told the king to rest now and that he could continue the work.
But the king disagreed. He continued his digging work.
 Two hours passed, and it was time for sunset. The sent went down and disappeared behind the trees. The tired king stuck the spade into the ground and told the hermit he had come to him for answers. He said if he could not give the answers, he can inform him the same, and that he will return home.
Even when the hermit did not reply to his questions, the king remained polite. Again, the hermit did not answer him. Instead, he said someone was running towards them.
Here comes someone running!
The king turned around to see who the hermit had mentioned. A bearded man was running towards them with his hands on his stomach, from where he was bleeding. When he reached their spot, he lost consciousness and fell. He was giving mild sounds of pain. The king and the hermit removed his clothing and found a big wound on his stomach. The king washed the wound and covered it with his handkerchief to stop the bleeding. But it was bleeding heavily, and the cloth was soaked with his blood. He got a towel from the hermit and bandaged it again. The king did not give up, and he kept re-dressing the wound till the blood stopped.
The king washed and dressed the bleeding stomach!
The man gained consciousness and asked for something to drink. The king gave him some water. By then, it was getting dark and colder. The king and the hermit carried the man to the hermit's hut and laid him on the bed. The man stayed still and quiet. The king also lied down on the floor due to exhaustion of the day's work. All of them slept through the night. When he woke the next day morning, he took some time to remember what has happened the previous night, where he was, or who the bearded stranger was. But the bearded stranger was looking steadily at the king with  bright eyes.
The king, the hermit and the bearded man slept in the humble hut!
The bearded man asked the king to forgive him, in a weak voice - as soon as the king awoke.
The king said that he doesn't know him and he has nothing to forgive him for.
The bearded man asked for forgiveness!
The bearded man started explaining how he knew the king. He said the king might not know him, but he knew the king. He also confessed that he was an enemy of the king, who had come to kill him. He explained that the king had killed his brother and took his property. He revealed his plan to kill the king because he came to know that he had gone alone to meet the hermit. He also said that he waited in a hiding place, to attack when the king returned, but since he did not return, he came out. That was when the bodyguard recognized him and wounded him. He continued, it was finally the king himself who dressed his wound and saved his life. The bearded man felt bad that he had come to kill the king, but the king had saved his life. So he wished and asked the king to let him be his faithful servant and promised that he would order his sons to do the same.
The king was delighted that his deed has re-established friendly relations easily. He had made his enemy his friend, who had promised to be faithful to him. He forgave the bearded man, promised to return the property that he had taken from him, and also sent his servants and doctors to take care of him.
The king went out of the hut and searched for the hermit. The hermit was sowing seeds in the small patches that they had dug the day before. Before leaving the woods, he asked again about the answers to his questions. He pleaded the hermit to give him the answers.
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The hermit was sowing seeds, in the beds dug the previous day!
The hermit said his answers had already been answered! He did not even look up to the king, as he was still bending down to sow the seeds.
The king asked the explanation as to how he had been answered and what he meant.
The hermit explained
  • If the king had not helped him dig the ground, he would've left early, and the enemy (the bearded man) would have stabbed him.
  • But the king did the right thing - by taking pity on the hermit, he decided to help him.
  • That is the most important time that saved the king's life.
  • The most important person at that time, to the king - was the hermit.
  • The most important thing to do - was to do the hermit some good help.
Again, the same thing happened with the bearded man also:
  • The king cared for him the day before - the most important time.
  • The king dressed his wounds - the most important thing to do.
  • The king cared for the man in pain - the most important person.
The hermit goes on to explain that, the most important time to do anything is NOW- because we have the power to act only in the present moment. The most important person is the person who you are with, at a particular time. No one knows what will happen in the future or whether we will meet anyone else. The most important business is to do good deeds because we were sent to this world only for that purpose.