An aging Brahmin was overwhelmed by his poverty. Without any wealth, he was respected neither by his relatives, nor his children nor his wife. All that he wanted was to find a way to earn enough wealth to win back his dignity and respect in the society and family.
He had heard a great many stories about the King name Dhrupad, who rewarded any person of distinguished knowledge handsomely. This Brahmin devised a cunning plan to swindle some money out of the benevolent king and the very next day; he began marching towards the capital.
On reaching the capital, he saw a long queue outside the king’s palace with way too many people seeking donations and grants. Since knowledge is not something the king could assess effortlessly, he spent hours conversing with them to decide the worthiness of the candidate Not surprisingly, it was to be a couple of days before this Brahmin could expect an audience with the king.
It was not that hard a wait. The king and his minister had ensured stay, food, and bedding for all aspirants. There was also entertainment in the evenings where sage musicians and scholars of repute would present their towering skills and colossal knowledge in their respective field. It was to be four days before this Brahman would get an audience.
By the time this Brahman found himself before the king, he was humbled. He was sure that this king was not some ordinary earthling to manipulate into emotional submission. Nevertheless, he thought it was worth a try.
“O king, I am a person of great knowledge and wisdom. I am also enlightened; therefore, I can answer any or all of your questions. I command that you submit yourself to me and will I promise to give you secrets to immortality and commensurate wealth!” the Brahmin declared in a dramatic tone.
“Hm… All right, dear guest. Please be seated. But first, let me know if you were treated well here. Did you have food and rest?” the sage king asked.
“Yes, yes… very much!” nodded the Brahmin.
“All right. Here is my first question: what is Brahma?” the king asked.
“Is that all…?” retorted the Brahman.
“That’s my first… will ask some later…” replied the king.
Brahmin was stumped. Although he had heard of the word, he was finding it extremely hard to find the right answer. In haste, he replied, “Knowledge is Brahma…”
“Knowledge is a way to realize the Brahma; it is certainly not the Brahman. The path cannot be the destination,” replied the king smilingly.
“Enlightenment is Brahma,” declared the Brahman.
“Who are you?” asked the king.
“I am a Brahmin,” replied the Brahmin.
“What does that word – Brahmin – mean?” Dhrupad asked.
“The one who knows Brahma.”
“And you are not able to explain, describe, or tell what Brahma is! Isn’t that a travesty?” the king questioned, smiling.
The Brahmin was dumbfounded. He knew his cover of an “enlightened intellectual sage” was blown.
He was intrigued. He wanted to know Brahma. “O king, I admit that I am an imposter and I had come here with the sole intention of swindling money from you. But now, I am intrigued. I want to know this Brahman – what is Brahman?”
The king did not refuse. He asked the Brahmin to wait for a few days so that he could clear his prior appointments and duties. The Brahmin agreed.
It took three years before the king was free. The Brahman was waiting upon him patiently. His desire for knowing Brahma was overwhelming.
The king then called the Brahmin and rechecked upon his interest.
“You have waited for three full years for me. But tell me do you still want to know the definition of Brahma, understand the meaning of Brahma or realize Brahma,” the king asked.
“I would love to realize the Brahma,” the Brahman replied, adding “I am willing to give whatever the remainder of my life for knowing this Brahman.”
“How about I give you some money instead?” the king questioned.
“No sir, I am done with that. My urge to know this Brahman is above and beyond anything in life, help me realize this Brahma!”
Happy to realize the enthusiasm of the Brahman, the king Dhrupad convened his cabinet and declared to resign as king with immediate effect while installing his eldest son, crown prince, on the throne.”
Shocked to know the reason, one of the ministers declared “O king! He’s a nonagrian, Brahman. He could die anytime. Of what use is your renunciation of the throne, for this person who could be on deathbed any day?”
With his usual serenity of mind, the king replied, “My friend, I am a king. I must ensure that I take care of my people by giving them whatever they deserve. I have done everything to ensure that this person is interested in the knowledge of which I am only a custodian. He has waited upon me for three full years. And he has even given up my offer for the money. Knowledge belongs to none. If you observe, I too am no younger. I am 60-year-old as of today. And the time is ripe for my retirement. What better way to retire than to help a person parched of knowledge with wisdom? I have thought this through. It is not a decision of haste.” saying thus the king relinquished his material possessions, positions, and relationships to retire to woods where he spent the remainder of his life as a hermit sharing his knowledge and meditation.