In the morning, the custodians of faith came to the man who had argued that lack of religious knowledge does not prevent a person from loving God.
The man was known as the lover among his admirers for his non-traditional and passionate methods of expressing his love for God. The custodians showed him a rope and a sack. “Come with us or we will tie you up and carry you out in this bag,” said one of them.
“I have no problem going with you but what do you want to do with me?” asked the lover.
“We want to kill you because you blasphemed,” said another.
The lover smiled and said: “In this room, you are my guests. So, sit down while I get your breakfast and then we will go.”
Before they could stop him, he said loudly: “Guests are a blessing of God.”
Within seconds, two helpers of the innkeeper came in and said: “The innkeeper’s friend is the friend of the entire inn” and withdrew. They came back soon, holding trays that had all that most people eat at breakfast.
“We did not ask for it but it is bad manners to turn down a sincere offer,” one custodian said to the other and all started eating.
One of the trays had a small plate which only had a piece of bread and a glass of water. This was for the lover. “Today I am here; tomorrow I may be somewhere else. That’s why I only eat what I can get everywhere,” he said and started nibbling the bread.
When he finished his bread, the lover said to the custodians: “In this place, they also offer dry fruits and coffee after the breakfast. So while you enjoy the innkeeper’s hospitality, let me tell you another story.”
And the story he told this time was that of a king and some of his subjects who lived in total darkness. The only light they had in their lives came from the lightning bolts. The thunder struck fear in their hearts but it showed them the way too. With each bolt, they moved a few steps but stopped when the lighting ceased.
The king felt sorry for them and decided to help them find their way. So he gave them a large and bright jewel and said: “This should be enough for you and your coming generations. Go, use it wisely.”
He also advised them to share the light with others, saying: “The more you share, the brighter it will grow. And it is precious enough to enrich all of you. So do not be miserly. Share it with all. It is a wealth that grows with sharing.”
The king’s subjects agreed to do as advised but changed their minds when they saw the jewel outside the king’s court.
“This jewel can make all of us very rich. We should not show it to others yet,” said one of them. Others agreed.
“Let’s go to the richest jeweller in the kingdom and sell the jewel to him,” said another. “This would bring enough money for each of us to buy lands, build large homes, get thoroughbred horses and slaves and all other luxuries that we have always desired.”
All liked the idea but one of them cautioned others. “We cannot sell this jewel. It is from the royal treasury. We will be arrested right away.”
“So what shall we do?” asked another.
“Let us not be like the robbers who poisoned each other because they did not want to share their loot. Remember, they all died,” one of them warned the others.
They agreed and asked him to suggest a plan. “Let us split it,” he said.
“But how?” asked one. “We do not have the tools to cut a jewel.”
“Well, we can break it into pieces,” said the one who had suggested that they split the jewel.
Then he selected a sharp, pointed stone and said: “I know how to do this, I am a stone breaker.”
He hit the jewel carefully and split it into two. Everybody clapped.
“We can take these two pieces to the jeweller,” said one, “nobody will recognise these as king’s.”
Now greed had taken charge of their sense. They were no more willing to trust each other. So they decided to break it into more pieces.
“That way, each of us can take his share and go home,” said the stone breaker.
But when he tried to split those two into four pieces, they broke into six.
Another man took the stone from him and tried to split those six into 12 pieces. But they split into 20 pieces.
Another took the stone and tried his skill.
By the time they finished, all that remained of the jewel were tiny pieces that had no light or value. They were condemned to live in perpetual darkness.
The custodians had already finished their breakfast, so they stopped the man.
“This was no story. It was a direct attack on us,” one of them said to the lover. “Now stop your silly stories and come with us so that we can punish you.”
The lover smiled and said: “I have many sympathisers here. You cannot force me. But I will come with you because if you try to harm me here, it will start a dispute that will never end.”
And he went out with the custodians.
They took him to a tree and tried to hang him. But he came out of the rope.
“See, this is what happens when you eat so little,” one custodian said angrily. “Your neck is so thin that it does not fit in the knot.”
The lover smiled as they tied him to the tree.
“I am a trained archer. Just one shot at your heart and you will be dead. No pain,” said a custodian.
The lover smiled as the arrow missed its target. The archer tried again and missed. They all tried but nobody succeeded. “This is magic,” said one custodian, “and a magician must be burned.”
They piled dried leaves and wood around the lover and set the pile on fire.
The fire and the smoke disturbed the birds nesting in the tree. They started flying about as did the bats.
The smoke reached the nearby mountain too and caused rain which put out the fire.
The lover freed himself and said: “Those you killed before were my masters. They died to save their slaves. So you cannot kill me as I cannot kill you.
“We represent two forces, one that brings the rain of mercy and the other that causes birds to leave their nests. Let people decide which force they wish to follow.”
And the lover walked away from them.
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