by Prashant Mainali

There was a big city surrounded by hills. To the north, there were the highest and beautiful hills. At the base of one of them, in a bucolic setting, there lived a saint in a hut. He lived a frugal and placid life doing farming, and had few pupils in his tutelage; they also helped him in farming. Nobody knew where he came from. He made few contacts with the outer world, and few who knew the saint deemed him as wise and erudite. He had answers of every problem that people asked him. His knowledge was deep and immense. He was against of using his spiritual knowledge as a money spinning business. Many urged him to do so, but he snubbed all of the offers.

His hut and farm had cool and serene ambience. The occasional gust of cool breeze that flew from Himalayas hit the trees of the farm. Fields full with vegetables, mooing of cows and smell of freshly harrowed soil and manure were the elements that made his hut different from the resorts that were common in that area. He and his pupils woke early, bathed in nearby stream, managed cows, and got indulged in meditation after finishing the chores. With charm and love, then he taught his pupils about life, religions, science, and morale. At midday, they ate plain lunch, and drank milk. The saint then took a siesta, and when he woke he met people who came to have audience with him. With them, he shed light on many element of life. At evening, saint and his pupil all worked in the field.

It was a hot sunny day. After siesta, saint strolled around the farm. There, he saw a man, waiting for him. The man had sullen face and disheveled hair. His dark stubble was in no harmony with tailored suit, he was wearing. The gloomy man greeted the saint. The saint nodded.

"I am unhappy with my life." The man said.

The saint smiled and listened.

"This is the life I wanted to live. Still, there is something lacking. I have all the riches. Yet..." The man couldn't complete his words.

The unwavering smile of the saint was still there. His smile was suffused with pleasure, and his eyes beamed with ecstasy whilst the man had hopeless smile, and dull eyes. The light emanated from the face of saint was vivid than the light reflected from the gold plated watch of the man.

It took no time for the saint to fathom, man's problem. Then he replied.

"You are very unhappy. You have to learn to give things...my child." The saint said in a polite voice.

The man listened to him carefully.

"How am I going to be happy?" he asked.

The saint thought a while, gave a lopsided grin and said.

"Collect all the riches you can carry and walk to the top of that hill." The saint pointed to the top of the highest hill.

"The walk will be unsteady and tough. When you reach the top you will see two boxes, an open and a closed box." The man was bemused by the instruction. His eyes were wide opened.

The saint continued "Drop all the riches in the open box and close it. Then, the next box opens by itself. The thing in the next box will make you happy." Saint said this and left.

Desperate to be happy, the man collected all his money and gold, and packed in rush sack. Early morning, he started journey. The upslope was very inclined and slippery. It was troublesome for him to ascend with the heavy rush sack. Still, he walked, and at midday his face was bedewed with sweat. He couldn't move, as he was exhausted and dehydrated. He felt too thirsty and thought of giving up the idea to reach the top. That meant to be unhappy again, so, he walked with the little energy he had. With every sweat trickling from his face, he grew more thirstier, and making to top seemed almost impossible. But he had resolved reaching top, at any cost. He trudged slowly. After he got drier than the desert, he finally made to the top. It was an open place, and beneath a tree, there were two boxes. As told by saint, one box was opened and next was closed. He hurriedly shoved all of his riches inside an open box, and closed it. He was delighted and felt divine when the next box opened by itself. He squinted and found a bottle of water inside. He thought it was no ordinary water and took a draught. Indeed, that was an ordinary water, but at that time it tasted divine. He knew, at that time water was the only thing he wanted. He understood what the saint wanted to teach him. He drank that elixir of happiness at a blink of an eye. The water flew through his body, and brought him immense euphoria. The wind touched him tenderly, and scorching sun felt gentle. The panoramic view of city was great. He felt everything on that place gaily, for, so he was.

Next day, after meditation, the saint taught his pupils. There, he saw an old man approaching him. As the man got nearer, his weary eyes and wrinkles were visible. He approached saint, and cried. He wasn't that old, actually. It was evident he was a pheasant, and extreme toil had made him appear older. He had few hairs remaining in his head (he was almost bald), his face sunburned and had sunken cheeks. It seemed, years of flowing of sweat had made crevices in his face. The pheasant cried, and cried. The saint understood his problem.

"I do all the work for my master. Yet, I can't afford good food for my family, but master enjoys a lavish life. I am very sad with my life." The pheasant said in a sad tone.

"You are very unhappy. You have to learn to take things...my child." The saint said in a polite voice.

"How am I going to be happy?" The pheasant asked.

The saint thought a while, gave a lopsided grin. He went inside his hut, and returned with a bottle of water and said.

"This is holy water. Carry this to the top of that hill." The saint pointed to the top of the highest hill.

"You can't drink this water. When you reach the top, you will see two boxes, an open and a closed box." Pheasant was listening to him attentively.

"Put this water bottle inside an open box and close it. When the box is closed, next box opens by itself. The thing in the second box will make you happy." The saint said and left.

The pheasant was bemused if that simple task would make him happy. So, he started the journey. At beginning, he ran as he wanted to reach the top as soon as possible. In no time, he drained all his energy and couldn't run more. He slowly trudged the upslope. There was blistering sun riding the clouds, and it made his sweat, flow like river. As he ascended, he felt dehydrated, and soon nauseated. At one time, he tried relinquishing his thought to reach top. But he wanted to be happy at any price. So, he walked, and as he felt too thirsty he thought of drinking the water. Then he realized that water could be a part of test. So, he refrained from drinking, and walked with heavy steps. After all, he wanted to be happy. When he reached top, he had no energy left. He wasn't that exhausted ever on his life. Yet, he felt as if he had conquered a big empire. Seeing boxes made him happy. As said before, one was opened and next was closed. Unwillingly, he kept water bottle in an open box, and closed it. The next box, then, opened by itself. There, he saw riches, and was agape in euphoria. Money was fluttering in the wind and gold glittering in the sun. Never in his life, had he seen that much of the riches. Never in his life, had he been that happy. He carried all the riches, and with big smile on his face, he headed home. Brimming with happiness, thirst was the last thing he knew.

One evening, saint and his pupils were busy in field. Some pupils harrowed, some hoed while some sowed seeds.

While saint was sowing seeds, one of the pupils asked him "What makes a person happy?"

The saint in his polite voice said "When one has nothing to take and nothing to give."

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