There was once a king who lived in the far west of Nepal. He was a very rich king and lived in a beautiful palace. He ate off silver plates and drank from silver cups. When he had nothing to do, he would go down to his treasury. This was the special room where he kept the jewels and he would sit amongst the mountains of jewels and play with them as if they were grains of sand. He would feel the river of sparkling diamonds trickle through his fingers. he would bury his feet in a pile of rubies. Then he would lie down on a bed of sapphires. The king felt so happy that he was the richest man in Nepal. The more he looked at his precious stones, the more he laughed. “Maybe I am the richest man in the world?” he told himself.
The one day a sage came to the king’s palace. The king had heard about the sage. Everyone said that he was a very wise man. The king wanted to receive the sage’s blessing and advice. So he incited the sage to stay at his palace for a few days. The sage accepted.
They took their evening meal together. Then the king paid the sage the greatest honour. He offered to show him the treasure. “You will see such a wonderful sight. You have never seen such beautiful sight like this before” whispered the king excitedly. “I have more precious jewels than any other in this country, so many, that mountains of diamonds and emeralds reach the ceiling.
The king led the way to the treasury. He was very excited. He had never before shown his treasures to anyone else. He was sure that the sage would be impressed. May be in return the sage would give the king some good advice. He might advise him on how to govern the kingdom.
The king slowly opened the door of the treasury and revealed his riches. He turned to see the sage’s reaction to all the piles of rubies, diamonds and sapphires. The sage looked quickly round the room. Then he said sharply, Is this it?
The king was surprised. “Yes”, the king replied. Are you not amazed to see so many precious stones before your eyes? He swelled pride. They are all mine.
The sage laughed. Sorry, he said, but I know of far more precious than yours. These are nothing compared to those precious stones.
The king became curious and a little angry. Who could have stones more precious than this? It was unthinkable. He could not believe that the sage was not impressed by his treasury full of precious stones.
So where are those precious stones you speak of? he asked the sage. He was secretly annoyed. He didn’t like to think of a man who was richer than himself.
I will show you tomorrow morning said the sage with a smile. I think it is time now for us to go to bed.
That night the king could not sleep. He tossed and turned. He wondered how anyone could have stones more precious than his. He wished so much to see the stones that the sage had spoken of. So the night seemed long. But at last, morning came. The sage woke up.
Quick, said the king. Its time to see the precious stones. Get dressed quickly. We can go there at once.
The sage laughed. He was surprised to see how anxious the king had become ever since hearing of the other precious stones.
He led the king out of the fine palace. They went along a small lane to a village. The king became more and more puzzled. How could they find such treasures in a poor little village? They went past a woman grinding corn. The sage stopped. He whispered to the king. Look! There’s the stone! Look at the stone she’s grinding corn with.
The king looked and he laughed. What is so special about that stone? he mocked. The sage stared at the stone. Could anyone be more precious than this? He repeated. The king laughed again. But there are hundreds of stones like this. It’s an ordinary grinding stone. It has no value at all said the king. He laughed to think of the sage’s stupidity. He did not know the difference between a diamond and a grinding stone. No wonder the treasure did not impress him!
The king was about to walk away. But the sage called him back. “Come back and looked at this stone carefully. Then you will see what I mean. Yes, you are right. There are hundreds of thousands of these grinding stones. But they all have more value than the precious stones locked away in your treasury. This stone gives this woman flour for her meal. It is giving her food. What use are your precious stones?
The king thought deeply. Then he realised that he could do nothing with his stones. He could only gaze at them and think how rich he was.
The sage guessed his thoughts and said, now you understand. You see your precious stones have no use at all. Whereas the grinding stone is the most precious tone around here. Without it, the woman cannot grind her grain. She would have no bread. Surely this one stone has more value than your treasury full of jewels?
The king listened to the sage’s words. When he returned to the palace, he was richer in wisdom.