It Is All Fate

In the old days, the Emperor at Delhi had a Chief Minister called Vijaya Das. In importance, he was next only to the Emperor himself and was the de facto ruler of the realm. All the Kings in the land showed him great respect, while the ordinary people referred to him as Vijaya Maharaj.

Though he was endowed with all worldly blessings and surrounded with luxuries, Vijaya Das was a philosopher at heart. Being a poet of great merit, he used to devote his spare time to writing songs of a philosophical turn.

Ascetic beggars sang these songs, which were popular even in the farthest corners of the country.

One day, a famous philosopher named Vijnana-Chandra visited the monastery at Hardwar. There he heard the songs of Vijaya Das and liked them immensely. On inquiring, he learned that these songs were the compositions of a confident Vijaya Das, a resident of the city of Delhi. He thought that he must meet such a profound philosopher and have the benefit of exchanging ideas with him. So he journeyed to Delhi from Hardwar.

At Delhi, he inquired several persons, “Can you direct me to the house of Vijaya Das: the philosopher?” But no one seemed to know such a man. Delhi was a large city, and several philosophers resided there. Ordinary people did not even know of their existence. Chief Minister Vijaya Maharaj, on the other hand, was known to one and all. But Vijnana Chandra never imagined that Vijaya Das was this very man.

“Is it not strange,” he asked himself, “that the citizens of Delhi should be ignorant about such an eminent philosopher?”

He scoured the entire city for several weeks, but he failed to discover the whereabouts of Vijaya Das. And then, he succeeded in his efforts through an accident. He was passing by a monastery when someone inside it sang a song by Vijaya Das. At once, he went in and asked the ascetics, “who composed this song?”

“Vijaya Maharaj, the Chief Minister to the Emperor, is the poet,” he was told. On inquiring further, he learned that his residence was inside the palace, and it was tough to meet him.

Vijnana-Chandra could not believe his ears. How could a great minister also be a philosopher? And people referred to him as Maharaj or His Highness! There must be something wrong somewhere!

Determined to solve the mystery, Vijnana-Chandra went to see the Chief Minister at once. “I must see the Chief Minister right now,” he said to the guards at the palace gate.

The guards laughed, and in- formed him that it was not possible. Even crowned heads, they said, had to wait weeks on end to get an appointment with the Chief Minister. A mere ascetic could not hope for an interview with him.

“It is clear,” Vijnana-Chandra thought, “that this Vijaya Das is a fraud. He surrounds himself with the best of worldly happiness and puts philosophy into his songs. I cannot go away without giving this man a piece of my mind.” He told the guards that he would not stir from the spot until he met the Chief Minister.

The guards did not pay any heed to him at first, but after two days, when they saw that the ascetic meant what he said, they informed the Chief Minister that someone had been at the gate for two days to see him.

“Why did you make him wait all this time?” the Chief Minister said to them. “Show him in.”

Vijnana-Chandra saw the Chief Minister luxuriously seated on soft cushions on top of a golden swing, scrutinizing some papers. At the same time, some of the highest officials of the Court stood at a distance with folded hands.

“Are you Vijaya Das, the author of the philosophical songs?” Vijnana-Chandra shouted, standing at the door.

The Chief Minister raised his head and looked at him. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Pray, come in and be seated.”

“Are you not ashamed,” Vijnana-Chandra asked him, “to call yourself a philosopher while you lead a life of such luxury and comfort? These chairs are for impostors like you. I am a true philosopher! I can do without them.”

“Ah, sir,” the Chief Minister said, “in that case, you can very easily understand that what you see is a fateful luxury.”

“What do you mean by fateful luxury?” the visitor asked in utter surprise.

“Luxury is as much a matter of fate as misery is,” Vijaya Das replied. “One may not escape from it. The truly wise can only attain indifference to it. That is what I do.”

“Don’t try to fool me with a false argument, “Vijnana-Chandra replied. “I can certainly alter your fate.”

“Please do!” the other said. “This luxury is not of my seeking, nor am I in need of it.”

That night both of them were alone when suddenly Vijnana-Chandra said, “Let us go away now. I am taking you with me.”

“Let us go, then!” Vijaya Das said.

They started at about midnight and walked on. By the following day, they were very far from the city. Vijnana-Chandra made the Chief Minister walk till noon without rest, food or drink. They found themselves in a desert-like place with only one colossal banian tree at noon.

“You take a rest in the shade of this tree while I go to the nearest village and get food for both of us,” Vijnanachandra said to his companion. Then he went away.

Vijaya Das had no sleep the previous night. He was not accustomed to prolonged walking and fatigue. So the moment he lay down in the shade, he was overcome with sleep.

Vijnana-Chandra was not gone long when a caravan appeared on the horizon and made for the banian tree.

It was the caravan of the King of Nepal, who was going to Delhi on a crucial political mission. This caravan left its last camp at about dawn and moved on, despite the beating sun, for want of a shady spot where tents could be pitched until the banian tree came within sight.

The King of Nepal saw Vijaya Das sleeping in the shade and at once recognized him. He ordered his men to pitch his velvet tent over the spot where the Chief Minister was sleeping. The King’s feather bed was brought in, and the sleeper was gently lifted and placed upon it. Rose water was sprinkled all around the couch, and servants stood fanning the sleeper. The King of Nepal sat on a chair and awaited the waking up of the sleeper. All through this, Vijaya Das slept peacefully,

In the meantime, Vijnana-Chandra collected enough food and returned. He was surprised to see several tents, horses and elephants, and armed guards moving about under the tree. He could see a field kitchen nearby and surmised that it was the camp of a King.

He wondered what had happened to Vijaya Das. For a moment, he suspected Vijaya Das had sent for all this, but he knew the idea was absurd.

Some guards approached him and said, “This is the camp of the King of Nepal. Why are you loitering here? Go away!”

“I am looking for one, Vijaya Das!” Vijnana-Chandra told them.

“His Highness is still asleep. Our Lord, too, is waiting for him to get up!” the guards informed him. You will not be able to see him today.”

But Vijaya Das opened his eyes and sat up at that very moment.

He saw the King of Nepal sitting opposite and embraced him warmly.

“When did you arrive?” he asked. Why didn’t you wake me up? There was an ascetic with me; where is he?”

The King of Nepal asked his guards to see if there was an ascetic nearby and bring him along.

Soon Vijnana-Chandra was shown into the King’s tent. He saw Vijaya Das sitting on a royal couch. The King of Nepal himself was fanning him!

Seeing Vijnana-Chandra, Vijaya Das stood up and said, “Sir, I fell asleep the moment you left me, and I was on this couch when I woke up again. This is my friend, the King of Nepal. I was not even aware of the arrival of His Highness. Shall we proceed on our way?

“No, my son,” Vijnana- chandra said. “Let me go away by myself. My eyes are opened. While trying to teach you, I learned from you. You are fated to be happy. You cannot escape it. I now know what a wise man you are!”

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