The Five Wise Words Of The Guru

: The Olive Fairy Book

Once there lived a handsome young man named Ram Singh, who, though a

favourite with everyone, was unhappy because he had a scold for a

step-mother. All day long she went on talking, until the youth was

driven so distracted that he determined to go away somewhere and seek

his fortune. No sooner had he decided to leave his home than he made

his plans, and the very next morning he started off with a few clothes

in a walle
, and a little money in his pocket.

But there was one person in the village to whom he wished to say

good-bye, and that was a wise old guru, or teacher, who had taught him

much. So he turned his face first of all towards his master's hut, and

before the sun was well up was knocking at his door. The old man

received his pupil affectionately; but he was wise in reading faces,

and saw at once that the youth was in trouble.

'My son,' said he, 'what is the matter?'

'Nothing, father,' replied the young man, 'but I have determined to go

into the world and seek my fortune.'

'Be advised,' returned the guru, 'and remain in your father's house;

it is better to have half a loaf at home than to seek a whole one in

distant countries.'

But Ram Singh was in no mood to heed such advice, and very soon the

old man ceased to press him.

'Well,' said he at last, 'if your mind is made up I suppose you must

have your way. But listen carefully, and remember five parting

counsels which I will give you; and if you keep these no evil shall

befall you. First--always obey without question the orders of him

whose service you enter; second--never speak harshly or unkindly to

anyone; third--never lie; fourth--never try to appear the equal of

those above you in station; and fifth--wherever you go, if you meet

those who read or teach from the holy books, stay and listen, if but

for a few minutes, that you may be strengthened in the path of duty.'

Then Ram Singh started out upon his journey, promising to bear in mind

the old man's words.

After some days he came to a great city. He had spent all the money

which he had at starting, and therefore resolved to look for work

however humble it might be. Catching sight of a prosperous-looking

merchant standing in front of a shop full of grain of all kinds, Ram

Singh went up to him and asked whether he could give him anything to

do. The merchant gazed at him so long that the young man began to lose

heart, but at length he answered:

'Yes, of course; there is a place waiting for you.'

'What do you mean?' asked Ram Singh.

'Why,' replied the other, 'yesterday our rajah's chief wazir dismissed

his body servant and is wanting another. Now you are just the sort of

person that he needs, for you are young and tall, and handsome; I

advise you to apply there.'

Thanking the merchant for this advice, the young man set out at once

for the wazir's house, and soon managed, thanks to his good looks and

appearance, to be engaged as the great man's servant.

One day, soon after this, the rajah of the place started on a journey

and the chief wazir accompanied him. With them was an army of servants

and attendants, soldiers, muleteers, camel-drivers, merchants with

grain and stores for man and beast, singers to make entertainment by

the way and musicians to accompany them, besides elephants, camels,

horses, mules, ponies, donkeys, goats, and carts and wagons of every

kind and description, so that it seemed more like a large town on the

march than anything else.

Thus they travelled for several days, till they entered a country that

was like a sea of sand, where the swirling dust floated in clouds, and

men and beasts were half choked by it. Towards the close of that day

they came to a village, and when the headmen hurried out to salute the

rajah and to pay him their respects, they began, with very long and

serious faces, to explain that, whilst they and all that they had were

of course at the disposal of the rajah, the coming of so large a

company had nevertheless put them into a dreadful difficulty because

they had never a well nor spring of water in their country; and they

had no water to give drink to such an army of men and beasts!

Great fear fell upon the host at the words of the headmen, but the

rajah merely told the wazir that he must get water somehow, and that

settled the matter so far as he was concerned. The wazir sent off in

haste for all the oldest men in the place, and began to question them

as to whether there were no wells near by.

They all looked helplessly at each other, and said nothing; but at

length one old grey-beard replied:

'Truly, Sir Wazir, there is, within a mile or two of this village, a

well which some former king made hundreds of years ago. It is, they

say, great and inexhaustible, covered in by heavy stone-work and with

a flight of steps leading down to the water in the very bowels of the

earth; but no man ever goes near it because it is haunted by evil

spirits, and it is known that whoso disappears down the well shall

never be seen again.'

The wazir stroked his beard and considered a moment. Then he turned to

Ram Singh who stood behind his chair.

'There is a proverb,' said he, 'that no man can be trusted until he

has been tried. Go you and get the rajah and his people water from

this well.'

Then there flashed into Ram Singh's mind the first counsel of the old

guru--'Always obey without question the orders of him whose service

you enter.' So he replied at once that he was ready, and left to

prepare for his adventure. Two great brazen vessels he fastened to a

mule, two lesser ones he bound upon his shoulders, and thus provided

he set out, with the old villager for his guide. In a short time they

came to a spot where some big trees towered above the barren country,

whilst under their shadow lay the dome of an ancient building. This

the guide pointed out as the well, but excused himself from going

further as he was an old man and tired, and it was already nearly

sunset, so that he must be returning home. So Ram Singh bade him

farewell, and went on alone with the mule.

Arrived at the trees, Ram Singh tied up his beast, lifted the vessels

from his shoulder, and having found the opening of the well, descended

by a flight of steps which led down into the darkness. The steps were

broad white slabs of alabaster which gleamed in the shadows as he went

lower and lower. All was very silent. Even the sound of his bare feet

upon the pavements seemed to wake an echo in that lonely place, and

when one of the vessels which he carried slipped and fell upon the

steps it clanged so loudly that he jumped at the noise. Still he went

on, until at last he reached a wide pool of sweet water, and there he

washed his jars with care before he filled them, and began to remount

the steps with the lighter vessels, as the big ones were so heavy he

could only take up one at a time. Suddenly, something moved above him,

and looking up he saw a great giant standing on the stairway! In one

hand he held clasped to his heart a dreadful looking mass of bones, in

the other was a lamp which cast long shadows about the walls, and

made him seem even more terrible than he really was.

'What think you, O mortal,' said the giant, 'of my fair and lovely

wife?' And he held the light towards the bones in his arms and looked

lovingly at them.

Now I must tell you that this poor giant had had a very beautiful

wife, whom he had loved dearly; but, when she died, her husband

refused to believe in her death, and always carried her about long

after she had become nothing but bones. Ram Singh of course did not

know of this, but there came to his mind the second wise saying of the

guru, which forbade him to speak harshly or inconsiderately to others;

so he replied:

'Truly, sir, I am sure you could find nowhere such another.'

'Ah, what eyes you have!' cried the delighted giant, 'you at least can

see! I do not know how often I have slain those who insulted her by

saying she was but dried bones! You are a fine young man, and I will

help you.'

So saying, he laid down the bones with great tenderness, and snatching

up the huge brass vessels, carried them up again, and replaced them

with such ease that it was all done by the time that Ram Singh had

reached the open air with the smaller ones.

'Now,' said the giant, 'you have pleased me, and you may ask of me one

favour, and whatever you wish I will do it for you. Perhaps you would

like me to show you where lies buried the treasure of dead kings?' he

added eagerly.

But Ram Singh shook his head at the mention of buried wealth.

'The favour that I would ask,' said he, 'is that you will leave off

haunting this well, so that men may go in and out and obtain water.'

Perhaps the giant expected some favour more difficult to grant, for

his face brightened, and he promised to depart at once; and as Ram

Singh went off through the gathering darkness with his precious

burden of water, he beheld the giant striding away with the bones of

his dead wife in his arms.

Great was the wonder and rejoicing in the camp when Ram Singh returned

with the water. He never said anything, however, about his adventure

with the giant, but merely told the rajah that there was nothing to

prevent the well being used; and used it was, and nobody ever saw any

more of the giant.

The rajah was so pleased with the bearing of Ram Singh that he ordered

the wazir to give the young man to him in exchange for one of his own

servants. So Ram Singh became the rajah's attendant; and as the days

went by the king became more and more delighted with the youth

because, mindful of the old guru's third counsel, he was always honest

and spoke the truth. He grew in favour rapidly, until at last the

rajah made him his treasurer, and thus he reached a high place in the

court and had wealth and power in his hands. Unluckily the rajah had a

brother who was a very bad man; and this brother thought that if he

could win the young treasurer over to himself he might by this means

manage to steal little by little any of the king's treasure which he

needed. Then, with plenty of money, he could bribe the soldiers and

some of the rajah's counsellors, head a rebellion, dethrone and kill

his brother, and reign himself instead. He was too wary, of course, to

tell Ram Singh of all these wicked plans; but he began by flattering

him whenever he saw him, and at last offered him his daughter in

marriage. But Ram Singh remembered the fourth counsel of the old

guru--never to try to appear the equal of those above him in

station--therefore he respectfully declined the great honour of

marrying a princess. Of course the prince, baffled at the very

beginning of his enterprise, was furious, and determined to work Ram

Singh's ruin, and entering the rajah's presence he told him a story

about Ram Singh having spoken insulting words of his sovereign and of

his daughter. What it was all about nobody knew, and, as it was not

true, the wicked prince did not know either; but the rajah grew very

angry and red in the face as he listened, and declared that until the

treasurer's head was cut off neither he nor the princess nor his

brother would eat or drink.

'But,' added he, 'I do not wish any one to know that this was done by

my desire, and anyone who mentions the subject will be severely

punished.' And with this the prince was forced to be content.

Then the rajah sent for an officer of his guard, and told him to take

some soldiers and ride at once to a tower which was situated just

outside the town, and if anyone should come to inquire when the

building was going to be finished, or should ask any other questions

about it, the officer must chop his head off, and bring it to him. As

for the body, that could be buried on the spot. The old officer

thought these instructions rather odd, but it was no business of his,

so he saluted, and went off to do his master's bidding.

Early in the morning the rajah, who had not slept all night, sent for

Ram Singh, and bade him go to the new hunting-tower, and ask the

people there how it was getting on and when it was going to be

finished, and to hurry back with the answer! Away went Ram Singh upon

his errand, but, on the road, as he was passing a little temple on the

outskirts of the city, he heard someone inside reading aloud; and,

remembering the guru's fifth counsel, he just stepped inside and sat

down to listen for a minute. He did not mean to stay longer, but

became so deeply interested in the wisdom of the teacher, that he sat,

and sat, and sat, while the sun rose higher and higher.

In the meantime, the wicked prince, who dared not disobey the rajah's

command, was feeling very hungry; and as for the princess, she was

quietly crying in a corner waiting for the news of Ram Singh's death,

so that she might eat her breakfast.

Hours passed, and stare as he might from the window no messenger could

be seen.

At last the prince could bear it no longer, and hastily disguising

himself so that no one should recognise him, he jumped on a horse and

galloped out to the hunting-tower, where the rajah had told him that

the execution was to take place. But, when he got there, there was no

execution going on. There were only some men engaged in building, and

a number of soldiers idly watching them. He forgot that he had

disguised himself and that no one would know him, so, riding up, he

cried out:

'Now then, you men, why are you idling about here instead of finishing

what you came to do? When is it to be done?'

At his words the soldiers looked at the commanding officer, who was

standing a little apart from the rest. Unperceived by the prince he

made a slight sign, a sword flashed in the sun, and off flew a head on

the ground beneath!

As part of the prince's disguise had been a thick beard, the men did

not recognise the dead man as the rajah's brother; but they wrapped

the head in a cloth, and buried the body as their commander bade them.

When this was ended, the officer took the cloth, and rode off in the

direction of the palace.

Meanwhile the rajah came home from his council, and to his great

surprise found neither head nor brother awaiting him; as time passed

on, he became uneasy, and thought that he had better go himself and

see what the matter was. So ordering his horse he rode off alone.

It happened that, just as the rajah came near to the temple where Ram

Singh still sat, the young treasurer, hearing the sound of a horse's

hoofs, looked over his shoulder and saw that the rider was the rajah

himself! Feeling much ashamed of himself for having forgotten his

errand, he jumped up and hurried out to meet his master, who reined up

his horse, and seemed very surprised (as indeed he was) to see him.

At that moment there arrived the officer of the guard carrying his

parcel. He saluted the rajah gravely, and, dismounting, laid the

bundle in the road and began to undo the wrappings, whilst the rajah

watched him with wonder and interest. When the last string was undone,

and the head of his brother was displayed to his view, the rajah

sprang from his horse and caught the soldier by the arm. As soon as he

could speak he questioned the man as to what had occurred, and little

by little a dark suspicion darted through him. Then, briefly telling

the soldier that he had done well, the rajah drew Ram Singh to one

side, and in a few minutes learned from him how, in attending to the

guru's counsel, he had delayed to do the king's message.

In the end the rajah found from some papers the proofs of his dead

brother's treachery; and Ram Singh established his innocence and

integrity. He continued to serve the rajah for many years with

unswerving fidelity; and married a maiden of his own rank in life,

with whom he lived happily; dying at last honoured and loved by all

men. Sons were born to him; and, in time, to them also he taught the

five wise sayings of the old guru.

(A Punjabi story.)