The Wise Tenali Raman | Tenali Raman Stories
King Krishna Dev Raya was in his court one morning when a priest came in with a tricky question. The priest wanted the King’s ministers to answer his question, “What is maya?”
The King told the Rajguru to answer the question that the priest had asked. “Sir, when we are born, we don’t bring anything with us,” the Rajguru told the priest. When we die, we also don’t take anything with us. We leave all our worldly possessions behind. As a result, everything we learn in life is a lie. Hence, it is maya.”
The priest pondered over the Rajguru’s explanation but was not completely satisfied. Now, it was Tenali Raman turn. “Sir,” Tenali asked the priest, “where are the Himalayas?”
“North!” said the priest.
Tenali asked again, “Sir, if I live in China, which way do the Himalayas face?”
“South!” said the priest.
Tenali Raman said, “Sir, what is true in one place could be a lie in another.” As a result, everything around us is both true and false. “So, is it a mirage or a maya?”
The priest was very happy with Tenali’s answer and told him how smart he was. Tenali also made the king happy because he kept the king and Vijaynagar from being embarrassed.
Tenali told the priest, “Sir, we all know you’re very smart and learned.” But I’d like to ask you a question, if you don’t mind.”
This surprised the priest a lot. He agreed to answer Tenali’s question, though.
Tenali asked, “Sir, how can we calculate a man’s lifespan?”
Much to everyone’s astonishment, the priest did not know the answer. The King was very interested in Tenali’s question, so he told Tenali, “Tell us what you want to know.” Tenali said, “Sure, Your Majesty! I learned the answer by telling a personal story. Before I was appointed as a courtier in Your Majesty’s court, I was going through hard times financially. I had a hard time staying alive and taking care of my family in my own village.
So, I decided to look for a prosperous place to resettle. During my search, I came to the edge of a village that looked very religious. When I walked in, I saw something strange. In honour of the dead, many memorial stones had been set up. This happened often. The strange thing was that the length of each person’s life was written in beautiful gold foil: “He lived for two years,” “He died at age three.” She made it for two and a half years.
“My God!’ I wondered, “People here don’t live long.” What good does it do to live in a place where you will die soon? I was about to leave in haste when the villagers saw me. They invited me into their homes, fed me tasty food, and made me feel at ease. Their genuine kindness made me trust them.
But the thought of dying at such a young age made me sad.
The entire town gathered for a spiritual lecture when dusk fell. To write in, they had brought books and journals. listened intently to everything that was stated. I was keen to settle there since I was persuaded of their piety. With the exception of those life spans on the memorial stones, it appeared to be a holy paradise. They destroyed all of my joy and depressed me. I stayed in the area for a few days, but I never really recovered from my melancholy mood.
“One of the villagers asked me why I was so sad one day. I said, “I am touched by your love and hospitality.” You are good, pious people. I also wish to settle here. But what would it help if we were going to die in a few years?
“Why do you think that?” asked the person.
“I did more than just think about those memorial stones on the edge of the village. Not one person seems to have lived more than five years! I answered. “The villager laughed and said, “You are smart, but not wise.” Just look at my father. He is sixty years old. If everyone here died by the age of two or three, why would he still be healthy at sixty? He pointed at his father and then at some other old people in the village. “Then, what should we make of the dates of death on the gravestones?” I questioned.
“It’s a tradition in this village,” the villager said, “that whenever we listen to a spiritual discussion, we each keep a personal diary of how long we were there.” Maybe you have noticed this in the few days you have been here.
I nodded, and the man continued, “Well, we believe that our real-life span is only that which we spend in spiritual discourses.” If a man devotes one hour per day to discourses, he will have spent thirty hours, or one and a quarter day, per month. He said that by the end of a year, he had only lived for fifteen days. Even if he lives for another sixty years, he will have lived for about two and a half years.
This is how the life span is calculated. Tenali went on, “This is how we must also think.” Only that part of our lives that we have spent worshipping God has really been lived. The years spent in worldly activities have gone to waste. All of us should spend more and more time in spiritual discourses and the Lord’s work. His devotees should donate a part of their lives to spiritual activities. In twelve months, a full month should be spent in the company of a true saint, listening to his wisdom and serving him through mind, word, and deed. This is what will add up to our actual life span.”
The priest said, “Tenali, you have opened my eyes.” I may have learned something, but I have spent my whole life trying to show how smart I am. “Thank you for enlightening me.”
The King also praised Tenali, saying, “Tenali, I am in deed lucky to have such a wise man like you as one of my courtiers.”
The next morning, the king was in a generous mood. ‘Aha! “What can I do today to feel good?” he asked himself. Soon, it would be his turn to run the court. He called all his courtiers and gave them gold coins. He told them to do whatever they wanted with the money within a week. But they had to look at the king’s face before they could spend the money. The courtiers were very pleased, but every time they wanted to buy something, they kept waiting for the King to show his face in the market.
They had to meet in court a week later to show what they had bought. Everyone went back with the gold coins.
Tenali was the only one who came with new clothes and an empty bag. The rest of them said, “Tenali, you lied! “We couldn’t spend the money because we never saw the king’s face in the market.”
“Why not?” said Tenali. “Every gold coin has a picture of Her Majesty on it.” “I saw the face of His Majesty every time I bought something.”
The King looked at Tenali with pride and told her, “No one can beat you, Tenali!” So, Tenali Raman really was a wise and well-informed man of his time.
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