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question-mark-dicePrevious Story: The Three Questions - Asked

"I know the hermit's answers now," Josh announced proudly as father and son began their daily trek the next day.

"Yeah?" asked Rosh, "What were they?"

"Hallelujah," muttered a crow perched high above them. He had waited all day long, hoping he could get a chance to hear the answers.

Sometimes, debates ensued between father and son. They were even more insightful than the cryptic answers.

"Before the hermit could answer the King," Josh was saying, "a man had emerged from behind the trees. He held his hands pressed tightly against his stomach, but blood was flowing from underneath them."

"He stumbled unsteadily towards the King but then tripped over and fell unconscious on the ground before him. He was bleeding badly from a terrible stomach wound."

"The two men rushed towards the stranger to help. They unfastened his clothing, cleaned his wound with fresh water and bandaged it with clean pieces of cloth as best as they could."

"Then lifting him carefully between themselves, they carried him inside the hermit's hut and placed him on the hermit's bed. Blood continued to seep through the deep gash in him."

"The King and hermit tended to him all night, cleaning and rebandaging the wound until it finally stopped bleeding in the early hours of the morning."

"Exhausted from the day's heavy labor, followed by the nightlong caring of the wounded man, the King and hermit crouched on the floor beside the bed. They didn't know when sleep overtook them."

"The King awoke with a surprise, when he heard the wounded man groan. The man had revived and was gazing at the ceiling silently."

"The King fetched him some water to drink, lifted his head in his lap, and helped the man drink. The movement and noise awoke the hermit too."

"Forgive me!" whispered the wounded man faintly, as he rested his head on the King's lap after having sipped a little water.

"I do not know you," said the King, "and have nothing to forgive you for."

"You do not know me," the man replied weakly, "but I know you. I am your enemy, a man who swore to avenge myself, because you had executed my brother and seized his property."

"I have spied on you for quite some time," he sighed heavily, "Seeing you walking up the hill alone today, I resolved to kill you on your way back. I followed you part-way up the track and lay in ambush."

"But the day passed and you did not return. I got worried that I had missed you. So I emerged from my ambush to see if your entourage was still waiting for you at the bottom of the hill."

"A couple of your guards who had wandered up the track spotted me, and unfortunately recognized me. I killed them, but was wounded badly. I came here straightaway to kill you too, but I had bled too much."

"I should have died here yesterday," he coughed painfully, "had you not dressed my wound and cared for me. I came to kill you, but you tried to save my life."

"Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful servant, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!"

The King was speechless at his good fortune. He made his peace with him, and not only forgave him, but promised to send his own physician here to attend to him. He also promised to restore his property.

Then, ready to leave, the King turned to the hermit, and said, "For the last time wise man, I beg you to answer my questions."

The hermit looked at the King, and said, "But your questions have already been answered."

"How's that?" the King asked, puzzled.

"Do you not see," replied the hermit. "If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug up those beds for me, but had gone your way, this man would have attacked you, and probably killed you."

"So staying here and helping me was the right thing for you to do and you did it at the right time. You stayed here till the right time, doing the right thing. I was the right person for you to be with yesterday."

"Later, when this man stumbled upon us, the right thing to do was to attend to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you."

"So he was the most important man for you then, and what you did for him, was your most important thing to do at the time. Again, you did the right thing at the right time to the right person."

"But I don't understand Pa," Josh concluded, "Looks to me like the hermit justified everything that happened, as being the right thing, after it had already happened. But hindsight is not really wisdom."

"Yes, many people do use this tactic," Rosh answered, "to explain and justify events. It is the safest thing to do. From the information in the story, we can never know whether the hermit was truly wise or not."

"But presence of smoke indicates more strongly than anything else that fire is present. The hermit had fame. The hermit didn't seek wealth, power or fame. That tells you something."

"The hermit was asked the questions more than once. He did not answer them, although nothing stopped him from answering them. He was waiting for the right time."

"Did he have a premonition? Did he know what was going to happen? Probably not. But he did know that easy answers have short lives and provide limited satisfaction. Such is the nature of mind."

"The answers that the King got from others had limitations but they were also reasonable. Since he got them too quickly and easily, he moved on from them quickly and easily too. Easy come, easy go."

"You googled this story yesterday, and got some quick answers. But answers that you receive freely from others make no changes in your own life. They can impress, but their impact will only be fleeting."

"The answers that come from your own experience are longer-lasting and have more profound impact on your life. What you discover experientially, changes your perspective completely."

"Create your own answers. They will be unique to your questions, your situations. History is a guide, but history never repeats itself fully. Ask others if you must, to truly learn, but not because you are too lazy to find your own way."

"I am still intrigued by the hermit's answers Pa," Josh said as he looked up at his father, "the King asked what to do in the future. The hermit justified what had happened in the past. The King wanted to buy apples. He was sold pears. Do you see it like this too, or have I just missed the connection?"

Next Story: Who Am I?

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