Having lots of money while not having inner peace is like dying of thirst while bathing in a lake. ~ P. Yogananda Click To Tweet
The old mystic had been travelling through the mountains for a number of days. Early one morning, as she knelt by a stream to collect some water, a glint from one of the stones within caught her eye. She put her canister aside and plucked it from the brook, holding it up to sun to examine it more closely.
It was a rare jewel indeed. She knew many merchants who would trade all their possessions for it, so great was its value in the marketplace. Far beyond the allure of riches, however, its sheer elegance was something to behold. The morning light passed through its body in a manner that was quite exquisite. Marking her fortune, she offered a silent prayer and slipped the stone into her pouch, continuing on her way.
Soon after, she met another traveller along the path, a young man who was hungry and tired and looking for food. They spoke briefly, the old mystic inviting him to share in her rations over a small meal. As the course of their communion unfolded, they traded stories, the wise woman learning that the young man was coming from the same town that she was headed to, the place of her birth. He informed her that he had run out of work there and had finally decided to leave, heading to the nearest town in order to find more employment. As they were cleaning up from the meal, the young man caught sight of the precious stone in her bag.
“My god!” he exclaimed. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Yes, quite,” the old lady answered, a gleam in her eye. She removed it from her pouch and held it up to the light. “I found it only moments before I met you. Would you like to hold it?”
“Very much so,” he said, holding out his hands.
The mystic placed the stone in his palms and he stared down at it. “My word…” he whispered. He knew this jewel held enough value to provide him a lavish life for the rest of his time on earth, and, while the thought that he could simply turn and run did cross his mind, he resisted. He was not a thief, no matter the temptation. Looking at the old lady, he wondered at her situation. She only had a few years left, surely, and she had mentioned that she had no living relatives in the village she was headed back to. Sheepishly, he asked if she would be willing to give the stone up.
“Certainly,” she said, without batting an eye. “It’s yours.”
She smiled at him and he burst into tears, overcome with the good fortune this stranger had just bestowed upon him. They embraced in the morning light and said their goodbyes — he promising to return and visit her soon, she welcoming him to do so.
It was only a matter of days, however, before the old lady saw her mountain companion once more. He turned up late one afternoon, wandering into the village wearing the same clothes she had met him in. Before even reaching the next town, he said, he had been plagued by his thoughts until he could no longer go on.
“It came to me, as I walked the mountain path in solitude, just what the real gift was,” he explained. “For the first day I thought of nothing but the life I would live once I traded in the stone. The idea of all the riches, food and foreign lands I would experience enticed me greatly. But then, as I continued with it, moving through all of these imaginings, it was as if I lived that very life through, and I began to realize that, after everything, it is only I who waits for me in the end.”
The old lady listened intently, her eyes a mix of fascination, amusement and deep understanding. How interesting this life was, even after all this time!
The traveller exhumed the gem from his pack and handed it back to her. “Our exchange, and your gift of the stone to me was the most significant thing that has happened to me in this life so far. I realize now that nothing has any meaning save the meaning we grant it. Everything this jewel could provide me with is therefore ultimately empty. What I would like, instead, is whatever you have within you that enabled you to give me this precious rock without hesitation. If I can attain this, I will have attained the only true treasure in life.”