Here is a fable, strange yet fascinating, a tale to rivet, even as you soar on flights of fancy to an ancient kingdom.

It was a kingdom like no other. It was ruled by a rapid succession of kings, for the constitution of the kingdom declared that one could rule for only five years. Thereafter the subjects would elect a new king. Many vied to become king, captivated by the short-lived romance of monarchy: the splendor of the palace, the glamor of royal robes, the bewildering buffet of mouth-watering delights, the servitude of a vast court, and the adulation of thousands. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

After five years on the throne the king would be exiled to an island rumored to be infested with vile beasts and malevolent forests. No one ever heard from the ex-kings again, confirming the suspicion that their exile had been a last exit. For these reasons, the very men who enthusiastically clamored for a chance to be king become increasingly restless and anxious once they ascended to the throne. Their distress would reach a peak on the day of exile. When they embarked on the boat that would bear them to their fate, many would cry or cling to their loved ones, in vain. For the passage to the isle of tomorrow was irrevocable.

Strangely enough, this grim inevitability did nothing to stem the tide of candidates seeking to become king. It was as if they were so blinded by the prospect of being a blueblood that they did not pause to consider the aftermath. This was the case of all but one. He was a young man whose visage bespoke high intelligence, whose words revealed an earthy humor, and whose briskness suggested a deft authority. Throughout his reign, he remained cheerful. This set him apart from his predecessors, as did his able administration. The subjects were pleased, yet anxious knowing that he too would leave after five years. The king, on his part, betrayed no apprehension whatsoever over his fate.

Finally, the day arrived when he was due to making the crossing. He arrived at the wharf confidently, as if setting out on a joyride. His composure amazed the subjects. Some of them found it unsettling that he could maintain such equanimity in the face of what was surely death. One of them asked him, "Your majesty, aren't you worried about the future? Your end has come. But you don't seem bothered at all."

"I am not worried in the least bit," the king replied, his eyes scanning the crowds who were keenly listening to him. He continued. "When I became king, I knew that I could rule for only five years, and that I would be exiled to the isle of tomorrow thereafter. To safeguard my own future well-being, I periodically sent soldiers to the isle of tomorrow to slay the wild animals and to tame the forest to make it more hospitable. My generals now report that there is a palace awaiting my arrival. Guards, cooks, servants, and my most trusted ministers are there, waiting for me. For this reason, I know I have nothing to fear, and look forward to spending my future in bliss."

Hearken to the moral of this allegory. Like those vying to be king, most of us become ensnared by the pleasures of life, giving scarcely a thought to the hereafter until it is too late. Those who live with eternity in mind will diligently strive to rid themselves of the vile creatures of vasanas [latent tendencies], and tame the forest of thoughts that is our mind. If we can succeed in thus ruling our mind, we can be sure of a blissful tomorrow. Om

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