Time cares little for your rank or position. A beggar would eventually meet a billionaire on a level playing field- in the space of death. The Italian proverb says it well, “After the game of chess, both the king and the pawn lie in the same box.”
Desires cause suffering
Meanwhile, our hopes, if not transcended, frustrate us. With advancing age, the capacity of the body to fulfill our ever increasing cravings reduces. The widening gap between our fanciful expectations and the bitter reality of this world is what we often unknowingly refer to, like stress or depression.
An anecdote from the traditional Akbar- Birbal folklore drives home the point:
Seated alone with his trusted minister, the aging Emperor wondered if Lust would ever subside. Birbal mildly shook his head, indicating the negative. “Oh I am sure at the fag end of our lives, there would be no desires,” Akbar said conclusively and looked at Birbal for an affirmation. After deliberating a while, the wise minister proposed the emperor accompanies him to meet one ninety-five-year-old man, on his deathbed. As Akbar consented, Birbal emphasized, “But please get Shakr-un-Nissa Begum along.” She was Akbar’s beautiful twenty-three-year-old daughter.
The following day, seated on the bedside of the dying nonagenarian, Birbal spoke encouraging words, while Akbar, along with his attractive daughter, quietly stood a little distance away.
His eyes closed, the old man trembled and feebly muttered, “I want to die. Take me away; I am miserable….why is this happening to me….”
Akbar bent low and whispered to Birbal, “He seems to have lost all hope and zest for life.”
The old man slowly opened his eyes, and after surveying all present in the room, his eyes fell upon the young woman. He suddenly seemed interested and then stared at her intently. Even as Birbal tried to connect to him, he was disinterested in either the minister or his king. He merely looked at the lady with unblinking eyes. His lower jaw dropped, his breath quickened, and suddenly he seemed desperate to live. Akbar and Birbal exchanged glances while the daughter felt embarrassed watching the old man drool. Feeling uncertain, she excused herself out of the room, as the old man’s eyes followed her until she was out of sight.
Later, seated alone with his confidant, the sobered king said, “Yes Birbal, our desires to enjoy are like a forest fire. They burn forever until we have another aspiration that transcends our own body and mind.”
To be continued….