Below is a very old, inspiring short story coming from the sacred land of Tibet. I don’t know who wrote it, but one thing is certain: its message is profound.
Long, long ago when the world was young and the tiger walked with the deer, there was a rich king who had four wives. The king loved his fourth wife the most and adorned her with riches. He also loved his third wife and was always showing her off to neighbouring kingdoms. However, he always feared that she would leave him. His second wife was kind and considerate and his trusted confidante and advisor in difficult times. Wife number one was devoted and loyal and although she loved him deeply, he was not as interested and tended to ignore her.
One day, the king fell ill and the truth dawned that his life was soon to end. He thought of the luxurious life he had led and feared being alone when he died.
He asked his fourth wife, “I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing, showered gifts upon you and taken great care over you. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No way!” she replied and walked away without another word.
The sad king then asked the third wife, “I have loved you all my life. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company? ” “No!” she replied. “Life is too good! When you die, I’m going to remarry!”
He then asked the second wife, “I have always turned to you for help and you’ve always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?” “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!” she replied. “At the very most, I can help with your funeral.”
Then a voice called out to the king in his sadness: “I’ll leave with you and follow you no matter where you go.” The king looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny and undernourished. Greatly grieved, the king said, “I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!”
In truth, we all have four wives in our lives. Our fourth wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it’ll leave us when we die. It’ll be burnt, buried or chopped up for the vultures and wolves or feed the worms.
Our third wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, it will all go to others. It will be divided up.
Our second wife is our family and friends. No matter how much they have supported and loved us, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the burial site. Even if they enter the portal of Death they and we must walk alone into the Bardo Thodol.
Our first wife is our mindstream, often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasures of the ego. However, our mindstream is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go.
The moral: Care for your body and keep it healthy so you can live life to its fullest. Enjoy your possessions, the pleasure and the comfort they provide. Cherish your friends and family and the love they provide. Don’t forget to nourish your mindstream as it is the source of all your life and will prove to be your most faithful friend.
Photo courtesy of Cornelia Kopp
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