Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

– Confucius

For Whom I Weep?

There is an ancient Chinese parable. Chuang Tzu used to tell that parable again and again.

A great king had only one son and the son was dying – dying of a disease for which there was no medicine available. All the physicians had said, “There is no way to save him. It is only a question of a few hours or at the most one or two days and he will be gone.”

The king had loved the son so much; he was the only son, the king was getting old and there was no possibility of another son. The king was sitting by the side of the bed the whole night because this might be the last night.

Nearabout four o’clock the old king fell asleep and had a dream. In the dream he saw a beautiful marble palace; he had never dreamed of such a beautiful palace. And the kingdom is so vast; he is the king, and he is sitting on a golden throne studded with big diamonds and emeralds. He HAD emeralds and diamonds but not so big, not so pure, without any flaw. And he had beautiful women and twelve sons; maybe the idea of losing his only son had created the desire for twelve sons, maybe it was just a reflection of his actual state. This dream might have been just a wish fulfillment, but he felt so blessed. And all his sons were so wise, so healthy, such great warriors.

And then suddenly his son died on the bed. The wife cried so loudly that the king’s dream was shattered; he opened his eyes, looked at the dead body of his son and didn’t say a word – remained like a statue. His wife was shocked, she shook him and said, “Do you understand or not? Your son is dead!” The king said, “I can see it but now I am puzzled – for whom to cry? Just a minute before I had twelve beautiful sons, very handsome, very wise, in every way skillful. And because of your crying my dream is shattered, those twelve sons have disappeared; and the golden throne and the marble palace and the great kingdom, all have gone. Should I weep for those or should I weep for this son because when I was dreaming I had completely forgotten my son, you and the kingdom?

“Now I am awake, I have forgotten the dream and the beauties of the dream. Which is true, which should I cry for? Because when I was seeing the dream it was true, at least it appeared to be true. Now I am seeing my dead son, it appears true, but how to decide which appearance is really true?”

Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.

– Swami Vivekananda
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