Once there was a Muslim boy who was walking on the banks of a river. After sometime, the heat became unbearable and he became very tired. So he drank a lot of water from the river. But he was pacified only for some time. One’s hunger cannot be satisfied by drinking water. Soon he began to feel the pangs of hunger. He was unable to walk, so he sat down at one place. Soon, he saw an apple floating on the river. He jumped into the river, got the apple and ate it. Then he remembered what his parents had told him. When you are angry or hungry you do not get sacred feelings. Hunger and anger hide the truth from you.
Sita knew that there was no golden deer. But when bad times befall, you get perverted thoughts. She saw that golden deer and said, “Rama! I love that golden deer. Can you get me that deer? If you get that deer to the Ashram, I can spend time playing with the deer.” Hearing these words, Rama felt, “Sita has never asked me for anything, anywhere and at any point of time. For once, she has desired something from Me. Of what use am I if I cannot fulfil this small desire for her?” Rama knew that there was no such thing as a golden deer. But because of the aspiration of Sita and her longing for the deer, Rama went after the deer.
In the same way, the Muslim boy, without thinking, ate the apple. After eating the apple, his hunger was satisfied. But then he thought, “I have committed a great sin for I have eaten the fruit without the permission of the owner. The apple belongs to somebody and I have eaten it. So I am a thief. My parents used to teach me not to steal anything from anybody. Not to utter untruth. Not harm others. Not criticize others.” Whatever the country they belonged to, whatever the religion they belonged to and whatever time they belonged to, the parents in the olden days would teach their children only nice things. He then asked himself, “To whom does this fruit belong to?” Thinking like that, he walked along the bank of the river. After walking some distance, he saw an orchard of apples. One of the branches of the apple tree was partly hanging over the flowing river. From the branch, many apples had fallen into the river and one of them had come along with the tide of the river. He wanted to find out who was the master of the orchard because according to him, he had committed a great sin. “I should go to the master of this orchard and ask for forgiveness”, he thought. The boy called out for the master. The gardener came and said, “I am here.” The boy told the gardener, “One of your apples fell into the river and it came floating to me. I ate the apple as I was hungry. But, I have committed a great sin by eating your apple without your permission and hence seek your forgiveness.” The watchman smiled and said, “Had you not eaten it, the apple would have got lost in the tide of the river. At least, it satisfied your hunger.” He was also a Muslim and a philosopher. His name was Ismail. He continued, “You need not worry about that. You did not do anything wrong. You did not misuse it. You have not committed any great sin by eating the apple without permission. You used it properly. You have only made use of the opportunity that came along your way to satisfy your hunger. It has helped you satiate your hunger at the right time. If you had not eaten the apple, it would have become rotten and got wasted.” How much ever the old man tried to convince the boy, the boy was not satisfied. The boy said, “I have eaten the apple without your permission and therefore, I have committed a sin. I will not be satisfied unless I atone for this sin.” The old man thought, “This boy is a very good boy. He has great love for truth and honesty. It is my good luck that I could get hold of such a boy.” He made the boy sit down, and enquired if he was still hungry. He gave the boy more apples to eat and water to drink. After this too, the boy was not satisfied. He said, “Without your permission, I had eaten your fruit and this is theft. I should be punished for this.” The gardener finally said, “Boy! Your punishment is that you have to guard the orchard for 10 days. See that no fruit is lost from the orchard.” The boy thought, “This is the proper atonement for having eaten the apple without the owner’s permission.” The boy was happy looking after the orchard for a few days. The boy thought, “When I watch over the trees laden with fruits, I am giving joy to a lot of people.” The boy went to the master and said, “Master! I have made watching over the trees the goal of my life!” The body is meant for the service of others. One must render service not only to human beings, animals or beasts, but also to plants and trees. Service cannot be limited to this and that. The objective is to help others. “My body is for doing Dharma. I have to lead my life on the path of righteousness.” Saying so, he fell at the feet of the gardener and pleaded to be given this service. The boy’s name was Abdul Khan. The gardener happily offered him the service. Time passed by and one day the man asked the boy to come to his house and have food. The man thought, “This boy is a very good boy. He has never erred in his vision, words or actions. He has a very good behaviour. He is highly disciplined. He is lucky to possess so many virtues. The boy is a perfect example for upholding the real meaning of ‘Man’. The boy is practising the true meaning of ‘Man’.” Here, the old man referred to the meaning of ‘MAN’, which is – the one who has conquered Maya, has had the vision of the Atman and attained Nirvana.
He used to take the boy for food daily with him. Once he asked the boy if he had his parents. The boy replied in the affirmative. The man asked, “Why is it that they have never come here and asked about you?” The boy said, “Master! My parents are very pure-hearted and they have complete faith in me that I practice truth and righteousness and will not do anything that will bring them disgrace. Hence, they don’t make any effort to know my whereabouts or even track me down. They also have the faith that God will look after me wherever I am. They would not worry about me or enquire about me anywhere.” The man thought, “Such a sacred son is born to sacred parents. The son’s nature depends on the parents.” If you are born to such sacred parents you will also be sacred. The man had only one daughter. He thought they would be a good match – the boy and girl. He went on thinking like this. One fine day he told the boy, “Boy! For the atonement of your sin, I have a way out. Will you accept what I say?” The boy replied, “I will definitely accept anything for the atonement of my sin.” The man said, “I have a daughter who is blind, deaf, lame and dumb. I want you to marry my daughter.” The boy said, “You are the owner and I have committed the mistake. So, I will definitely accept whatever punishment you give.” The man said, “You can then inform your parents.” The boy informed his parents and the parents came to know of the entire story by the time they arrived. The parents were very happy that their boy had faith in God and followed the path of truth and righteousness. The parents accepted the marriage as the marriage was the atonement for the boy’s sin. The marriage was performed and it was a ‘Ghosha’ marriage, one of the types done for the Muslims. The bride and the bridegroom did not see each other. But, the father of the girl said that his daughter was blind, deaf, lame and dumb. Even the boy’s parents were happy that their son was going to look after such a girl. The marriage was over. Next day, when the boy saw the girl, she was very beautiful. She had eyes, she was able to hear him, she had legs and she wasn’t dumb. Abdul asked the bride’s father, “You liked me for my truthfulness and honesty. Then why did you speak untruth?” The old man replied, “I did not tell any lie. My daughter has not seen any man other than me – her father. Hence, I said she was blind. She has never listened to anything bad about anyone. She is always thinking of God. All the time, she used to study something. Therefore, I said that she is deaf. She has never stepped across the threshold of my house, not even to meet the neighbour. Hence, I said she was lame. This is what I told you and it is the truth.” Abdul’s parents told him, “You are very fortunate as are we. We never thought that our son will get such a sacred girl.” Then the parents of both the boy and girl met. Such a son was because of the sacredness of the parents, and a sacred girl was due to the sacredness of her parents. God brought them together into an intimate relationship. So, it was Divine Will that united such a boy and girl or else what is the relation between an apple floating in a river being eaten by a boy and his marriage. The sacredness of the boy and the girl united them together in the marriage. When the parents are good, their children will naturally be good. If the boy takes to a wrong path, it is not the mistake of the boy alone, but also of his parents. The boy’s behaviour becomes good if the parents have sacred qualities. We should not find defects only in the children. Many times, the defects of the parents are passed onto the children.
Source: ‘Progress from Greatness to Goodness’, Discourse 6, My Dear Students Volume 5, Divine Discourse delivered at Trayee Brindavan on May 23, 1999