There was nothing that the great Emperor Babar would hesitate to do for his subjects. He used to regard his subjects as his own children. From time to time, Babar used to go out of the palace grounds and walk along the streets and through the markets to mix with his subjects and see for himself the conditions in which they were living. Often, if he saw someone who was poverty-stricken, he would help that person with a little money or food. People did not recognise their Emperor during these wanderings because he would dress very simply. Also, he wore a kind of turban over his crown to disguise it.
Now it happened that there was a young man who cherished tremendous jealousy towards Babar because everybody appreciated, admired and adored the Emperor. Babar’s subjects always extolled him to the skies for his bravery, kindness, nobility and other divine qualities. For this reason, the young man had been harbouring a desire to kill Babar. He had heard that from time to time the Emperor walked in the city all alone. So this young man always carried a sword, hoping that someday he would meet the Emperor when he did not have his bodyguards with him and then have the opportunity to kill the Emperor.
Usually, when Babar went out, his guards would secretly follow him to protect him. Although Babar did not want anyone to go with him, his guards were afraid for his safety. Babar was the ruler of the whole empire, but in this respect his own bodyguards would not listen to him.
One particular afternoon, Babar managed to walk out of the palace gates alone, without his guards. As usual, he went incognito. As he was walking along observing the daily activities of his subjects, he saw a mad elephant coming down the street. The elephant was trampling everything in sight. Pandemonium broke out. People were shouting and trying to escape from the elephant’s path and everybody was panicking. But there was one little, helpless child who could not run fast enough to get out of the elephant’s way. Everybody was frightened to death, but nobody dared to try to save the child. Just as the elephant was about to trample the little child, the Emperor ran over at top speed and snatched the child out of the way. Babar saved the child, but as he was running away with the child in his arms, his turban fell to the ground.
When the mad elephant had passed by, some men ran to pick up the turban of the brave hero. Immediately they saw the Emperor’s crown inside the turban. The young man who had wanted to kill Babar was one of those who witnessed the whole scene. Although he himself had known that the child’s life was in grave danger, he had not been brave enough to try to save him. He had run away, just like everybody else. When he realised what had happened, he fell at Babar’s feet and said, “O Emperor, forgive me.”
Babar asked him, “What have you done?”
The man replied, “I have been cherishing the desire to kill you for many years because I was terribly jealous of the admiration you receive. Now I see that you truly deserve it. As Emperor, you are far more precious to the kingdom than any of us, but you were ready to give up your own life to save an ordinary human being. What I have learned from you is that it is infinitely better to give life than to take life. This is what you have taught me. Now, instead of taking your life, I am giving you mine. Please take my life.”
Then he offered Babar the selfsame sword with which he had planned to kill him.
Babar took the sword and said, “I taught you how to give life. Now I am going to take your life, but not in the way that you think. Come with me. From now on, you will be one of my bodyguards. I can see that your sincerity is truly remarkable and I am sure that you will be a faithful guard.”
So Babar took the man’s life, only to make it into a useful and fruitful one. Instead of killing him, instead of punishing him, Babar made the man one of his personal bodyguards.
from The Moghul Emperors
by Sri Chinmoy