There was once a great scholar. Everybody in the kingdom appreciated him because he was so learned. Unfortunately, in spite of his great learning he had great pride.
One day this scholar put on a gold necklace and went to the palace of another king. He said, “Whoever can defeat me in wisdom will get this necklace. I challenge everybody!”
All the scholars in that particular kingdom had heard about this scholar and they were afraid that they would lose. So they would not accept his challenge. The king was very sad that nobody would accept the challenge.
Finally, the court jester said, I accept your challenge.”
The king had almost surrendered to the scholar but thought it would be amusing to see his jester compete. He believed he was only a joker and would not be able to win the necklace.
The court jester said, “I will ask you four questions. if you answer any of my questions correctly, then you will lose, but if all your answers are incorrect, then I will accept defeat and the king will give you anything you want.”
Then the court jester asked his first question: “Where do you come from?”
The scholar said, I live here.” This was incorrect, since he came from another kingdom. So by giving the wrong answer the scholar passed the first test.
The jester’s second question was, “How long have you been here?”
“Three years,” the scholar said, which was also incorrect. Still the court jester was unable to trick him.
The third time the jester asked, “Our king is good, kind and generous. Do you agree?”
The scholar said, “Your king? What you are saying is totally wrong. Your king is undivine and very unkind.” So again the scholar passed the test.
The court jester said, “It seems that I can’t defeat you. How many questions have I asked so far?”
The scholar said, “You have asked me three questions; you have one more. If I do not answer it correctly you will lose. ”
The court jester cried out, “Look! The scholar has lost. He has answered this question correctly.”
So the scholar gave his necklace to the court jester, and the jester immediately gave it to the king. The scholar’s pride was totally smashed. He said, “I will never come to your kingdom to challenge anybody again.”
All the scholars were very impressed by the court jester’s cleverness. They knew that they would not have been able to defeat the great scholar. The jester said, “You see, when great scholars are not alert, they lose. Had he been alert, he could have saved himself.”
from Garden of the Soul
by Sri Chinmoy