June 20, 2014

The King and the Gardener – a story told by ‘Abdu’l-Baha

A great king, walking in his garden one day, noticed a man, about ninety years old, planting some trees. The king asked what he was doing and the old man answered that he was planting date trees.

"How long before they will bear fruit?”, asked the king.

"Twenty years."

"But you will not live to enjoy the fruit; why then should you plant these trees?"

The old man answered, "The last generation planted trees that bore fruit for my benefit; so it is now my duty to plant for the benefit of the next generation."

The king was pleased at this answer so gave the man a piece of money. The gardener fell on his knees and thanked him. The king asked, "Why do you kneel before me?"

"Because, your majesty, not only have I had the pleasure, or gift, of planting these trees, but they have already borne fruit, since you give me this money." 

This so pleased the king he gave the man another piece of money. Again the old gardener knelt, saying, "Again I kneel to thank your majesty. Most trees will bear fruit only once, while these trees of mine have already borne two crops -- since you give me two pieces of money."

The king smiled and asked, "How old are you?" The man answered, "I am twelve years old."

"How can that be? You are surely a very old man."

The gardener answered, "In the days of the king your predecessor, the people were in a most unhappy state of constant warfare and trouble, so I cannot include that as a part of my life. But since your majesty came to rule, the people are happy, contented, and at peace. Therefore, as it is but twelve years since your gracious reign began, I am only twelve years old."

This pleased the king so very much that, perforce, he gave the old man another piece of money, saying, "I shall have to leave you now, for your words please me so greatly that if I listen to you longer I shall become a pauper!
(Reported by Helen Goodall and Ella Goodall Cooper, ‘Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akka January 1908’)