Once there lived a king, he had everything he wished for, but one fine day three questions came across his mind. The questions were:
- What is the most important time?
- Who is the most important person?
- What is the most important thing to do?
He became pretty restless and to find out the answers he went to his ministers and asked the questions. The ministers after listening to his questions replied, “Oh, your holiness the most important time is the time you became king”. To his next question they replied, “You are the most important person because you’re the king” and to his last question they replied, “King please expand your kingdom it is the most important thing to do”.
But the answers he got didn’t satisfy him. Realising this the chief minister got worried, as now his job was in danger, so he suggested the king to meet the sage who lives on the mountain at the edge of the kingdom.
The chief minister knew these questions are deeper questions and only that sage could answer them.
The next day the king goes along with his twenty soldiers and reached the mountain by the dusk. He thought it would be inappropriate to meet the sage with so many soldiers so he ordered them to stay there and started to climb alone. As he reached the top he got very tired, but somehow he reached the cave where the sage was meditating, so he waited for him to complete the meditation, but after a long three hour wait the sage didn’t wake up and thus king decided that he would spend the night there and in the morning he would ask the questions. So, he puts down his turban and sword and goes to sleep.
The next morning he wakes up with the sunlight streaming in the cave with beautiful bird song and fresh air. He gets up, rubs his eyes to see the sage is not there. So, he walks out of the cave and goes to the edge of the cliff to see the glorious sight, he could see his whole kingdom from there. He was amazed to see his glorious kingdom and the beautiful sight brings a huge smile on his face. In his palace every morning was so different, the first thing he gets is bad news, all his ministers and spies would come and tell him what wrong is going on and tension…tension…tension!
But as he is standing there on the edge of the cliff and admiring his kingdom, his heart just connects and realizes that this is why he is the king, to serve all these people. Just then he realizes someone patting his shoulder, the king turns around to see the sage standing there, he has king’s sword pointing at him and looking deeply into king’s eyes and the sage says, “King, tell me, what is the most important time? Who is the most important person? & What is the most important thing to do?”. These three questions hit the king and a twinkle comes into his eyes. The sage realizes this man has got it, so he puts the sword down and says, “king, now you can go and rule your kingdom.”
The story of the King’s search speaks of a universal human truth: the need for meaning. To live well we must ask deep and fundamental questions of ourselves and our lives. “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”, wrote Nietzsche. It is very easy in life to drift into a path without fully considering why we are choosing what we choose, why we are doing what we do. Or perhaps we begin a journey with a sense of purpose but we lose touch with our ‘why’ along the way.
The king realises he has lost touch with his deeper purpose or mission and so goes in search for it. Ostensibly he is seeking answers from the sage but in reality, it is he, and only he, who can give answers for his own existence. Carl Jung once wrote:
“The meaning of my existence is that life has addressed a question to me. Or, conversely, I myself am a question which is addressed to the world, and I must communicate my answer, for otherwise I am dependent upon the world’s answer.”
The King’s answer then comes through the search. But what causes the realisation and insight to emerge at the end? The new perspective afforded to the king where he can see the whole Kingdom from a distance and take in the bigger picture awakens something within him which allows him to re-connect with his heart – that which truly matters to him. He realises that the meaning of his life lies in service to his people.
When we lose our direction or get bogged down in the mundane detail of life this tactic can be very helpful. By either mentally or physically creating some separation and distance from our lives we are offered a new vantage point from which to view things. This allows new information to emerge facilitating learning and clarity.