The Pilgrim - A Must Read Story

The story is told of a man who made it his goal in life to find peace and to satisfy all his desires. He thought that if he wandered the world, he would be sure to find a place where he could live a life of peace and rest without having to work or worry or suffer pain. Having made careful preparations, he set out on his journey. For months he wandered from place to place but could not find what he was seeking. One day he saw an old man sitting by the edge of a new grave. The traveler came closer and asked the old man whose grave it was. The man told him a remarkable story:

Two woodcutters from my village went out into the nearby jungle to cut wood. By chance, I was also walking that way. I saw them and greeted them from a distance. They were seated near a bush in conversation and did not notice me. So I approached them, and as I came closer, one of them saw me and quickly covered something with a cloth. I asked him what was under the cloth. At first, the men tried to evade my question and keep their secret hidden. So I asked again. Finally, they told me their story, saying that I was to be the judge of what had happened, and I was to give them my advice.

One of the men told me that as they were walking through the forest, they noticed something glittering under the bush. Coming closer, they found two gold ingots. When I arrived, they were debating what to do with this treasure. I told them that these bars were death traps in the guise of gold and they should be left under the bush and forgotten. I explained to them that I had heard about a banker in a nearby town who had been killed by burglars in his house. If the thieves were somewhere about and discovered the woodcutters with their treasure, they would not hesitate to kill them. Moreover, if the woodcutters kept the gold and were discovered, they would surely be accused of the theft and the banker’s murder. They nodded in agreement and said they would do as I suggested. Then I went on my way.

However, they continued to argue over the gold, ignoring my advice. The first woodcutter demanded two-thirds share, because according to him, it was he who had discovered the gold; the other insisted that they should divide it equally. Finally, the first agreed. To celebrate, one of them went into the village to buy something to eat.

Once separated, however, both men burned with such greed that each plotted to kill the other. When the woodcutter who had gone into the village returned, the one who had remained to watch over the gold attacked him and killed him. But the murderer did not live to enjoy the gold, because – not knowing that his companion had poisoned the food he had bought – he ate of it and fell dead. Now both of them lie in this grave.

Looking over to another grave with a marble headstone, the traveler asked the old man, “Whose grave is that there?” The old man shook his head thoughtfully and said:

That man was exceedingly rich. But now he is dead, and what use is his fancy monument? And look over there. Do you see that mound? That was a man who was proud and cruel, using violence and smooth words to take over a kingdom. Once he was in power, he demanded that all the citizens should satisfy his desires and worship him as a god. Then he was stricken with a fatal disease, and worms fed on him till he died. A few days after his burial, wild animals dug his body from the grave and feasted on it, scattering his bones over the graveyard. The head that had borne a crown was now a bare skull on the ground.

As the traveler was pondering the meaning of what was being said, the old man continued:

These stories illustrate human depravity, but there is also a solution. There is a stream of love in this world that gives health, joy, and peace. Those who live in this current of love (which is God) always try to do good to others and never return evil for evil.

There was once a widow who, after mourning the death of her husband, had a dispute with her sister over the distribution of the property. Finally, the widow’s sister became so angry that she took the widow’s son and abandoned him in a basket in the river. A fisherman who found the child took him home and brought him up as his own son. The boy grew into manhood. One day, while selling fish in the marketplace, he unwittingly met his mother. Though she did not recognize the young man as her son, she felt pity for him, and invited him and the old fisherman to come and live with her.

Not long afterwards the widow noticed among the fisherman’s possessions a basket she recognized as her own. She also noticed, on the boy’s elbow, a familiar scar that identified him as her son.
Confronting her sister later, the widow, however, wrung a confession from her. Her anger knew no bounds. Thankfully, she was kept from taking revenge, for the boy held his mother back and prevented her from retaliating. Serving both his mother and his aunt for the rest of his days, he showed, by his acts of kindness and mercy, how evil is overcome only with good.

The traveler thanked the old man for his stories and set off down the road. On the way he met an athlete and a leper talking together. “How did you get leprosy?” the athlete asked. “I have been told that it is because I lived in evil and immorality,” the leper replied. “You have kept yourself in good health and your body is strong. But in the end, your body and mine shall be the same – dust in the earth.”

The traveler continued on his way, thinking. He saw now that his longing for a life of comfort and ease was mere selfishness, and that only a life lived for others and for God would bring him true freedom. To live selfishly, he saw, is to flap like a bird that has escaped its cage, only to realize it is still tethered. The harder it struggles, the more entangled it becomes.

It has been well observed that though nations may differ from nations, communities from communities, and people from people, human nature is the same everywhere. As there is but one sun that warms and gives light to the earth, there is but one God who teaches us to love one another and care for each other.

It is not just the widows, orphans, the poor, and the needy that are unhappy. Kings in their kingdoms, the wealthy in the midst of their luxury, and the learned with their wisdom are also restless and unfulfilled. As with Noah’s dove, which found no place to rest in the world, so it is with us. As strangers and pilgrims on the earth, we can find no rest without the Master who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Extacted from the book "Wisdom of the Sadhu, TEACHINGS OF SUNDAR SINGH" compiled and edited by Kim Comer
“Copyright 2011 by The Plough Publishing House.”