The Begging Bowl
Once upon a time, in a far off land a prosperous king lived in a magnificent castle. He had an abundance of wealth and was a good, proud king, who took care of his subjects. One morning, as he was leaving his palace to tour the kingdom, he encountered a man dressed in rags sitting on the stairs. The man held out a begging bowl with a shaky hand. The king was surprised; he did not know of any subjects in the land who suffered from misfortune. The king asked the beggar in a kind voice: What can I do for you poor sir?
The king was surprised again when the beggar replied with a laugh: You ask me as if it were possible to fulfill my desires.
Taken aback, the offended king said: Of course I can fulfill your desire, I rule this kingdom, I provide for everyone’s needs.
Still smiling, the beggar warned him: Be careful about what you promise.
This man was no ordinary beggar, but the king, not recognizing this, insisted: I will fulfill anything you ask for. I am a very powerful king.
OK then, said the beggar, can you please fill my begging bowl?
Of course, replied the king, who immediately called on his treasurer to fill the man’s begging bowl with coins.
Almost as quickly as the coins tumbled into the bowl, they disappeared. The king, dismayed at being made a fool, demanded the treasurer add more and more money, which continued to disappear. To everyone’s astonishment, the begging bowl remained empty.
Keep pouring! cried the king, determined to not be defeated by a beggar. The treasurer obeyed and into the begging bowl went all the treasures of the kingdom. Money, gold, jewels, even priceless artifacts went into the bowl, only to disappear. The crowd watched in horror as the king’s entire wealth vanished.
Finally, the king dropped to his knees in front of the beggar: You won, he admitted. But before you go, please tell me the secret of your begging bowl.
Smiling, the beggar replied: There is no secret, the bowl is simply made of human desire.
We all have desires and needs. For some, it is to get a new job, for others it is to travel, or to become successful entrepreneurs.
Learning, growing and moving forward are all important aspects of life. It helps leverage our talents and abilities to build the kind of life we want and to be happy and feel fulfilled.
Some of us dream of following in the footsteps of famous people who have achieved greatness. We look to adopt the same mindset of determination and insatiable desire for more and better.
The truth is, with or without being inspired by Mark Zuckerberg, Novak Djokovic or even perhaps Donald Trump, we will always be in want of something more: be it money, time, freedom, success or business opportunities.
While such lofty aspirations can motivate us to stretch beyond our comfort zone and develop in remarkable ways, it is a continuous challenge to make sure our life’s purpose is not a bottomless pit of unachievable desires. If we spend too much time searching for the next thing that will make us happy, it is easy to forget all that we have already accomplished. In the past fifty years, humans have landed on the moon, eradicated several diseases, achieved peace in Europe and virtually connected the world through the Internet.
At the end of the day, the question I am always being reminded of is: What is the benefit of achieving greatness if we are left with an empty begging bowl?