March 31, 2008

Khmer Folk Tale: 9- The King and the Poor Boy

In a small village near the edge of the forest, there once lived a buffalo boy who had no mother or father. His uncle, who was the chief cook for the king, pitied the poor boy. So he invited the boy to stay with him in the palace. The grateful boy worked hard to help his uncle. He washed the plates, polished the cups, cleaned the dining room tables and mopped the floors. At the end of each month, his uncle gave him six sen as his wages.
Now the king frequently inspected the palace quarters. He often noticed the hardworking boy mopping the floors or polishing the cups, cheerfully and in good humor.
One day the king asked the boy, “Do you receive wages for your hard work?”
The boy bowed and said, “Yes, I do, Your Majesty. I earn six sen every month”
Then the king asked, “Do you think you are rich or do you think you are poor?”
“Your Majesty,” the boy replied, “I think that I am as rich as a king”
The king was taken by surprise. “Why is this poor boy talking such nonsense?” he mused to himself.
Once more, the king spoke to the boy, “I am a king and I have all the power and richest of this country. You earn only six sen a month. Why do you say you are as rich as I am?”
The boy laid down his broom and slowly replied to the king, “Your Majesty, I may receive only six sen each month, but I eat from one plate and you also eat from one plate. I sleep for one night and you also sleep for one night. We eat and sleep the same. There is no difference. Now, Your Majesty, do you understand why I say that I am as rich as a king?”
The king understood and was satisfied.

The Buddha preached about the equality of all human beings. In this story, a vain king, too proud of his wealth, is taught by his lowly servant that in the most important things of life, all men are equal brothers.