The Troubled Emperor (picture source)
The Troubled Emperor (picture source)

Once upon a time there was an Emperor who was not happy. He was not happy because he felt he was not ready… ill prepared and inadequately provisioned to fight the battles that may come, and not ready to face the unforeseen circumstances that may dawn upon his kingdom the Day after Tomorrow.

He realized that if he could be one step ahead of everyone, knew everything he needed to know and do everything he should beforehand, he would be better off. For that, he needed to know the answers to 3 important questions.

And they are:

  • What is the most important thing to do?

As was customary in those times, the Emperor set out measures to go far and beyond to find out the answers to these burning questions. The questions that he knew when answered, will finally make him happy.

The very same answers that will make You and Me happy too, when you finally find them out. :-)

You of course are the most important one. That is, until you’re with the baby cuddling in your arms, on the phone talking to your good old friend, or attending to your mother who is unwell. The “who” in answer to the above question then becomes the Person You are with at this Moment. It is You when you’re alone, and becomes whoever you’re with, when you’re with someone.

Now is the most important time to decide, to enjoy and to simply be.

“Remember then: there is only one time that is important — Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. “
Leo Tolstoy

And what is the most important thing you can do right now with the most important person? To Care. Care for the person, care for the moment you are in, right now. Give it the best you’ve got, and you’ll be amazed at the results.

The Emperor’s story [1] is from one of Leo Tolstoy’s collections of short stories, but as retold in the wise, kind and compassionate words of Venerable Ajahn Brahm. [2]

The gist of the story being one of the most powerful pieces of advice of all time for living in the moment, giving it your best. With its hindsight into an exposition of mindfulness, the parable makes you pause, plan and prioritize your willful reactions to the series of actions that occur externally. Helps you sift your stream of conscience to focus on here and now.

And so, when the phone rings, the baby cries, the kettle whistles and it is time for the video call — what will you do?

[3]
Weep not you please
With every second that breeze

For, I will always come to you in earnest
When done ‘n dusted with the chore nearest

So I could be with thee
At blissful peace in glee

My answer, if you may! :-)

That, in lay terms translates to do what you must do now first, and then move on to the next with the same zest and joy of a child clutching a new toy. Embrace the moment, make the best out of it. If it’s a rotten matter, well, at least you can not smear it around and be over with it.

So now when you next knead that bread dough, knead it with all your heart, with all the love, compassion and kindness springing from your soul for the ones who will be consuming your bread… believe me, not only will your bread be the best thing they’ll have — they’ll cherish and remember — because they will feel it too!

[1] The Emperor’s Story — adapted from a book of short stories compiled by Leo Tolstoy and as cited by Ajahn Brahm under Notes (pg 201) of his book titled, Opening the Door of Your Heart; “According to my research, the story of the ‘Three Questions’ was published in Yiddish in 1903 in a book that included short stories from other distinguished authors, such as Chekov, to aid the Jews who were being persecuted in Russia. The version that I read as a student at Cambridge University in 1970 was published in an anthology, although I cannot trace that publication.”

[2] Ajahn Brahm — Famous Buddhist Monk renown for his teachings on Mindfulness, Compassion and Kindness.

[3] Poem by author

ashes dusted away in morph, in that moment next I’d be.. for now, here I am, grappling in just being..