The Philosopher’s Stone
A proud prince and his large retinue galloped into a Hindustan jungle on a hunting expedition. After bagging many game birds and animals, the prince and his party lost their way in the jungle. They had food but no water, and though they searched frantically, they found no water.
As the danger-filled tropical night approached, the prince and his retinue rode even faster, now seeking shelter. Just as the sun was silently fading away, they came upon a crumbling, old cottage. The prince dismounted, pushed open the unlatched door, and went in. The cottage was dark except for a faint glimmer of sunlight coming through a hole in the roof.
Looking around, the prince saw the hole in the roof and despaired at the thought the cottage was deserted. He was about to leave when he decided to call aloud: “Hello, anybody here?” To his surprise, a calm, firm, peaceful voice replied: “I am here. Do you want water?” The prince was astounded that this person knew his thoughts even before meeting him.
Soon the prince and his retinue were joyfully partaking o f the water and fruits offered by the holy man who lived in this lonely jungle retreat. “Who are you?” the prince asked the hoary gentleman, who replied, “I am a poor, old hermit.”
“Aren’t you afraid of tigers and snakes?” the prince asked. “Oh, no,” the hermit replied. “The tigers are my pussycats, and the cobras are my pets. We are friends, ever basking in the sunshine of Love, which is in everything.”
The prince scrutinized the hermit and was taken aback to see two cobras hanging from his neck in the shape of a garland. The prince tried to get a closer view of the snakes but, sensing his fear and vengeful spirit, they hissed and lifted their hooded heads, ready to strike at his approach. Just then, a huge Royal Bengal tiger came into the cottage and calmly sat down at the hermit’s feet, causing a near panic among the prince’s retinue. After the hermit petted the tiger on the head, it slunk slowly away into the dark jungle.
Amazed still more, the proud prince thought, “This old hermit is good and kind and saved us from wild beasts and parching thirst, so I want to make him rich and prosperous.” To the hermit he said, “Hoary hermit, your face is beaming with kindness and sincerity. Because I appreciate all you have done for us, I am going to tell you a secret of becoming very rich, a secret I am revealing for the first time.
With this, the prince pulled out a Philosopher’s Stone from beneath his garment. He said to the hermit, “I am going to entrust you with this Philosopher’s Stone for a year so that you may become rich by using it. A great mystic alchemist gave this stone to my father, and it has the power to convert into gold anything you touch with it. Use it every day for a year to convert all the rocks into gold, and then build a golden palace.
“I will return in a year to get my precious Philosopher’s Stone, which I value more than my life. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t lose it!” The hermit did not want to accept the responsibility, but at the prince’s repeated insistence, he agreed to keep the stone and tucked it under the light band of clothing at his waist.
The prince and his retinue left and returned again after a year. The prince was stricken with horror when he saw, not a golden palace, but the same cottage in a greater state of decay. Getting down from his horse, he rushed through the open cottage door and shouted, “Hey, hermit, are you alive?” A deep, sonorous voice responded, “O yes, prince. Welcome to my humble home.”
Without pausing, the prince rudely shouted, “What did you do with my Philosopher’s Stone? Why didn’t you use it to become rich?” Scratching his head, the hermit replied, “What’s this about my using a stone? I don’t want to be richer.” Beside himself with rage and terror, the prince demanded, “Don’t you remember the gold Philosopher’s Stone I gave you a year ago? What have you done with it?”
“Oh yes, now I remember that precious stone of yours. It must have dropped out of my waistband the day I went to bathe in the river while immersed in the deep thought of Spirit.”
The prince cried, “I have lost everything” and fell into a swoon, but the hermit sprinkled cold water on his face and brought him back to consciousness. When the prince’s retinue demanded the death of the “careless thief of a hermit,” as they called him, the hermit laughed and said, “I didn’t know you would make such a fuss about a stone. Come along with me to the river and let me search for it.”
The prince replied derisively, “What? Search for the stone when it slipped in the swift currents of the river a year ago?” The hermit, undaunted, commanded in a loud voice, “Princeling and all the rest of you, come! Don’t make another fuss until we have searched the river bed.”
Under the spell of a strange magnetism, the prince and his retinue followed the hermit to the river without saying a word. At the river, the hermit asked the prince to pull out his handkerchief, hold its four corners with his hands, dip it into the waters of the river, and cry out, “O Prince of the Universe, Maker of all precious stones, give me back my Philosopher’s Stone.”
The prince followed the hermit’s instructions and as he raised his handkerchief out of the water, he beheld two-dozen Philosopher’s Stones, exactly like the one he had lost. With unbelieving eyes, he came out of the water and tested each stone and found that each one could convert other stones into gold.
The prince then tied all of the gold-making stones in his handkerchief and threw them back in the river. The prince’s retinue cried out, “Hey, why did you do that?”
The prince turned to the hermit and fell at his feet. With folded hands he said, “Honored Saint, I want whatever you have that causes you to regard gold-making stones as worthless pebbles.” And the prince left his earthly kingdom to acquire the imperishable kingdom of Spirit.
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Moral: This story shows that you should not waste time striving only for perishable earthly riches. Use the precious stone of your God-given creative ability to store up the imperishable riches of God.
From the Praecepta Lessons, 1935.