Secret of Unswerving Righteousness (Story of Dara)
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is a chapter from the book Spiritual Stories.
Life constantly imparts valuable lessons to every man. She instructs you every moment of your existence here on earth. But you are so heedless that you forget the lesson at once. But without disgust She, Mother Prakriti again and again gives fresh lessons in the form of life’s experience. She is a tireless teacher and if only you will carefully retain the memory of the early experiences, then you will never commit a mistake or stray away from the correct path. If you treasure these lessons and cherish the memory of the past experiences, then you become wise and remain safe in your wisdom and in your greatness.
Dara was a humble shepherd in the land of Persia. He was of low birth and extremely poor but endowed with deep wisdom and possessed a shrewd insight and great understanding in the nature of men and things. The Shah of Persia coming to know of Dara’s wisdom and insight took him into his services where Dara soon rose to the highest position of the Shah’s Chief Councillor and trusted Prime Minister. This made the other nobles very jealous of Dara and they eagerly awaited a proper opportunity of bringing disgrace upon Dara and pulling him down from the high status he occupied.
The Shah had unlimited confidence in Dara and once he sent Dara as Governor-designate of one of the most important provinces of his great kingdom. In his absence, the hostile and jealous nobles reported many unfavourable things about Dara to the Shah. They accused Dara of corruption and told the Shah that Dara had amassed great riches by misappropriating Royal revenues and always took this ill-gotten treasure with him closely secured in a chest. Wherever he went, this chest followed him on camel’s back and he opened it only at night within the privacy of his own tent. He never once parted with the chest nor ever opened it in public. This was the grave charge.
The noble Shah trusted Dara implicitly; but the nobles insisted upon Dara being examined and exposed. At last, the Shah one day paid a sudden surprise visit to Dara and entering Dara’s tent at night said, “O Dara, my faithful friend, pray, show to me the contents of that chest. I have a great curiosity to see inside”. Though he was reluctant, yet Dara obeyed the royal command and before all slowly unlocked the chest, raised the lid and opened it full. And lo! to the astonished gaze of the onlookers was revealed an old shepherd’s cloak of plain simple cloth, brown with dust and tattered with age. Except this, there was naught else inside the chest — no gem, nor gold, nor silver or brass not even a single copper. The mystified Shah directed inquiring eyes at the silent Dara and the latter spoke and said, “Royal Shah, thou knowest now what I guarded closely all these years. This shepherd’s garment I wore in those days before you found and favoured me with thy royal kindness. But position, prestige and power are dangerous things for the unwary man. They raise one high and pull him down to the dust as well. Prosperity and plenty, authority and respect turn a man’s head and take him away from the straight path. He is safe who constantly remembers who he was before his fortune smiled upon him and God graced him. This alone reminds him what he really is and keeps him humble, true and righteous. Therefore, I have retained this old cloak of mine to remind me of my former life. I look at it every night lest I forget it in the intoxication of my present position and glory. This makes me ever humble, true and simple. O Royal Master, though outwardly Dara is thy chief councillor and a great Governor by thy favour, yet even to this day in reality he is the same simple shepherd humble, poor and incorruptible. And his one constant prayer to the Lord, his divine master is that he may continue to be so.”
Aspirants and seekers, take this great lesson from the sagely Dara. Never forget what you really are in your heart of hearts. Let not external changes and vicissitudes of fickle fortune turn your head and make you plunge into delusion and unrighteousness. Cherish the lessons of life carefully even as Dara treasured his humble cloak. Remember life’s lesson every day and thus remain unaffected by external passing phenomena. Even as Dara constantly remembered his shepherd origin, ever bear in mind your own true Atmic origin. Do not be overcome by the influence of impermanent secular Abhimana.
May the Lord bless you with an ever-alive Vichar and the constant awareness of your native Atmic glory.