Sometimes, we get teachings from the most unlikely source. Recently, my uncle, whom I would have never thought of bring philosophical shared this known but rarely applied story with me when having a cup of tea
He told me about the time Emperor Alexander lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. He called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.” With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes.
“My first desire is that,” said Alexander, “My physicians alone must carry my coffin.” After a pause, he continued, “Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury.
“The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute’s rest and continued. “My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.”The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strange wishes. Alexander’s general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. “O king, we assure you that your wishes will all be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?”
At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: “I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt. I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.
The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the way to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.
And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world.”
His last words were, “Bury my body, do not build any monument, keep my hands outside so that the world knows the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying“.
We all know this and it has been told in various ways by many traditions but still fail to know that material wealth is of no use while working on our own inner selves that is our eternal wealth.
My uncle works hard but said he always remembers this story to remind him not to take any success or failure too seriously. This is why I feel apart from an apple a day, we all need a story a day to remain healthy.