Long, long ago, far, far away, there lived a great Sage and many people went to him for enlightenment. A man known for his cruelty and anger, went to the Sage and said, “Master, my mind is always full of unclean and unhealthy thoughts. And this leads me to unhealthy actions. Could you please rid me of these thoughts and help me to achieve enlightenment?”
The Master thought for a while and said, “Before I give you peace and poise, I have to warn you that you will die in a week’s time. Hence, you may go now.”
The man was deeply shocked at this revelation. The thought of death fully occupied his mind. He ran to his wife and said, “I have harassed you countless times, and I want to make amends now. Please excuse me for all my mistakes. I am going to die in a week. I will remedy my behavior towards you at least now and will treat you with love.” He also showered his love on his children, his parents, relatives, friends and neighbors.
The complete change in his demeanor, manners and behavior produced a pleasant surprise and an affectionate response in all his near and dear ones. There was all round love and affection coupled with the regret that he was going to tie shortly.
On the last day of the week , the master came to him and asked how he felt. The reformed man replied, “Sir, my mind was so full of thoughts of my death that it produced a great change in me and a happy response from all those around me. Now, I find that my mind is calm except for the thought that I will die soon.”
The Master smiled and replied, “Just the thought of death in eight days reformed you and produced pleasantness all round. When we are aware of the impermanency of life all the time, then we consciously ensure that our actions are able to produce and promote happiness.
You are not going to die now, but do not allow these benefits to die. Continue to be good to people and live in the present. That is enlightenment.”
This story reveals that all problems arise because we feel that our life is quite long and tend to forget its impermanence, though we see death all around us everyday.
This story was written by Acharya Ratnananda and can be found in Tales for the Young and the Old.