A king once announced that he wanted to reward the person most devoted to God, in his kingdom. So, he told his minister to make announcements and hold a session to find out such a devotee.
A large number of applicants were gathered in the palace premises. It was decided that the selection would be done by the process of elimination. In the first round the contestants were made to recite verses from the scriptures. A large number failed to pass that test. Only a few cleared it. The second round was about the form and ritual of prayer and how to do it. Each one exhibited his daily routine of prayer and how he executed it. Only three participants impressed the king and all the rest were disqualified. The king’s minister had been supervising the entire event.
He said to the king, “My lord, I don’t think there is even one real devotee amongst them. They are all frauds!” The king asked in surprise, “Do you really think so? Well! How shall we find a genuine devotee?”
The minister suddenly picked up his stick and started raining blows on the three contestants. The bewildered trio screamed and abused in anger. Each time the stick cracked sharply on either of the three; there was a shout of pain followed by abusive and angry gestures.
A moment later, the minister turned to the king’s personal attendant who happened to be standing close by and hit him mercilessly with his stick. The poor man shouted, “Oh Krishna, save me, my Lord!”
The king was furious. He shouted, “Stop it, what are you doing? You crazy man! Why are you beating up these innocent people?” The minister folded his hands in respect and said, “Forgive me, my Lord! This exercise was necessary to find out who the true devotee of the Lord is. It is only in adversity that the true nature of a person comes to the fore. Did you hear the foul language that escaped the lips of these three miserable wretches? Only your attendant gasped in pain with the name of the Lord on his lips.
That is because the name of the Lord is his constant companion. He is the one who deserves the award. Right from the beginning I never believed that any true devotee of God would submit himself to a contest such as this, for it would demean his personal relationship with God. Prayer is something personal; one cannot compete with others for it.”
It is only when a person is placed in a position that is not comfortable that he shows his true colours. It’s easy to be prim and proper in conditions that are conducive and comfortable, but the true test is to maintain your poise in trying times. Adversity introduces a man not only to others, but to himself too!