The Truthful Thief
To an honourable wise man, there was once brought a young thief who had been caught stealing. But, because of his youth, they didn’t want to punish him as severely as the law required.
The wise man was supposed to show the boy the dismal path and the wretched end of a little of thievery, and thereby break him of this disgusting practice. But the wise man didn’t say a word about stealing. He spoke kindly to the boy and won his trust. The only demand he made was that the boy promise always to be truthful.
Thinking he’d really gotten off easily, the boy readily agreed to this and went home feeling very relieved. But, during the night, thoughts about stealing came to him in the same way that clouds darken the moon.
As he crept through a side door of his house, however, he was struck by a thought, “What will I say if someone stops me on the street and asks what I’m dong? What will I say tomorrow? If I keep my promise to be truthful, I have to confess everything and can’t avoid the punishment I deserve.”
As the boy tried to be truthful despite all his habits, it became hard for him to steal. The development of his truthfulness provided space for his honesty and justness.