One dark night, long ago, a thief stole into a private garden. He was pleased to see that the house was dark. Thinking that everyone was asleep, he decided to catch some of the fish in the pond.
But the sound of the net dropping into the water woke up the owner of the house. He ordered his servants to go out and check.
The thief was frightened. "They are coming this way!" he said to himself in a panic. "They will soon be here to beat me up. What shall I do?"
Just then he got an idea ! He quickly hid his net under a bush, smeared some ash on his arms and forehead and sat down, pretending to be a holy man deep in meditation.
The chasing servants came upon him and were fooled into thinking that he was a holy man. So, they decided to leave without disturbing him. The servants told their master that they had found a holy man meditating in the garden. They took their master over to where the thief was pretending to meditate. As they approached the thief, the master told everyone to be quiet so as to not disturb the great saint.
"I have fooled them well, even the master of the house!" thought the thief, as he pretended to meditate.
The master of the house and his servants finally left the garden, so the ‘holy man’ could continue his meditation in peace.
The next day, news spread in the neighbourhood that a great saint was staying in the garden. People gathered there and honoured him with offerings of fruit, flowers and sweets.
Now the thief began to wonder within himself. “How strange,” he thought, “I am only a fake holy man, not a genuine one, and still people show me so much respect and devotion! If I were to become a real seeker of Truth, what a difference it would make in my life! Perhaps, I would realise God Himself at some point.”
Thus, the thief gave up his old thieving ways and commenced upon spiritual practice so as to become a truly holy man someday. He spent the rest of his life in prayer and meditation.
Moral: Regular spiritual practice such as daily prayer and meditation alone can give immense happiness, contentment and devotion. No other means can give us these rewards.