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When one Bad Quality goes the Rest cannot long remain

There once was a great teacher who helped many people develop in spirituality. Whenever anyone came to him to be initiated by him, he used to inquire into their behavior and their character to determine the type of qualities they had. Appropriate to their qualities and stage of evolution, he would then give them a sacred incantation, a mantra. A thief, after recognizing this teacher as a great man, went to him and asked him for a mantra. The guru said to him, "Well, child, what are your qualities? What are your defects?" The thief said, "My bad qualities are going from house to house in the middle of the night, breaking in and stealing things. Since I spend the night in stealing articles, during the day I drink myself to sleep. Drinking is my second bad habit. If the police were to catch me, then to save my skin I would make up lies and tell them a lot of false information to put them off. That is my third bad quality."

The spiritual teacher asked him, "Well child, you say that you steal, you drink and you tell falsehoods. Can you give up one of these three bad qualities?" The thief thought for a while to himself, 'If I don't steal, how can I take care of my family, my children and my wife? No, I cannot give this up. Only when the body is healthy and strong will I be able to escape when I'm caught. So I have to get lots of sleep, and drink helps me get to sleep in the daytime. But it is unlikely that the police will catch me very often. So, I shall give up telling lies.' Then the great man asked him, "Do you promise that you will always tell the truth from tomorrow onward?" The thief replied, "Most certainly. Even from today I will only tell the truth." This is what the thief firmly resolved to do. And indeed, from that day onward he made it a habit to tell the truth wherever he went.

One hot summer night the thief was out prowling in a nearby town looking for a good place to break into. The mayor of this town, a very wealthy man, was taking rest on the terrace of his house. In those days, there were no air conditioners or even fans. Because of the heat and the still, sultry night air, he was not able to sleep. The thief managed to climb up to this terrace. As soon as the thief scrambled onto the terrace, the rich man spotted him, realizing that he was a thief. The rich man accosted him, saying, "Hey there, who are you?" Because the thief told only the truth, he replied, "I am a thief." In order to find out what this man's plans were, the rich man said, "Is it so? Well, I'm also a thief."

They decided to work together and planned to steal certain valuable things that were kept in that house. The rich man told the thief, "There will be quite a few valuables locked up in the safe inside the house of this rich man, but it will be very difficult for us to get into the safe unless we get hold of the keys. Let me break into the house and see if I can manage to steal the keys." The rich man continued, "I have been waiting for someone who can keep a watch for me. Now that I have been able to get a friend like you, I will go inside."

He left the thief and pretending that he was breaking into the house, he went inside; busying himself here and there, he delayed coming back for some minutes. Then he took the keys and stealthily came out. Now he told the thief, "I have the keys, but I looked everywhere for the safe. I couldn't find it. Let me keep watch and you go inside. See if you can locate the safe and get the valuables that will be kept in it by the rich man." As it turned out, this rich man had three big diamonds inside the safe. This thief went inside and soon found the safe. He opened it and took out the three valuable diamonds.

Immediately a problem arose in his mind. How to distribute the three diamonds between the two of them? As this thief followed the path of truth, a certain amount of righteousness had also automatically entered into him. He brought all three diamonds out but he told the rich man, "Brother, one diamond you can keep. The other diamond I will keep. The third diamond cannot be broken into pieces. I will put it back in the safe for the owner of this house. Let him keep it for himself." Deciding on this, the thief went back into the house to put one of the three diamonds back in the safe. Then he returned to the terrace.

After settling this transaction, the thief was about to leave when the rich man said to him, "Well, brother, perhaps we can have this kind of partnership now and again in the future. Please give me your address where I can contact you." As he was bound to tell the truth, the thief gave his correct address. The next morning, this rich man who was also the highest public official in that area, took the address and sent orders that a police complaint be lodged regarding the loss of some diamonds out of his safe. He told the police to go to the village mentioned in the address and arrest the thief who was living there.

In that particular village the thief was well-known. The police went there and had no trouble finding him. They caught hold of him and brought him to the mayor. The thief did not recognize the robed official in front of him as his partner of the night before. The mayor then questioned the thief, "Well, how did you enter the house? How did you get hold of this diamond?"

The thief narrated meticulously all the details of his adventure. He told how he had climbed onto the roof, had gotten into partnership with another person, entered the house, opened the safe, took out three diamonds, gave one to his partner, kept one for himself and again went into the house, again opened up the safe and put back one diamond. The mayor called in his head official and said, "Go and find out if there is a diamond remaining in the safe." The officer took the keys to the safe. To himself he thought, 'Can there be any thief who will put one diamond back?' Thinking this way, he opened the safe, saw the diamond that had been returned there by the thief, pocketed it, and went back to the mayor, reporting that there was no diamond in the safe. But then, the mayor searched the pockets of the officer and recovered the diamond. Immediately, he dismissed the officer from his service.

The mayor now addressed the thief. He said, "I know that in everything you have related, you have told the truth to me. Therefore, from today onward, I appoint you as my head administrative officer. Only a person who is truthful should be a public official. Unfortunately, you have become a thief; but your nature is not like that." This person now gave up thieving and became a high official; he continued to practice telling the truth and automatically, in the natural course of events, he gave up drinking as well as his thieving and became an honest and upright human being.

In the beginning, by adhering to truth, you may be put to a lot of trouble. In spite of the trouble you encounter, if you pursue the path of only telling the truth, eventually this truthful nature will fill you with joy and happiness and give you success in all your endeavors. Therefore, it was to promote the happiness and welfare of mankind that in the Gita, Krishna taught that one should always be truthful. He proclaimed that truth was life's royal road and that the path of truth was the only way to foster right conduct in society.