An Allegory—the Princess and the Lotus
There was a princess who lived in a stately palace and had all that was needed to please. Her youth and beauty shone like a candle flame and she attracted princes from many lands who came to live in her court. She was well educated, wrote poetry, and her charm was enhanced by her life of harmony, her pure and tranquil thoughts and by cherishing in her mind the reflection of the image of the supreme Beauty.
Philosophically inclined, the princess was not proud, and did not place too high a premium on her physical charms. She knew that such charms are fleeting. Though she had an enriched mind, her ideal was how to confer blessings on others.
She was yet hardly twenty. Every Friday afternoon she would go to her balcony, and occupy a bejewelled seat, sitting with ease and dignity, charming the hearts of those who came to see her. Her body radiated peace, light and fragrance. Her life had been so pure that those who came to woo her felt ashamed of themselves if they were smitten with any coarse desire or passion.
Once a merchant from Persia brought a few flowers in pots. From them she selected a lotus. It was of a bluish colour. Once it was established in her private pond, she meditated on it and acquired light from it. As the lotus grew, so did her fondness. Morning and evening she came to see her lotus. She wrote verses about it, and gave up all enjoyments except the joy of gazing at the lotus. Sometimes she felt that the lotus also loved her.
One morning when she came to the pond, she found the lotus had disappeared. The pond was like a ring which had lost its precious stone, a miser who had lost a hoard of gold, a heart that has become tired of loving and now takes to sensualism. She stood stunned, looking all around, but nowhere did she find her lotus. She said: ‘Has the wind stolen it? Has the dew spirited you away, O my lotus? Does the nightingale know anything about this? Sing, blackbird, if you are aware of the thief! O zephyrs, you did not keep guard over my lotus!’
She began to sicken and her charm faded. She lost interest in poetry, music, and even in her personal appearance. Her hair, glossy and beautiful, was left uncombed. She could only sigh: ‘Lotus, lotus, my lotus!’
Her father, the king, offered to provide another lotus from the same part of Persia, but she said: ‘No, it cannot be my lotus.’ She began to pine, her vitality was slowly ebbing away, like a pond drying up under the rays of the hot sun. The king consulted many wise men, doctors, astrologers and others, but they were powerless.
One day a traveller came and offered to cure the princess. She was persuaded to give him an audience, and when they were together she found that—he was the lotus. She took him into her chamber where they sat together, and after a few hours, the king felt anxious for her safety. When he went in, he found that there was neither the princess nor the stranger, but only a lotus floating in the crystal pond.
Who knows the secret? Solve this riddle, O Reader. There is a secret hidden in it.