Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Whip on the Shoulders

The story is told that there once was a rajah who entrusted his son to the instruction of a wise pandit. For many years the pandit taught the prince, leading him through all the branches of learning, until the prince was a true and universal scholar, acquainted with all the things most needful for a prince to know, except for one. And when he had reached that point, the pandit when to the rajah and, bowing low before him, said: "Sire, I have taught your son all the things a prince should know, except for one thing. Of all things, that is the most necessary of all; but I cannot teach it to him unless I have from you a promise of pardon."

And the rajah said, "You need have no fear in that regard. I had heard many wonderful things about your learning before I handed my son over to you; and in teaching my son you have gone beyond what any other pandit could do. Whatever you propose to teach, I am sure you will have good reason."

"As you wish," said the pandit, who then asked for a horse to be saddled. When it had been brought to him, he mounted, and called the prince over. Once the prince was near, the pandit took the horse-whip and laid it smartly over the prince's shoulders, and, spurring his horse, use the whip to force the prince to run alongside him.

The rajah, after he had recovered from his initial shock, ran after the pandit, demanding to know the meaning of these actions.

The pandit, pulling up his horse, replied, "I beg pardon, sire, for this; but it was the one thing that your son yet needed to be taught. All his life he has been raised as a prince, and so he has no understanding of the pain and terror of the whip on the shoulders. The name he knew; but the substance he had never tasted. How then could he have had true sympathy with the sufferings of others? How could he then have seen the necessity of letting one's judgments lean toward mercy? How could he have known how truly serious and humiliating severe punishment can be? But these are all necessary attributes of a ruler, that he do nothing cruel or foolish."

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