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The Young Emperor

December 19, 2007

There was a young emperor who went to the desert to visit an old monk.
The Emperor ordered his retinue to wait at a distance, and he approached the monk’s cell alone. He removed the crown from his head and hid it and then knocked on the door to the monk’s cell. The monk, upon opening the door, immediately knew that it was the Emperor standing before him, but he pretended not to recognize him, and he welcomed him as a fellow monk. They prayed and sat down together. Then the Emperor began to question the monk saying,
“How are all the fathers in the desert?”
The monk replied,
“They all pray for your health.”
Then the Emperor looked around the cell and saw nothing except a small basket containing bread, and the monk said to him,
“Eat.”
Then the monk dipped the bread in water, poured oil on it and salt, and gave it to the Emperor, who ate it. And the monk gave him some water, and he drank. Then the Emperor asked,
“Do you know who I am?”
The monk replied,
“God knows who you are.”
The Emperor then identified himself, and the monk bowed at the waist in homage. The Emperor said to him,
“You are truly blessed because you do not have the cares of this world. I was born to kingship, and the affairs of my empire are a constant concern to me. Each day I dine on the richest meats and cakes and the finest wines are poured into my goblet. And yet, today mere bread and water have satisfied me as no sumptuous feast ever has.”
And the young emperor marveled and went his way.

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