In the days of the yore there was a king in India, who from his very childhood had not shown proper gratitude towards his gurus. He would always deliberately avoid respecting his teachers out of his own egoism.
The teachers too did not teach him anything much of value in his childhood. Thus, the king remained a complete fool in terms of understanding scriptures. Despite this, he was maintaining many scholars and pundits in his assembly, since it was his family tradition.
The king would purposely avoid sitting in the discussions of the scriptural scholars. He would sit for a few minutes, give them a token sum of donation and then move out of their discussions.
One fine day, a half-learned so-called scholar came to his kingdom. This so called half-learned scholar was extremely crooked in behavior. This crooked pundit wanted to cheat the king and get a huge sum of money as donation.
However, he found out through the gatekeepers that the assembly of the king has many good scholars. He knew that it would be impossible to cheat the king in front of his assembly of scholarly pundits. So he thought to himself, "If I go to meet the king after all the pundits have left for their homes then I have some chance of getting my objective fulfilled."
So he inquired from the gatekeepers about the timings of the daily arrival and departure of the scholars. The guards informed him that the scholars arrive in the morning at 9AM and depart back to their homes at 7PM.
The so-called scholar then bribed the gatekeeper and said, "I will come to meet the king at 8PM. Please request the king to meet me for at least 10 minutes." The guard agreed to the proposal and the next day at around 8PM, the guard informed the king that a scholar has come to meet him.
The king initially said, "Its late now. Give him a donation of Rupees 200 and let him go." The guard replied, "Maharaja he is insisting that he wants to meet you personally for 10 minutes." The king hesitatingly agreed and invited him inside.
When the so-called scholar arrived, the king offered his obeisances and said, "Pranams Punditji! How can I serve you?" The so-called scholar replied, "I am not just any ordinary pundit. I am one of the greatest pundits of India. I've learnt various branches of knowledge from various gurus. Give me proper respect."
The king replied, "In my assembly too there are a few really good pundits. Why don't you come tomorrow when they are in the court?"
Rolling his eyes, the so-called scholar said, "I know all these Pundits. These half-learned pundits come to the court every morning and recite some auspicious verses. One of these verses is:
[Note: The actual meaning of this verse is — One should meditate (dhyāyet) on him who wears a pristine white cloth (śuklāmbara-dharam); who is the Lord entering into every atom in the world (viṣṇum); who is brilliant in appearance just like the moon (śaśi-varṇam); who is four handed (catur-bhujam); who has a smiling face (prasanna-vadanam). One should meditate on him for relieving oneself of all obstacles (sarva-vighnopaśāntaye) in life.]
The king did not have much knowledge about this verse, so he replied, "Yes, what about this verse?" The so-called scholar said, "Do you know what this verse means?" The king replied, "From what I know, it means — Lord Viṣṇu."
"Hutt! This is where you have been cheated", said the so-called scholar with great pride. He continued, "O King! You have been cheated by your assembly of half-learned pundits. This verse does not indicate Lord Viṣṇu."
The king replied with amazement, "Then what does it mean?" The so-called scholar said, "It actually means — One Rupee Coin!"
"One-rupee coin? How?", asked the king.
The so-called scholar replied, "The first term of the verse is śuklāmbara-dharaṁ (white-cloth wearer). You see all your citizens carry their one-rupee coins tucked in their white-colored dhotīs. So, the rupee wears white cloth and is known as śuklāmbara-dharam."
"Oh really?", said the king in amazement. "What about viṣṇum?"
The so-called scholar replied, "The verbal root viṣ means — to enter. One who enters everywhere in the world is Viṣṇu. This one-rupee coin enters all places. Today it is in our hands. Tomorrow it will go to Mathura. Day after tomorrow to Ayodhya, and after that it will go to so many places. So it is viṣṇum"
The so-called scholar replied, "The one-rupee coin shines like the moon, so it is known as śaśi-varṇam."
The so-called scholar replied, "The wise (catur) men use it for their bhuja, or bhoga i.e. enjoyment. Therefore it is enjoyed by wise men and hence it is catur-bhujam"
"What about prasanna-vadanam?"
The so-called scholar replied, "If a person walking on the street finds a one-rupee coin, his face (vadanam) will immediately light up with a smile (prasanna). Hence prasanna-vadanam."
The scholar continued, "One should meditate (dhyāyet) on the one-rupee coin for relieving all distress (sarva-vighnopaśāntaye) in life."
The scholar then repeated the entire meaning of the verse — "One should meditate (dhyāyet) on the one-rupee coin which is wrapped in white cloth (śuklāmbara-dharam), which enters every city (viṣṇum), which glows like the moon (śaśi-varṇam), which is enjoyed by the wise (catur-bhujam) and which makes a dejected man smile (prasanna-vadanam). One should do this for getting rid of all obstacles (sarva-vighnopaśāntaye) in life."
The foolish king was so mighty impressed with this pundit that he paid full obeisances to him and said, "Maharaja! You opened my eyes. om ajñāna timirāndhasya..... Please accept this gift of Rupees 2500 from me."
The so-called scholar took the money. The king continued, "All these foolish pundits in my court were cheating me for so long. Tomorrow I shall fire them all. Please be merciful and explain this meaning to me once again so that I will memorize it."
The so-called scholar explained the same meaning again, took the money and went away, never to be seen again.
The next day, the king angrily called all his pundits and said — "O pundits! What is the meaning of the verse śuklāmbara-dharaṁ viṣṇuṁ..."?
The head-pundit had started replying by explaining it in terms of Lord Viṣṇu, when the king brazenly interrupted and said, "Shut up! This verse does not indicate Lord Viṣṇu. It means — One Rupee coin. I have understood the true meaning now. Until all of you can tell me the proper meaning of this verse and how it indicates one rupee coin, you are all fired!"
The pundits tried to convince him a lot but the king remained adamant. The pundits left the court in disgust.
This situation remained for quite some time in the king's court. When any pundit would come to the court, the king would ask the same question — "What is the meaning of śuklāmbara-dharaṁ viṣṇum ... verse?" When the pundit would start explaining the meaning pertaining to Lord Viṣṇu, the king would immediately humiliate such scholars and throw them out of court.
Soon enough there were no scholars willing to go to his court. The king got a bad reputation among the scholars. Whenever a new scholar would come to town, the existing scholars would warn him, "Do not meet that crazy king. He will ask you the same question and insult you. Only he knows how the verse indicates a one rupee coin!"
This situation continued for about an year. One fine day, a pundit from Kashmir came to town. This pundit was extremely learned and was simultaneously extremely clever in his dealings. Before meeting the king, he decided to meet some pundits in the town. They all warned him, "Don't even see the face of this king. He will ask you to interpret the same verse, and when you tell him that it is about Lord Viṣṇu, he will insult you and say that the verse indicates One Rupee Coin."
The kashmiri pundit understood that this king has been thoroughly cheated by some pseudo scholar. He told the other pundits, "Okay, but please let me try my luck once." Thus he went to the court of the king and said, "My pranams Maharaja! I am a scholar from Kashmir."
The king proudly replied, "O really! So you're a scholar. Tell me the meaning of this verse — śuklāmbara-dharaṁ viṣṇum...."
The kashmiri pundit replied, "Maharaja! Some foolish pundits interpret this verse to mean One Rupee coin. The absolute truth is that it means — dahī-vaḍā (Indian style lentil flour dumplings dipped in curd)."
"Dahī-vaḍā?", asked the amazed king. "How can it mean dahī-vaḍā?"
The kashmiri pundit said, "Yes Maharaja in actuality it means dahī-vaḍā. The first term of the verse is śuklāmbara-dharam (draped in white). The dahī-vaḍā is coated in the white colored covering of yogurt, hence it is śuklāmbara-dharam."
"And viṣṇum?", asked the king.
The kashmiri pundit said, "The dahī-vaḍā enters (viṣ) into everyone's mouths so easily. Hence it is viṣṇum."
"And śaśi-varṇam?", asked the king.
The kashmiri pundit said, "The dahī-vaḍā looks brilliantly white just like the moon (śaśi). Hence, śaśi-varṇam."
"And catur-bhujam?", asked the king.
The kashmiri pundit said, "The wise (catur) men enjoy it as their bhuja (bhoga) or object of enjoyment. Hence catur-bhujam."
"And prasanna-vadanam?", asked the king.
The kashmiri pundit said, "If a hungry person whose face is dejected eats dahī-vaḍā, he becomes happy (prasanna) and his face (vadanam) lights up."
"And sarva-vighnopaśāntaye?", asked the amazed king.
The kashmiri pundit replied, "Lentil flour is considered to be extremely effective in Ayurveda for calming down all three Ayurvedic doṣas of kapha, vāta and pitta. Hence sarva-vighnopaśāntaye (calms down all faults)."
The kashmiri pundit then repeated the entire meaning of the verse — "One should meditate (dhyāyet) on dahī-vaḍā which is wrapped in white yogurt covering (śuklāmbara-dharam), which enters everyone's mouth (viṣṇum), which appears white as the moon (śaśi-varṇam), which is enjoyed as food by the wise (catur-bhujam) and which makes a dejected hungry man smile (prasanna-vadanam). One should eat it for calming down all Ayurvedic doṣas (sarva-vighnopaśāntaye) of one's body."
The king was so taken aback by this newfound explanation that he paid full obeisances to the kashmiri pundit and said, "Oh my Lord! Thank you, thank you for rescuing me from the ocean of ignorance. om ajñāna-timirāndhasya...."
The king offered him some money, but the kashmiri pundit said, "O King! I don't want this money right now. I wish to be your head pundit." The king readily agreed to this proposal. The kashmiri pundit then said, "Also you will learn some scriptures from me."
The king agreed to this too. So the Kashmiri pundit started teaching the king genuine books of Sanskrit grammar such as Laghu-siddhānta-kaumudī. He also taught the king the Amara-kośa, which is the most popular Sanskrit dictionary.
After learning these books in two years, the king sat down one fine day and tried to interpret the same verse once again. Step by step, he found out that the verse actually indicates Lord Viṣṇu.
Feeling extreme guilt at his ungratefulness towards the other pundits, he called them all and begged forgiveness at the feet of each pundit. He reinstated them all and paid them double the salary that they had been denied of.
The moral of the story is that some individuals appreciate the value of a true guru only after being cheated in life. Hence, if we have received a bona-fide guru who explains the meanings of scriptures correctly to us, we should be most grateful to such a guru and never disrespect him in any way.