The Sage & The Thief

There lived a sage named Deva Sharma in a monastery situated far from human habitation, who had amassed a lot of wealth by selling clothes gifted to him by his well-wishers and disciples. Since, he did not trust anyone, guarding the accumulated wealth became a burden for him, and he carried his bag full of money with him wherever he went.

A thief named Ashadhabhooti, noticed Deva Sharma carrying his bag at all times and began planning to steal it away from the sage. He checked walls of the saint’s room but found them to be too strong. He checked the door but found that to be too high. At last he thought to himself, “I will talk to him, win his confidence, and become his disciple, for he will be in my power when I have his confidence”.

Then one day, Ashadhabhooti met the saint and promptly fell on his feet and said, “Oh, know-all, I have realized that this life is an illusion; youth is fleeting and all familial ties are like a dream. Please show me the correct path that delivers me from all worldly ties.”

Pleased with his humility, Deva Sharma said, “Child, you are the blessed one who has thought of renouncing worldly pleasures. Listen, however low his caste is, the person that chants “Om Namah Sivayah” and smears holy ash on his forehead, becomes Siva himself and knows no rebirth. I shall accept you as my follower but you must not enter my room in night because company is forbidden for saints. After taking your vows, you have to live in the hut at the monastery gate.”

Ashadhabhooti promised the saint that he would consider every sign from him as a command and carry it out. Satisfied, the saint accepted the cheat as his disciple. Ashadhabhooti too began making Deva Sharma happy by attending to every need of his. But seeing that the saint never separated the money-bag from his person, Ashadhabhooti thought, “The old man is very crafty and always keeps the bag with him. How can I snatch it from him? Shall I kill him?”

As the thief was at a loss to achieve his goal, the son of another disciple came calling on the sage. The visitor invited Deva Sharma to come to his village and perform a sacred thread ceremony. The saint accepted the invitation and set out for the village taking Ashadhabhooti with him.

On the way, the guru and his disciple had to cross a river. After bathing in the river, Deva Sharma took the money bag and pushed it into an ascetic robe he was carrying and told the disciple, “I have to respond to nature’s call. I am leaving this holy robe of Siva here. Keep an eye on it.” The sage thus fooled by the false confidence of his accomplice, rested for a while and got engrossed in a fight of two rams.

Whereas behind his back, the moment the guru went out of his sight, Ashadhabhooti collected the bag and fled the place. After a while, while brooding over the ram fight, Deva Sharma returned to where he had left the money-bag with Ashadhabhooti and panicked when he found Ashadhabhooti missing. The robe was there but not the money-bag in it. He began wailing, “Oh, trickster, what have you done? I have lost everything in this world.” After a vain search for the thief, the foolish saint returned home dejected.