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Story – Child, who are you

Madhavaselva, king of Madhavapuri, had once gone to the forest for hunting. He lost his way and was hungry and to his luck, he came across a saint.

The rishi asked him: ‘Child, who are you?

The king replied: ‘Sir, I am the king of this country.’ The rishi replied: ‘Son, I only asked who you are. I did not ask your relation with your country. Further, “king” denotes a position. If the king of another country conquers your country, your position of the king would go away. Hence, please tell me who you really are.’’

The king’s hunger increased and he asked the rishi: ‘Sir, I am hungry. Please give me something to eat.’

The rishi asked again: ‘You did not answer my question! First, you said that you are the king. Now, you say that you are hungry. In truth, who are you?’

He told the rishi: ‘Sir, first let me appease my hunger. Then I would give you a reply.’

The food was served but the king then received information of enemy soldiers marching towards his kingdom. He decided to proceed immediately but the Saint stopped him and asked him to proceed after eating. After having food, the king decided to take a nap. After taking nap, the king decided to leave without informing the sage. But the sage noticed it.

The king was yet to answer the seer as to who he really was?

The rishi said: When I first asked you who you are, you said that you are the king. Then, you said that you were hungry, then that you were restless, and then that you are peaceful. Now, you say that you are ignorant. Now, please reply after giving it some thought. You said: “I am the king”, “I am hungry”, “I am restless”, “I am peaceful”, and “I am ignorant”. In all these statements, who is the I?’
Hearing the rishi’s words, the king realized that there was an underlying, permanent, and unique I in all his replies to the rishi’s questions. The compassionate rishi gave the knowledge of Atman to the king and blessed him by removing his ignorance.