One evening on the outskirts of the Kingdom of Ayatana, an old man in rags with one eye, leading a lame white horse, came upon an old beggar who lay dying by the side of the road. The old man gently sat the beggar up, and holding him up in his arms, gave him some water. But the beggar could not drink; he could barely open his eyes. With parched lips, the beggar looked up and murmured, "My king."

"It's been a long time, my friend," the king quietly said, "but now I will hold you as you once held me in my darkest hour. Do you remember my promise in the blacksmith's cell?"

The jailor didn't answer. He was quiet for awhile, and then managed to whisper, "I see you have found your key, Sire."

"Yes, it was never far away," the king replied, "just here," as he pointed to his heart.

The jailor's breathing was labored, but he managed to say that he was trying to make it to the forest, just as his king had done. But he knew that it was too late now; he was just an old man, all alone, whose time had come. And he was frightened.

The king held him for a moment. Then he said, "There is nothing to fear. You are as a splendid sunbeam that danced on the earth for a moment, and will now stream back into your destiny only to stream forth again and again, and each time, you will be stronger and wiser. Just as a beam differs not from the sun which it is born, you are truly the sun, and the sun is all of you. Soon you will see the truth of this for yourself, for your faltering efforts to reach the key with your last steps have made all the difference."

The jailor looked up for the last time, and smiled. And then, his eyes closed.

They remained by the side of the road; the day was ending. The king held the jailor's lifeless body as passersby shook their heads at such a sight as two apparently drunk, old beggars trying to prop each other up.

The light waning now, the king carefully lifted his friend's withered body, holding it close to his heart, and carried him up a nearby hill. He laid him gently under the branches of a little tree - a tree that would serve as the jailor's forest.

And then, as the king walked slowly back into the woods, away from his kingdom. a crippled, white horse followed in his footsteps. And the old, one-eyed man had a smile on his face, and he had peace in his heart.

The king was happy. (THE END)

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-nine years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit www.AYearToEnlightenment.com