Long ago and
far away, their was a king who ruled in Benares, in northern India.
One of his ministers was called the Royal Price Maker, and he
was a very honest man. His job was to set a fair price for anything
the king wanted to buy or sell.
On some occasions,
the king did not like his price making. He did not get as big
a profit as he wanted. He did not want to pay so much when he
bought, or sell for what he thought was not enough. So he decided
to change the price maker.
One day he
saw a nice looking young man and he thought, "This fellow
will be good for my price making position." So he dismissed
his former honest price maker, and appointed this man to be the
new one. The man thought, "I must make the king happy by
buying at very low prices and selling at very high prices."
So he made the prices ridiculous, without caring at all what anything
was worth. This gained the greedy king a lot of money, and made
him very happy. Meanwhile, all the others who dealt with the new
price maker, including the king's other ministers and ordinary
people, became very unhappy.
Then one day
a horse merchant arrived in Benares with 500 horses to sell. There
were stallions, mares and colts. The king invited the merchant
to the palace, and called upon his Royal Price Maker to set a
price for all 500 horses. Thinking only of pleasing the king,
he said, "The entire herd of horses is worth one cup of rice."
So the king ordered that one cup of rice be paid to the horse
dealer, and all the horses were taken to the royal stables.
the merchant was very upset, but he could do nothing at the moment.
Later he heard about the former price maker, who had a reputation
for being very fair and honest. So he approached him and told
him what had happened. He wanted to hear his opinion, in order
to get a proper price from the king. The former price maker said,
"If you do as I say, the king will be convinced of the true
value of the horses. Go back to the price maker and satisfy him
with a valuable gift. Ask him to tell the value of one cup of
rice, in the presence of the king. If he agrees, come and tell
me. I will go with you to the king."
this advice, the merchant went to the price maker and gave him
a valuable gift. The gift made him very happy, so that he saw
the value of pleasing the horse dealer. Then the merchant said
to him, "I was very happy with your previous evaluation.
Can you please convince the king of the value of one cup of rice?"
The foolish price maker said, 'Why not? I will explain the worth
of one cup of rice, even in the presence of the king."
So the price
maker thought the horse dealer was satisfied with his cup of rice.
He arranged for another meeting with the king, as the merchant
was departing for his own country. The merchant reported back
to the old price maker, and they went together to see the king.
All the king's
ministers and his full court were in the royal meeting hall. The
horse merchant said to the king, "My lord, I understand that
in this your country, my whole herd of 500 horses is worth one
cup of rice. Before I leave for home, I want to know the value
of one cup of rice in your country." The king turned to his
loyal price maker and said, "What is the value of one cup
price maker, in order to please the king, had previously priced
the herd of horses at one cup of rice. Now, after receiving a
bribe from the horse dealer, he wanted to please him too. So he
replied to the king, in his most dignified manner, "Your
worship, one cup of rice is worth the city of Benares, including
even your own harem, as well as all the suburbs of the city. In
other words, it is worth the whole kingdom of Benares!"
this, the royal ministers and wise men in the assembly hall started
to roar with laughter, slapping their sides with their hands.
When they calmed down a little, they said, "Earlier we heard
that the kingdom was priceless. Now we hear that all Benares,
with its palaces and mansions, is worth only a cup of rice! The
decision of the Royal Price Maker is so strange! Where did your
highness find such a man? He is good only for pleasing a king
such as you, not for making fair prices for a merchant who sells
his horses from country to country."
Hearing the laughter of his whole court, and the words of his
ministers and advisers, the king was ashamed. So he brought back
his former price maker to his official position. He agreed to
a new fair price for the herd of horses, as set by the honest
price maker. Having learned a lesson, the king and his kingdom
lived justly and prospered.
moral is: A fool in high office can bring
shame even to a king.