Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Three Slaves

In an unknown mountain region, on a plantation, there lived three slaves. They were enslaved to toil from morning till night. Sometimes to level a field, sometimes to clear a path, sometimes to lift heavy stones.

Being human, they could not help but reflect on their daily lives every once in a while.

The first slave was an obedient one. He did what he was told, and enjoyed the meals, the shelter and the bonds of his family. He knew that if he rebelled, his family would suffer from hardship. He wanted to become a more privileged slave, an overseer. He always saw the "silver lining" in every cloud, and was the eternal optimist. A day of heavy work, and he would look forward to an easy one. An easy day, and he would play with his children.

The second slave was a rebel. He thought that rebellion was a necessity, given their fate. He knew that his family would face difficulties, but he thought for the next generation, and did not want his children to have the same master, who he thought was unjust and cruel at times. He wanted them to travel, to seek their destiny, and to choose a kinder master. He even had wishful thoughts of a master elected from a community of slaves.

The third slave was in the habit of asking "Why?" and "For what?". For any outcome, particularly a happy one, he thought for a second longer than either of his slave friends, and commented: "But death awaits in the end," and ruefully lamented his mortal fate. He frequently thought of suicide, but even that he concluded to be a meaningless gesture and not worth the drama.

One hot summer day, all three slaves were resting in the afternoon in the shade of a large tree. Their backs resting on the earth, their faces upturned to the view of sunlight shimmering through the leaves, their legs aching from the long march of the forenoon.

The first slave was deep in the thoughts of his wife who he imagined was waiting for him in the evening. He did not mind the tiredness much. He knew that the other two slaves called him a buffoon and a simpleton and a lackey, but since his wife loved him, he was happy.

The second slave was engrossed in thinking of ways to escape the plantation. He thought that any place must be better than this, where he had little choice in how he spent his day. He regarded his wife at home as a weary and sad creature, a conformist and a seeker of certainty, who prevented him from being a true revolutionary.

The third slave was tossing and turning. He could not imagine a worse place to be, but he could not also imagine that another place would be better. He had still not finished his meal, as every morsel reminded him of the death of the living thing which was now his food. He had had a wife once, but she had left him.

An old man, himself a slave of yore, was passing through the plantation and stopped to rest near that large tree. He looked at the faces of the three slaves and casually asked all three: "So how's life?"

The first slave: "It is nice to rest for a while, innit?"

The second slave: "How is life over there, beyond the hill?"

The third slave remained silent and turned his face away.


Anonymous said...

The Old man said: "Abide in the immortal Self my dears..where there is no fear, no death, no master, no slave,no loss, no gain, no ecstasy, no pain, no hunger, no greed,no wife, no husband, no blah, no blah...

All three shouted him down at once.. "Get lost! you filthy Old Liar! Stop selling your false dreams... Come on guys let us go back to slavehood to fulfill our karma"

And they walked back to their lives singing...
We three Slaves of Orient are
Bearing Karma we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star....

Sridhar said...

Interesting. Is it not possible for one person to have the positive traits of the 3 slaves without the negatives. The optimism of slave 1, without the conformity and obeisance. The rebellion of the 2nd slave without the "blame everyone for my plight" negativity. The ability for introspection of slave 3, without the despair. Obviously, the unexamined life is not worth leaving, but one shouldn't let that examination lead to inertia.

PS - Nice blog, first time here.

Susan said...

I am hopeful that somewhere there also lives a fourth slave who, at some early stage in life has felt good about resting for a while, who has discovered the hills and tried hard to look beyond and who has ultimatly been hit hard my the meaninglessness of everything and felt indifferent towards life....someone who has traversed a full circle and gone back living the life of obidience, enjoying his meals and family bonds. And yet he is a changed man.

Darshan Chande said...

I was conditioned to be like the First salve. When I got "intelligent", I started being the Second slave. A rebel. Then through truth-seeking (with reductionist approach, unaware of it, though) reached a sort of nihilism. Kind of like the Third slave. But then over time I have tended to return to being the First slave, realizing that my initial conditioning was not wrong. It's just that I needed to complete the circle in order to know why I was being conditioned that way -- something which even my conditioners didn't quite know. It's been a good journey.

Really loved reading it. In the end the fact remains, whether First, Second, or Third, we remain SLAVES.

pankaj said...

ha ha. this was fun. very nicely written. nicely captures different approaches to life. an endless sequence of whys really does lead nowhere, no matter what question you start with.

Anonymous said...

Alternate ending...

The Old Man said : T'is a land of Bliss on the side yonder. FREEDOM and more FREEDOM is all there is. But there are two condtions you need to fulfill to get there after we get to the hill top before we cross over to the other side. First - only one person can stand on the hill top at a time. Second you must shed your EGO at the hill top before going down to the other side. No one with an EGO can breathe in there.

So off they went the three of them to the hill top. The first one stood on the hill top shed his EGO and went down on the other side screaming "Whee!! this is so blissful and enlightening!! Try it everybody!!!!!"
The second one stood on the hill top refused to go down either way."Wow the view is so good from up here and I can see both sides of the hill, why would I want to get off? Why would I want to shed my EGO? Let me just stay here all by myself and enjoy the view of both sides. Nothing can beat that!!!"

The third one quietly waited his turn which never came because the second would not get off. "Oh Well never mind!" said he. "Let me just stay on this side where I was before. When I die my soul will just fly over the other side any way. So let the narcissist enjoy the hill top, never liked him anyway!!!"

The Old Man chuckled !!. So that my dears is the story of The Enlightened, The narcissist and The Realist.

Ajar Vashisth said...

Absolutely stunning ! How true how real !