A long time ago in India, there was a royal family. A king and queen lived together with their four children. Although it was a royal family, there was no happiness since its members spent most of their time fighting over things big and small.
On the queen’s birthday, the king wanted to make her happy by presenting her with a wonderful gift. The king commissioned a famous artist to draw an excellent picture of the most beautiful thing he could find in the country and present it to him. Ordered by the king to find the most beautiful thing, the artist set off on a journey towards the east. After traveling a great distance, the artist found nothing he considered beautiful enough.
Then he saw a man is coming toward him. The artist said to him, “Sir, kindly tell me, What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in this country?”
The man quickly replied, “It’s liberty! Imagine the a man is released from prison after serving a long sentence.” It was the most beautiful but seemed too conceptual. It was not a thing that could be drawn and given as a gift.
On the next day, the artist started a long journey towards the west. There he met another person and asked the same question. That person answered, “It’s freedom! Imagine the day a freedom-fighter returns from war.” It was beautiful but too conceptual, not a concrete object to be drawn and presented to the king.
The following day, the artist set off towards the north. There he saw a young girl plucking flowers from a tree. When the artist asked her, she’s answered, “It’s love! Imagine a young woman preparing for her marriage ceremony.” But this, too, seemed far too conceptual.
Finally, far to the south, he came across a mendicant wanderer, a saint who was leading a celibate life. When he asked him, the saint answered, “It’s renunciation!”* But the idea of giving things up also seemed too conceptual.
First the artist was disappointed. Later, however, he felt a wonderful surge of happiness as he understood the importance of the four ideals he met on his journey: liberty, freedom, love, and renunciation. In this extended-family of a country, the ideals already existed. And these made for a happy family life.
An excellent idea came to mind: Why not draw a picture of family members with an explanation of the four ideals that make for a happy family and give that picture to the king? When he did, the king was delighted and rewarded him for a wonderful job.
We can see that all four people on his journey had the same goal – to be happy – and only the source of the happiness was different. One found it in liberty, the other in freedom, another in love, and one in renunciation.
What was clear was that to bring about and maintain happiness no matter the individual, family, or society, these four ideals are very important. With this idea in mind, everyone could be happy by the practice of giving things up, love, freedom, and liberty. These four virtues are inter-related.
* “Giving up” means sharing, letting go, not clinging or grasping; it is an expression of mental non-greed factor. What keeps people bound is desire or craving. Giving up greed and instead sharing out of love leads us to freedom or liberation. Sharing what we have is a beautiful way of relating to others. The personal quality of sharing is the main enhancer of friendship.