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Entries in Upanishad (1)


The Princess of Kashi


Once upon a time in the court of an ancient Kingdom near the centre of the World, the King and Queen organized a very special theatrical play to be held in the Great Hall.

All the courtiers, and counselors, courtesans, judges, ladies in waiting and even a few vagabonds, jesters and idiots were invited for the special occasion.

A pretty little girl of 5 years was needed to play the role of the ‘Princess of Kashi’.

But wouldn't you know it? High and low, here and there, near and far within the palace they could not find an appropriate girl for the role. So, the Queen came up with the grand idea of dressing up her little son, The Prince, who happened to be around five years old, so that he might act in the role of the Princess of Kashi. The ladies in waiting and chamber maids got to work and did a splendid job of dressing the young Prince and making him up for the role. He looked so cute and beautiful that the Queen summoned the court artist and asked for a portrait of the child - just as he looked in that costume. The painting was done exactly as it was commissioned and and it bore the title The Princess of Kashi and the artist placed the appropriate date on it. And after the final curtain fell at the end of the dramatic production, and the audience left and everything was back to normal around the palace, the painting was then tucked away in one of the palace’s many basement storage rooms.

Fifteen years passed and by now the handsome young Prince was all grown up, being trained to take over as the Heir to the Throne - the Yuvraj of the Kingdom. One day while exploring some old storage rooms, down below the dungeons in the deepest recesses of the palace he wandered into the space which held some old artefacts. Stashed away in a corner full of cobwebs, behind a woodpile, covered in an old sheet, he discovered the painting. It said The Princess of Kashi and it bore the date of its creation. Immediately the young prince was enamored, mesmerized, hypnotized, and enthralled by the sight of the beautiful Princess in the painting. Something about the image touched the depths of his soul and he was overcome with a desire to find her and to ask for her hand in marriage.

Based on the date of the painting he imagined that she would be of about the same age as himself. And without a second thought the Prince decided that he could not marry anyone other than the Princess of Kashi. But feeling a bit shy he also could not tell anyone or share his desire with his parents. But he felt so moved and in love with the image that he felt he would die if he did not marry this Princess.

It wasn't long before the Prince was seen moping, day after day, wandering around the Palace with a lost and mournful look on his face. Everyone could see that something was unusually wrong with the future Yuvraj of the Kingdom. The King and Queen, soon became greatly worried about the boy and they talked between themselves and were equally unhappy, not knowing how to bring about a smile on the face of their only child. Still, the Young Prince was too shy to speak of the pains in his heart brought about by his yearning and overwhelming desire for the Princess of Kashi.

The Court Ministers were worried too. One day, one of the Pathfinders, a truly dedicated and very intelligent Minister, approached the Prince to chat with him.

The Minister spent a good part of the day with the Prince and made some progress removing the barrier of his shyness. At last he just came right out and asked the Prince: what was it exactly that was bothering him so much? The Prince, by then being frustrated enough, decided to share his secret with the loyal Minister who had always been a friend. The Prince confided: “I’m in Love.”

“That’s excellent news Prince, but who's the girl?” asked the Minister.
To this the Prince replied, “She is a Princess!”
"Whoa!" the Minister said: “A Princess, that is very good. Where did you meet her?”
"Ah, well," said the Prince, “I haven’t actually met her, I have only seen her picture.”

“It's all good," said the Minister, stroking his long beard thoughtfully. "Now tell me, where have you seen the picture of this Princess?”
“Well, I haven’t seen a recent picture of her," said the Prince.
"But I have seen a 15-year-old painting of her and I fell in love with her. And I've made up my mind that when I find her I will marry her!”

By this time the old memory synapses were firing in the Minister's brain, and like all wily and trusted advisors he was starting to get a faint idea of what was going on. "Where did you see this picture?" he asked the Prince, his eyes narrrowing. And so the Prince took the Minister down to the sub-basement deeps and showed him a well-kept and preserved painting titled: The Princess of Kashi. In the very instant the Minister saw the painting he comprehended the problem and the Prince's mistake.

"Prince," he said, "I've got something to tell you. You'd better sit down." The Minister then told the Prince the whole story of the play from years earlier and the truth behind the painting. He explained that the Prince was the same boy, dressed up as the girl in the painting, The Princess of Kashi. He told the Prince, 'Thou Art That' ~ 'Tat Tvam Asi'! 

The moment the Prince heard the truth all desire in his heart for the Princess disappeared.

Now here's something: apparently all of the rishis and the seers, the bodhsattvas and sages and gurus, and all of the swamis, sādhvīs, sadhus and bhikkus all over the World plus all of the fakirs - the father-fakirs and the mother-fakirs - all of the near-enlightened ones everywhere and several of the enlightened ones too - just love this ancient story.

Why did the Prince's desire dissipate? Because the Prince knew he would marry The Princess? Nope. Because he realized there was no way he could marry her? Nope. The desire disappeared when the Prince realized his own true nature - the insight that there is nothing apart from the pure awareness of the Self. You are That which you seek. The Prince further realised that the appearance of separateness or sense of duality between himself and the Princess was not ultimately real but that this was an illusion. This realization is spiritual: There is One Awareness, and you are it. Ultimate Reality appears in many forms yet is One. You are not a part of it or apart from it - You Are It: Tat Tvam Asi. It is You, to be found when you look and enquire below the appearances and into the depths of You. There, you find ever-present Awareness. This Awareness has always existed and will always exist. You are only the Awareness. That which knows. This is You. And the world is like a playground for this Awareness.

                                          THE END (and also The Beginning)

The Princess of Kashi - watercolour by You Know Who - the resident court jester and painter and who happened to be idling nearby when this story was added to the blog. It is the same great little story, in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, as told by Swami Sarvapriyananda. It's the same kind of yarn as The Wild Fox Koan and a few other little ditties sprinkled here and there across