Once a scholar, a priest and a peasant stood at the gates of heaven. The guard at the entrance stopped them and said, “To enter heaven, list the good deeds you have done.”
The scholar answered, “I am a highly learned scholar and have all the shastras (scriptures) in my fingertips. Therefore, I have every right to enter heaven!”
The guard replied sternly, “You know the scriptures inside out. But you have not put into practice all that you have learned. You are, therefore, unfit to enter heaven. You may go back.”
Next, the priest stepped forward. The priest exclaimed, “Don’t you recognize me? It is because of my numerous yagnas (sacrifices) that even the gods of heaven obtain their food and nourishment. I have acquired immense punya (merits) by performing these sacrifices. Since I have led a life as per the scriptures, I ought to have a place in heaven.”
Quietly hearing the priest’s haughty response, the guard replied, “You have performed numerous yagnas, but they were done only for your own benefit. A selfish man has no place in heaven!” Thus the guard refused entry to the priest too.
Finally, it was the turn of the peasant.
With folded hands and bowed head, the peasant responded hesitantly, “O great one, I am a simple peasant and I have offered food and water to all the hungry and thirsty travelers who passed by my home and field. This is the only small good deed I have done. I don’t know if I deserve to enter heaven.”
Hearing this, the guard smiled and said, “You are the only one who deserves to enter heaven. You have taken effort to remove the sorrow of people around you. Heaven can be attained only by helping those in need.”
The guard opened the gates and permitted the peasant alone to enter heaven.
Compassion towards all is the highest virtue. We, the children of God, should be selfless and live a meaningful life by helping those in need without any condition.
(Adapted from the book “Thulasi Dhalangal”, by HH Sri Muralidhara Swamiji )