There once was a great rishi (sage)who was always happy. One day, a very vain and selfish young man came to visit him. After talking for a few minutes, the young man rudely asked, “Are you truly happy, or are you just pretending to be happy?”
The rishi chose not to answer that question. Instead, he said, “My young friend, I could not help but notice the lines on your hand. I am very sorry to tell you that your life line is extremely short; in fact, in seven days you will die.”
The young man’s heart was filled with terror. “In seven days, I will die?” he slowly repeated in disbelief. Then he quickly excused himself and hurried out of the door.
With the picture of death firmly fixed in his mind, he approached each person he had ever mistreated, and he apologized and asked for forgiveness. Later that evening he took his wife’s hand, and with tears in his eyes, he told her he was sorry for not being a better husband; then he sat on the floor and began playing with his children. Everyone wanted to know why he was acting so strangely; however, he just lowered his eyes and remained silent.
For six days this young man did not sleep or eat. In fact, he spent his time helping his friends and family and feeling grateful for all the love he had been given. On the seventh day, the day he was supposed to die, he remained in bed, thinking of God and his impending death. Suddenly he heard someone walk in the room. When he opened his eyes, he saw the rishi standing by his bed. The gentle rishi touched the young man’s face and told him to get up. Then he smiled and said, “Young man, today is not the day you are going to die.” He then asked, “My friend, during the past seven days, did you become angry with anyone?”
The young man said, “No, my heart was filled with love.”
“Were you thinking about how rich and how handsome you are?”
“No, the thought never crossed my mind.”
“Did you become annoyed with your wife and children?”
“Every moment with them was filled with joy.”
“Now tell me, my friend, what was it that made you feel that way?”
“When I thought, I had only a short time to live, how could I think of myself or be angry and upset with anybody?” The rishi said, “Thus, now you know the answer as to why I am so happy. I keep in front of me the truth of life: that Atma is eternal while this body and its material connections are temporary; that one day it is bound to perish. Because my time here is so limited, it is also precious and must be used for doing all the good I can. Is it not foolish to spend our time in this body doing unjust things and being unhappy?”