A PROFESSIONAL PICKPOCKET
One-day goddess Parvathi asked Shiva: "Lord! I have heard that there is a sacred shrine for your worship by name Kasi and that those who visit Kasi and offer worship to you after a holy bath in the Ganges will earn the merit of coming to Kailas and stay there for ever. Is it true?" Lord Shiva replied: "All the people cannot earn that merit. Mere visiting Kasi and offering worship to my image are not enough. Presently, I shall make the point clear to you. Let us go to Kasi as an aged couple. I shall make you enact a drama!"
Lord Shiva and Parvathi appeared before the entrance of the temple of Shiva, Parvathi as an old hag of eighty years and Lord Shiva a rickety old man of ninety. Shiva laid his head on the lap of Parvathi and started groaning in severe pains. The old woman was crying helplessly. She begged every pilgrim saying: "Oh ye devotees! Look here, this is my husband. He is terribly thirsty and may die any moment. Will you please fetch some water for him to drink? I cannot leave him alone and go to fetch water". The pilgrims were coming from the Ghats after their ceremonial bath in the Ganges. Their clothes were wet and they were carrying water in small bright vessels. They saw and heard the woman's lament. Some said: "Wait, we shall attend to your husband after offering the sacred Ganges water to Lord Viswanath."
Some said: "Oh what a nuisance! Why can't these beggars allow us at least to offer worship in peace." Some others said: "These beggars should not be allowed to sit here".
There was a big crowd near the temple entrance. A professional pickpocket walked along with some of these pilgrims. He also heard the old woman's lament. He could not bear the sight of the suffering old man and the bewailing old woman. He walked upto them and said: "Mother, what do you want? Who are you? Why are you here?". The old woman replied, "Son, we came here to have the Darshan of Lord Visweswara. My husband suddenly took ill and fainted out of exhaustion. He might survive if someone were to pour some water into his parching mouth. His condition is too critical for me to leave him and go to bring water. I requested many people to help me, but nobody would spare any water though they have been carrying pitchers full of it." The thief was moved to compassion. He had brought some water in the dried gourd-pot. The woman stopped him and said: "Son, my husband may die any moment, he will not accept water unless the person who gives water speaks truth." The pickpocket could not catch the meaning. He said: "Mother, please tell me what I should do"? With a cynical laughter, he said: "Mother, I have not done any good deed so far. I am a professional pickpocket. The only good deed is that which I am going to do now, to offer water to this dying old man. This is true." He poured gently some water into the mouth of the old man. No sooner had the pickpocket done this deed than the old couple disappeared and in their place stood Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi, in all their full splendor. Shiva said: "Son, you are indeed blessed. There is no greater morality than speaking the truth, and no true worship more faithful than service to fellow human beings. You have been atoned for all the sins you have committed so far because of this one good deed."