A man is going in search of truth. As he comes out of his city, he finds an old man sitting under a tree. The young man does not know where to go in search of truth. He has heard that one has to go somewhere in search of truth, one has to go on a pilgrimage — but where? Roads go to all sides. Which road is the road?
Seeing the old man sitting under the tree, he thought: perhaps this man is old enough; he must know which road leads to truth. And he asked the man. He said, “Yes I know the road. Follow the right and go on until you come to a certain tree” — he described the tree in detail, its leaves, its fruit — “and you will find under it a very old man… just to give you an example, something like me but thirty years older. This is the man who is going to be your guide.”
The man was very happy. He thanked the old man and rushed towards the way he had shown him. For thirty years he was wandering and wandering, and the tree never came and the old man never came. He was getting tired, and he himself was getting old, and he said, “What nonsense!”
Finally he decided, “It is better to go back home… enough is enough! Thirty years I have wasted in searching truth, and I have not even met the old man who is going to be my guide. And God knows, when the guide meets me, what kind of guidance it will be and how long it will take. It seems to be too complicated; it is better to go home. I was running a good business. I destroyed the business and unnecessarily got into trouble hearing this word `truth’ again and again.”
He came back. Again he passed the tree — and he was shocked! This was the tree the old man had described. And he looked under the tree and the old man was there — the same old man, thirty years older and exactly the same as the description in every way. He said, “My God! Then why did you waste my thirty years?”
He said, “I wasted your thirty years — or you wasted my thirty years? At that time you were not ripe enough to be guided, because I gave all the guidance and you didn’t even look at the tree — and I was describing it in minute detail. I was describing your guide in minute detail, and you did not look at me, to see that I am describing myself. You were in such a hurry; you were too young. But nothing is wasted. I was, waiting, knowing that one day you will come back, one day you will recognize this tree, one day you will recognize this old man, that I am your guide!”
In Search of Truth – Philosophical Stories