A man met Guru Nanak (right) and asked the Guru to honour him by being a guest at his house.
Guru Nanak was reluctant at first, because the man had a reputation for being a robber. But in the end he decided to give him the benefit of the doubt - a principle of Sikhism being that there is good in everyone if you look for it.
Guru Nanak said that he would come on the condition that the man made four promises: never to steal from poor people, always to speak the truth, never to steal from a house in which you have eaten, never to put the blame for your own wrongdoing on to someone else. The man agreed and Guru Nanak spent time at his house.
When the Guru had gone, the man felt the urge to rob. "But my first promise to the Guru says that I cannot steal from the poor," he said to himself.
"So I will steal from the king."
The man entered the king's palace, where he was challenged by a guard who asked him what he wanted. "I cannot lie," thought the man, "because of my second promise."
So he said that he had come to steal from the king. The guard laughed, thinking the man to be joking, and he let the robber in.
The robber went through the palace collecting a heap of jewels and ornaments to take away. But as he went through the kitchens he was so tempted by the smell of sumptuous spicy food, set out ready to be taken to the king, that he stopped to eat something. Then he realised what he had done. "My third promise says that I cannot now steal from this house in which I have eaten," he said to himself. He returned to his village empty handed.
The next day the king knew that someone had been in his palace and he assumed that the robber had been disturbed and fled without taking taking his pile of treasure. He sent his men to the village with orders to beat everyone until someone confessed.
The robber, of course, now confronted his fourth promise and realised that he could not allow others to take the blame, so he confessed and was taken the to the king.
The king was impressed with the robber's story of honesty and kept promises. He pardoned the robber and was transformed from a tyrant into a good and wise king.
Roop Singh is available for sessions on storytelling and aspects of Sikhism Tel: 0113 260 2484 http:roop-singh.tripod.com