The three riddles | Sunday Observer

The three riddles

16 January, 2022

Once upon a time, there was a king who thought that he knew everything. He was very proud about it.

He wanted to prove that there was no one else who knew as much as him. He sent royal messengers all over the kingdom. They went from village to village beating their tom -toms and spreading the king’s message. The royal command was that if there was anyone who could solve the king’s three riddles they should come to the palace.

Many people including very learned people came to the palace but they could not solve the three riddles. The king imprisoned them all.

A learned bhikkhu

There was a temple near the palace and there was a very learned bhikkhu there. But he was only interested in solving the problems in life. He was not interested in solving riddles and therefore, did not go to the palace.

The king sent a message and got down the bhikkhu to the palace.

The king spoke very respectfully to the bhikkhu. “i have heard you are very wise and learned. I am sure you will be able to solve my riddles”.

Three riddles

“My first riddle is where is the centre of the Earth”?

“The second is how many stars are there in the sky”?

“And my third riddle is what is there on my mind”?

The bhikkhu promised to come in three days and solve the riddles.The bhikkhu really had no answers to these riddles. He sat under the bo tree deep in troubled thought. The bhikkhu knew that if he could not solve the riddles that he would be imprisoned.

The abiththaya

Abiththayas are people wholook after bhikkhus and temples. This temple too had such a person or an aabiththaya.

He saw the bhikkhu seated under the bot ree deep in thought and looking troubled. Now, this abiththaya was very kind and it worried him to see the bhikkhu so troubled.

The abiththaya went up to the bhikkhu and said, “Do not be frightened. I will solve the riddles for you. Only give me permission to go to the palace on the appointed day.

The bhikkhu agreed

On the appointed day the abhiththaya shaved his head,donned a robe and disguised as a bhikkhu went to the palace.

He took with him a walking stick and a deer skin.

The king asked him the first riddle.

“ I can't answer this riddle here, let us go to the royal garden” said, the abiththaya. The king agreed and they went to the royal garden.

The abiththaya’s solutions

The abiththaya walked a couple of times around the royal garden and then placed his walking stick at a particular spot and said, “This is the centre of the Earth. Measure and confirm it” If it is wrong tell me”.

As he had no way of measuring the king had to accept the answer as correct.

The king then asked the second riddle.

“Can’t solve it now. Let’s wait till night said, the abiththaya when night came the abiththaya laid out the deer skin and said“ The stars in the sky equal the hairs on this deer skin. Count and let me know if I am wrong”.

How to count the stars or the hairs? The king had to accept the abiththaya’s solution as correct.

The king then asked the third riddle.”What is on my mind now”?

The abiththaya said, “You think I am the bhikkhu in the temple. No. I am not. I am only the abiththaya. The bhikku said that the riddles were so easy that even I could solve them.That is why I came”.

The king had to accept this answer.