A teacher once decided to test two of his best students. He gave them a practical task that sounded much easier than it actually was.

“Take 100 rupees each,” he said, “and use the money to fill up your individual rooms with as many things as you can buy. I will come to see what you have achieved.”

Five days later, the teacher visited the first student and was shocked to find the room filled with junk and bric-a-brac. There was not a nook uncluttered. Rusty, dusty and broken disused objects lay strewn all over the room. It was a mess. The teacher looked at the student in disbelief. The student realized he had done something wrong and tried to explain his actions.

“I wanted to fill up the room but the money didn’t buy very much so I bought unwanted junk, which was the cheapest thing I could find. It seemed logical and even clever. I scavenged about and found ingenious ways to acquire rubbish as cheaply as possible.”

The teacher sighed. He left for the other student’s room wondering if he would find anything better than the dismal display his had just seen. As he swung open the door, a smile spread over his face. He was delighted with the scene that unfolded.

The student had placed a candle in the middle of the room. Its light shone brightly, illuminating every corner. Next to the candle was an incense stick that billowed fragrance everywhere. The aroma was intoxicating. The soft light and the wonderful aroma pleased the teacher. Before he could comment, the second student approached him and meekly said, “I only needed a small amount of the money. Here is the rest I didn’t use.”

The teacher said, “You have successfully filled the room, twice over, with light and fragrance. You have truly understood the lesson I wanted to teach. Life is very much like an empty room. It should be filled with the light of knowledge that makes us glow from the inside and give light to others. Such a candle lets us see who we really are and gives us righteous principles and values that are themselves beacons of brightness.

“Our deep care and diligent service to others will give pleasure to all just as the incense does. Thus, we can create a wonderful environment within and outside of ourselves and live a cherished life. We do not need to fill our lives and minds with the filthy things of this world. Thank you very much.”