King Vijayachandra was the ruler of Kamrup city. In the same city, there lived a merchant named Sanghdatta, who had a son called Kesari. The merchant was known for his honesty, but his son was not. He was a thief. The merchant tried hard to change him, but he could not succeed. He was so fed up with his son’s habit, that he gave up on him. The merchant went to the king and brought this matter to his attention. He said, “I am ashamed that my son is like that. Please, you take care of him, because I do not want to have anything to do with him.”
The king called the son and asked him to leave his kingdom. Kesari left the town. While crossing the forest, he saw a water tank. He drank some water and sat down to rest. All of a sudden, he saw a man descending from the sky. He noticed the man was wearing a pair of magic sandals. As the man came down, he took off his sandals and hid them under the tree and then came to the water tank to drink. Kesari thought the magic sandals helped this man to fly in the sky.
Kesari slowly moved out and picked up the sandals, put them on, and started to fly. He flew all day long and then he returned home that evening. He was mad at his father for reporting him to the king. So, he went to his house and beat up his father so hard that the old man died.
Kesari was already a veteran thief, and now he had a pair of sandals that could take him anywhere. He went everywhere he wanted to go. He stole all that he could during the night, and he would hide in the forest during the day.
Soon, he was a terror to everyone. Everyone was afraid of him. The citizens went to the king to ask for his help. The guards told the king, “He is different than any other thief we have ever known. He flies away in the sky and he returns only at night. It will be almost impossible to catch him.”
The king himself decided to try to catch him. The king’s party searched everywhere but could not find the thief. One morning in the forest, the king smelled some fragrance in the air. He followed the odor till he came to a temple that was dedicated to the goddess Ambika. When he entered the temple, he noticed a man offering worship.
The king asked him who he was. The man replied, “I am the son of a merchant. I am very poor and miserable. I worship this goddess to gain wealth and happiness. Every morning when I come here, I find precious gems and stones.”
The king was almost sure that he was the thief but did not have any proof to catch him. He also thought the thief must be coming late at night to the temple and leaving in the morning after the prayer. So the king decided to return at nighttime and see what was going on. He returned to the city to wait until dark. After it was dark, the king returned to the temple. Later in the night Kesari came down from the sky. He took out his magic sandals and held them in his hand. After Kesari finished his worship he started to leave the temple. The king chased Kesari. This happened so quick that he dropped the sandals and started running to save his life. The king’s men also started to chase him.
As Kesari was running he realized he will be caught and punished. He realized that his death was near. The realization of imminent death made him take a stock of his whole life. He realized that he was born in a good family, his parents tried to instill good values in him, however, he found delight in stealing & giving pains to others.
At times, timely reflections can change the tide of thoughts in a person’s mind for better. After running for some time, he was tired and stopped. He tried to hidehimself behind some bushes. He was panting and grasping for breath, he had also injured himself while running by brushing against thorny bushes, sharp stones & thorns on the way.
While he was hiding, he suddenly saw a monk meditating and absorbed in himself. He looked at the monk and then at himself. He realized that while both of them were at the same place, he had no peace of mind while the monk was sitting with serenity and calmness. The sight of saint & his aura slowly calmed Kesari’s nerves. His fear started to dissolve, and he made up his mind to lead same life as the monk. He did not care if the king’s soldiers would come and catch him or kill him rightaway. He had dropped the burden of fear, his only intent was to get rid of the consequences of his bad karmas. By this time, he knew he had to take the path of monkhood.
He went to the monk and asked for diksha. Also, he asked question on true purpose of life and how could he get rid of his miserable existence which he brought upon himself.
The next day Kesari was a different man, it was as if he was born again. And it was the start of his new life. Finally the next day during noon, the king & his soldiers found him. They tried to catch him and were surprised that he showed no resistance. The king was surprised, he realized that the thief was already dead in Kesari. He had come to catch the thief; however, the thief had already left Kesari. King was wise and he pardoned Kesari. He bowed to both the monks and left for his kingdom.
The king went back to the city and the people lived without any more thefts. Kesari carried his life of a monk, he also carried his duties of showing the path of liberation to the householders.
Source: A story from Jainism scriptures.