Once upon a time there was a country which had this very peculiar custom of abandoning its aged people in remote and inaccessible mountains.

A certain minister of the State found it too difficult to follow this custom in the case of his own aged father, and so he built a secret underground cave where he hid his father and cared for him.

One day a god appeared before the king of that country and gave him a puzzling problem, saying that if he could not solve it satisfactorily, his country would be destroyed. The problem was: "Here are two serpents; tell me the sex of each."

Neither the king nor anyone in the palace was able to solve the problem; so the king offered a great reward to anyone in his kingdom who could.

The minister went to his father's hiding place and asked him for the answer to that problem. The old man said: "It is an easy solution. Place the two snakes on a soft carpet; the one that moves about is the male, and the other that keeps quiet is the female." The minister carried the answer to the king and the problem was successfully solved.

Then the god asked other difficult questions which the king and his retainers were unable to answer, but which the minister, after consulting his aged father, could always solve.

Here are some of the questions and their answers. "Who is the one who, being asleep, is called the awakened one, and, being awake, is called the sleeping one?" The answer is this:--It is the one who is under training for Enlightenment. He is awake when compared with those who are not interested in Enlightenment; he is asleep when compared with those who have already attained Enlightenment.

"How can you weigh a large elephant?" "Load it on a boat and draw to mark how deep the boat sinks into the water. Then take out the elephant and load the boat with stones until it sinks to the same depth, and then weigh the stones."

What is the meaning of the saying, "A cupful of water is more than the water of an ocean?" This is the answer: "A cupful of water given in a pure and compassionate spirit to one's parents or to a sick person has an eternal merit, but the water of an ocean will some day come to an end."

Next the god made a starving man, reduced to skin and bones, complain, "Is there anyone in this world more hungry than I?" "The man who is so selfish and greedy that he does not believe in the Three Treasures of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Samgha, and who does not make offerings to his parents and teachers, is not only more hungry but he will fall into the world of hungry demons and there he will suffer from hunger forever."

"Here is a plank of Chandana wood: which end was the bottom of the tree?" "Float the plank in water; the end that sinks a little deeper was the end nearest the root."

"Here are two horses apparently of the same size and form; how can you tell the mother from the son?" "Feed them some hay; the mother horse will push the hay toward her son."

Every answer to these difficult questions pleased the god as well as the king. The king was grateful to find out that the answers had come from the aged father whom the minister had hidden in the cave, and he withdrew the law of abandoning aged people in the mountains and ordered that they were to be treated kindly.