A young fakir used to stay in a small village in Japan. He was a handsome youth who was well known for his wisdom. Everyone in the village respected him. All of a sudden one day, the village turned against him. They fell on his hut and tore it to pieces and set fire to his belongings.
When he asked them the reason for their fury, they flung a child into his arms and said: “You ask the reason? This is it! The mother of the child named you as its father. It was a mistake on our part to have allowed you to stay in our village. That you are such a libertine, we least suspected. Take this child; it is yours.”
“Is it so?” he asked and at once started to soothe the child.
“If you say so, it must be so.”
The people let loose a fresh volley of abuse and left for their homes.
At midday, with the child in his arms, the fakir set out to the village to beg for alms. He went from house to house, the little child crying with hunger. Never before had a fakir ever begged in this manner. Wherever he went the doors were closed on his face. People gathered around him. They taunted and reviled him and threw stones at him. Yet the fakir went from door to door, protecting the child from the mob’s fury.
At last he came to the door of the child’s mother: “In the name of God, give a little milk for this hungry child. Do not give me anything, I do not complain. It may be my fault, but what is the fault of this poor child?”
The crowd stood at the door, eager with curiosity. The girl heard all this and her heart was filled with remorse. She went and caught her father’s feet and owned up to her guilt. In order to save her lover, she had named the fakir, whom she had never seen in her life. She had thought that, at the most, the village people and her father would do no more than hurl a few abuses at the fakir; she never imagined things would come to such a pass! She asked for her father’s forgiveness.
The father was shocked. He ran out of the house and fell at the fakir’s feet, begging his mercy. He took the child away from his hands. When the fakir asked what now was the matter, the father sobbed and said: “It is a sin we have committed. I humbly beg your forgiveness. This child is not yours.”
“Is that so?” was all that the fakir said. “In the morning you said it was mine, now you say it is not mine. So it is not mine?”
The people who had gathered around him said: “What foolishness is this? If the child is not yours, why did you not say so in the morning?”
“What difference does it make?” said the fakir. “In this world of dreams what does it matter whether the child is mine or somebody else’s? It must be somebody’s; and since you all came here and said it was mine I did not object; for it makes no difference to me. You had already set fire to one hut, and abused one man. If I had denied this child, you would have gone and set fire to yet another hut and beat up yet another man. How would that have affected the matter?”
“But do you not care for your honor, your reputation?” they asked.