Story - Supreme Value of Offering Service
Millions come to kashi as religious pilgrims. It is said that those who see kashi will not be born again (i.e. attain the permanent spiritual state). One day at Kailasa (Mt. Kailas), Parvathi (Universal Mother) asked God Shiva (Universal Father), "Lord, I have heard it said that all those who visit kashi, where there is a celebrated shrine for your worship, will attain Kailasa and stay on there in your presence (by tradition, Shiva resides at Mt. Kailas). Millions are coming to kashi, but is this place big enough to accommodate all of them?". Shiva replied, "All the millions who visit kashi can not come to Kailasa; I shall design a play and make clear to you who among the millions of religious pilgrims can come here. You, too, have a role to enact. Do as I direct you."
The beautiful mother Parvathi became an old hag of 80 and Shiva a rickety old man of 90. The old woman had the old man on her lap, right at the main entrance of the famous Shiva shrine at Visweswara, and she implored in piteous tones of the pilgrims who passed by on their way to the temple, "My husband is terribly thirsty. He is about to die of thirst. I cannot leave him and go to the Ganges to bring him water. Will any of you pour a little water down his throat and save his life?"
The pilgrims were coming up from the bathing ghats after their ceremonial bath in the holy river, their clothes still wet and clinging to their bodies. Some of them lamented that their peace was disturbed by the sight of this pathetic couple. "We have come to be in the presence of the Lord, and look what meets our eyes." Some there were who flatly ignored her cries and lifted their noses in the air. Some said, "Wait. Let us finish the worship inside the temple and then we shall bring the Ganges water for you." No one offered to bring the needed help to the aged patient.
Just then a robber who was hurrying into the temple to pick a few pockets, heard the plaintive voice of the old woman and halted near them. He asked her, "Mother, what is the matter?" She replied, "Son, we came to this place to be in the presence of Lord Visweswara of kashi, but my husband has fainted out of sheer exhaustion. He might survive if some one will bring a little Ganges water and pour it down his throat. I cannot leave him here and go for water. Please help me and earn the merit." The robber was moved into compassion. He had a little Ganges water in the hollow gourd he had with him. He knelt down near the dying person on the lap of the old woman, but the woman stopped him saying, "The moment the Ganges water wets his throat, my husband may die; he is in the last stages of living. Therefore speak a word of truth and then pour the water. The robber could not understand what she meant, so she explained, "Speak within his hearing some good deed that you have done in your life, and then pour the water in his mouth." That created a problem for the robber. He was at his wit's end. He could not quite comply. He said, "Mother, I have, in truth, not done any good deed so far. This present act, the offering of water to this thirsty man, is the very first good deed I am responsible for." And saying this, he placed the gourd at the lips of the old man and gave him a mouthful.
Just at that moment the couple disappeared, and in their place stood Shiva and his wife Parvathi in all their celestial glory, blessing the robber. God Shiva said, "Son, life is to be dedicated for the service of others and not devoted to the exclusive interests of oneself. So however many wicked deeds you might have done so far, for your selfless offering of Ganges water with truth on your tongue, we bless you with this vision. Remember there is no morality higher than truth; there is no prayer more fruitful than service"