There was once a very qualified and beautiful young king named Bhartrihari, who was expert in all the arts. King Bhartrihari married at the age of twenty-five years, and he adored his beautiful newly-wedded wife. Eager to please her, he presented her with a jeweled necklace, the value of which would be over a million dollars by today’s standards. He placed the necklace around her neck with his own hands, embraced her and said, “Most dearly beloved, this necklace is very precious. Please always keep it with you.”
King Bhartrihari was greatly attracted to his wife, but she had no such attraction to him. Rather, she was attracted to her husband’s commander-in-chief, who was also extremely handsome. Therefore, a few days after receiving the excellent necklace, she gave it to the commander-in-chief, desiring to please him.
Although the queen was very attached to the commander-in-chief, he did not feel the same way about her. He was attached to a prostitute. A few days after receiving the necklace, he presented it to that prostitute, desiring to please her. The prostitute did not feel the same way about the commander-in-chief, however, for she was attached to the king. One day she presented that very necklace to the king, desiring to please him. Seeing the necklace, the king became distressed and asked her from where she had gotten it. Frightened, she did not reply. The incensed king said, “If you don’t tell me the truth I will cut off your head.” The prostitute then revealed the truth of the matter to the king, who left her and took the necklace to the commander-in-chief.
King Bhartrihari asked his commander-in-chief, “Where did you get this? If you tell me the truth I will not harm you, but if you try to conceal it from me I will have your head.” The commander-in-chief revealed the truth to him, and at that moment the king realized that there is no true love in this world. He at once made up his mind to give up all his worldly attachments. He left his palace, his kingdom and his opulent attire, and he became a very famous renunciant and spiritualist.
[King Bhartrihari’s grief and anger arose from his affection that had turned sour. This was caused by his not knowing that in order to love, one must first embrace the Supreme Love. The misery he tasted due to misunderstanding that Supreme Love, God, is common in this world. Some of us think that He does not exist, some think He is formless and without qualities, and some think there are different Divinities or Gods for those of different faiths. The following reveals how anyone can become free from all suffering caused by animosity, envy and quarrelling by knowing that single one Divine Reality. – ed]
Excerpted from the Gaudiya Vedanta Publication “Way of Love”