The Story of the Fakir (Ascetic) and the King

The story of how a fakir teaches a king the idea that attachment is slavery while detachment is the greatest freedom

Freedom from attachment

Once upon a time there was a great fakir [an ascetic] who lived a simple life. He ate whatever he found, drank water from the nearby river and meditated under the tree in the forest on the outskirts of a town. Word spread and the king of the province came to know about the fakir. The king was impressed with the fakir’s unpretentious demeanor and his spirit of detachment.

He decided to meet the fakir and invite him to live with him in the palace. When the fakir accepted the king’s invitation readily, it surprised the king a little as he was expecting that the ascetic will have to be persuaded to live and enjoy the opulent life. Nevertheless, the king took the fakir along with him and made lavish arrangements for his stay.

Was the King Hoodwinked?

At the palace, the ascetic settled down quickly and started enjoying all the royal luxuries —imperial clothes, rich food and all the aristocratic comforts that were provided to him. At first the king ignored this sudden change in the hermit’s stance. But soon he started suspecting that perhaps he had being hoodwinked by all that show of austerity and that his holy guest was just another ordinary human. But he kept his thoughts to himself and continued to observe the fakir.

Six months on, the fakir was still enjoying his stay and didn’t seem to mind this majestic life one bit. By now the king had become convinced that the fakir had only been pretending in the forest. He decided to confront him.

On meeting the fakir, the king said, “When I first met you, I was impressed by your austere lifestyle and minimum needs. Your life was an example of renunciation. But what I now see is totally the opposite. You seem to be enjoying every material pleasure there is. So what is the difference between you and me?”

The fakir smiled and said, “I was waiting for you to ask me this question but I will answer you tomorrow morning.” The next morning the fakir appeared before the king wearing his old tattered clothes.

The Fakir Leaves

The fakir said, “I am leaving for an unknown destination. If you really want the answer, you will have to leave your palace, your family, your kingdom and accompany me.” The king was stunned. He said, “You know, I can’t do that!”

The fakir smiled and replied, “Yes, I know. And that is the difference between you and me. I can leave all pleasures and comforts whenever I want because I am not attached to them. You are. I hope you have your answer now.”

It dawned on the king that the fakir was indeed great. He pleaded him to stay on but the fakir had made up his mind. As he was leaving, he said to the king, “Remember, what you hold on to, holds you. And since I hold on to nothing, I have nothing to renounce. I am forever free.”

The Takeaway: Detachment vs Renunciation

Detachment is the opposite of attachment, not the opposite of enjoyment
The Upanishads

The story teaches us that true detachment is not about renouncing enjoyment but about being able to appreciate and partake in life’s pleasures without forming attachments. The fakir exemplifies the profound freedom that arises from a lack of attachment, contrasting it with the king’s realization that he was bound by his position and possessions. The fakir’s free spirit underscores the idea that holding on to material things can ultimately hold us back, while true liberation comes from a state of inner detachment where one can enjoy life fully without being shackled by it. The great ascetic left the king with a profound understanding that detachment is the key to lasting freedom and inner peace.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


  1. One more comment!: Remember, what you hold on to, holds you. And since I hold on to nothing, I have nothing to renounce. I am forever free. Wow! Thanks.


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