Every year Forbes Magazine lists its most powerful people in the world. Always topping the list are characters like Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump, followed by the usual list of superpower leaders, oil sheiks and world bankers. But Joseph Campbell told a story that revealed what true power is, and how it is seldom held by the ruling class.

There was a king who ruled a large kingdom in India. He met a sadhu who gave him such good advice that the king invited the penniless monk to stay with him and become his chancellor. “You will be the second most powerful person in the land,” he declared magnanimously. 

The sadhu declined the king’s offer. “Thank you, but I am already the most powerful person in the land,” he laughed. 

The king, who commanded legions of armies and possessed treasure beyond imagination, was not amused. He asked the sadhu to explain his impertinence, upon pain of death. 

The sadhu invited the king to go horse riding. They rode all day till they reached the river marking the border of the king’s empire. The sadhu spurred his horse into the river and crossed into the neighbouring kingdom. From the other side he called for the king to join him.

The king called back saying he could not go further for he was not safe beyond the borders of his own kingdom, making the sadhu’s point for him. 

If you ask me, true power is freedom of spirit. There’s no riches in the world that can buy that, or armies that can control it.


William Whitecloud

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