There was a young man that could not in any way support his family. He was strong and vigorous and, finally, became a highway robber; he attacked persons in the street and robbed them, and with that money he supported his father, mother, wife, and children. This went on continually, until one day a great saint called Narada was passing by, and the robber attacked him.
The sage asked the robber, ‘Why are you going to rob me? It is a great sin to rob human beings and kill them. What do you incur all this sin for?’
The robber said, ‘Why, I want to support my family with this money.’
‘Now’, said the sage, ‘do you think that they take a share of your sin also?’
‘Certainly they do,’ replied the robber.
‘Very good,’ said the sage, ‘make me safe by tying me up here, while you go home and ask your people whether they will share your sin in the same way as they share the money you make.’
The man accordingly went to his father, and asked, ‘Father, do you know how I support you?’
He answered, ‘No, I do not.’ ‘I am a robber, and I kill persons and rob them.’
‘What! you do that, my son? Get away! You outcast!’
He then went to his mother and asked her, ‘Mother, do you know how I support you?’
‘No,’ she replied. ‘Through robbery and murder.’
‘How horrible it is!’ cried the mother.
‘But, do you partake in my sin?’ said the son.
‘Why should I? I never committed a robbery,’ answered the mother.
Then, he went to his wife and questioned her, ‘Do you know how I maintain you all?’
‘No,’ she responded.
‘Why, I am a highwayman,’ he rejoined, ‘and for years have been robbing people; that is how I support and maintain you all. And what I now want to know is, whether you are ready to share in my sin.’
‘By no means. You are my husband, and it is your duty to support me.’
The eyes of the robber were opened. ‘That is the way of the world—even my nearest relatives, for whom I have been robbing, will not share in my destiny.’
He came back to the place where he had bound the sage, unfastened his bonds, fell at his feet, recounted everything and said, ‘Save me! What can I do?’
The sage said, ‘Give up your present course of life. You see that none of your family really loves you, so give up all these delusions. They will share your prosperity; but the moment you have nothing, they will desert you. There is none who will share in your evil, but they will all share in your good. Therefore worship Him who alone stands by us whether we are doing good or evil. He never leaves us, for love never drags down, knows no barter, no selfishness.’
Then the sage taught him how to worship. And this man left everything and went into a forest. There he went on praying and meditating until he forgot himself so entirely that the ants came and built ant-hills around him, and he was quite unconscious of it.
After many years had passed, a voice came saying, ‘Arise, O sage!’
Thus aroused he exclaimed, ‘Sage? I am a robber!’
‘No more ‘robber’,’ answered the voice, ‘a purified sage art thou. Thine old name is gone. But now, since thy meditation was so deep and great that thou didst not mark even the ant-hills which surrounded thee, henceforth, thy name shall be Valmiki—’he that was born in the ant-hill.’ So, he became a sage.