A shopkeeper sent his son to learn the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for 40 days and finally came upon a beautiful castle where the wise man lived. He entered the main room of the castle.
The lad expected a saintly man and a quiet residence. Instead, he came upon a hive of activity. Tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra played soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food. The wise man conversed with everyone and the boy had to wait for two hours for his turn to speak.
The wise man listened attentively to the lad's explanation of why he had come and told him that he did not have the time to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the house and return in two hours.
"Meanwhile I want to ask you to do something," said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. "As you wander around, carry this spoon with you and do not spill the oil."
The boy climbed and descended the main stairways, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours he returned to the room where the wise man was.
"Well," asked the wise man, "Did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?"
The boy was embarrassed and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.
"Then go back and enjoy the marvels of my world," said the wise man, "You cannot trust a man if you don't know his house."
Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and went to explore the palace. This time he observed all the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens and the beauty of the flowers. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.
"But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?" asked the wise man.
Looking down at the spoon, the boy saw that the oil was gone.
"Well there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil in the spoon."