A young cow-herd was moving through the forest when he spied an old yogi doing a ritual to summon Shiva. The cow-herd hid himself behind a nearby tree.
The yogi’s ritual was successful, and Lord Shiva appeared before him. He asked the yogi what he wanted to know.
”Oh Lord Shiva,” said the Yogi. ”I want to know how long it will be before I am liberated.”
Shiva said ”You’re great efforts are bearing fruit, O Noble Yogi. You will be liberated within ten more lifetimes.”
But the yogi was enraged that he would still have to wait so long after all his great efforts, and he stalked away from Shiva in a temper.
At that, the cow-herd jumped out and spoke to Shiva before he disappeared.
”Oh Lord Shiva,” whispered the cow-herd. ”How long before I will be liberated?”
Shiva said ”After you have passed as many lifetimes as the leaves on that great Bilva tree over there, you will surely be liberated.”
The cow-herd looked at the tens of thousands of leaves on the great Bilva tree, and his heart was filled with such an unsurpassed joy and bliss at the thought of being awakened within so many lifetimes, that in that very instant he was liberated.