Once a thief managed to enter a king’s palace at the dead of night. He overheard the king saying to the queen, “I shall give my daughter in marriage to one of those Sadhus who are dwelling on the bank of the river.” The thief was overjoyed by this unexpected development and thought that he would go and sit on the river bank amidst the Sadhus putting on the guise of a Sadhu and hope that he might succeed in getting the king’s daughter’s hand. The next day he carried out his intention and when the king’s officers came in search of a bridegroom amidst all the Sadhus, none of the real Sadhus accepted this proposal. But, the thief who was imitating the other Sadhus kept quiet when the proposal was made to him. The officers went back and reported the matter to the king who himself came to the Sadhu (thief in disguise) and earnestly entreated him to accept the princess as his wife. In the meanwhile, these developments had brought about a change of heart in the thief. He felt that even the assumption of the guise of a Sadhu resulted in the king coming to him and begging him to marry the princess, what greater things would be in store for him if he became a real Sadhu. These thoughts so powerfully influenced him, he refused to marry the princess and instead began to mend his ways from that very day. He undertook intense austerities and by virtue of the power of his tremendous Sadhana, he became a true Sadhu. Within a matter of years, he was revered as one of the most pious Sadhus of his time.
Sri Ramakrishna used to narrate the above story to drive home the point that sometimes even the imitation of something very good and noble leads to wonderful results.