The sage Narada was walking through the forest when he came across a yogi who was sitting under a tree deep in meditation. From the look of things, he had been there for quite some time as his hair was matted and the birds had also made their nests in it and there was much growth around him. As Narada approached, the sage recognized him and asked, "Oh great sage, what are doing this beautiful day in the forest?"
"I am on my way to visit Lord Sri Krishna in his abode of Krishna-loka" he replied.
The yogi became hopeful and asked, "Oh sage, when you see Lord Krishna, would you be kind enough to ask him how many lives I must complete until I reach enlightenment and am freed from this world of illusion?"
Narada replied, "It would be my pleasure" and then he continued on his way down the road.
Several miles further along, Narada came across a young neophyte who was having some difficulties getting accustomed to his meditations but he was trying and beginning to have some successes.
The neophyte monk also recognized Narada and also asked him for the favor of asking Lord Krishna the number of lives before reaching enlightenment and of course Narada agreed.
Several years passed and once again Narada was on the road when he came across the yogi. When the yogi saw Narada he was overjoyed and asked, "Oh great Sage, per chance did you make it to see Lord Krishna and did you get the moment to ask my question?"
Narada looked at the sage and informed the yogi, "Lord Sri Krishna sends his blessings and asked me to inform you that after the completion of only three more lives, you will join him forever in his home of Krishna-loka."
The yogi was taken aback and began to rage, "Three more? Does Lord Krishna have any idea how many lives I have dedicated to meditation upon his lotus feet and I still have three more lives?"
As the yogi went on, Narada slipped away and continued his way down the road.
When he made it to the neophyte monk, it was apparent that he had begun to have some success in his efforts to go beyond the discomforts of his body. Upon his arrival the young man asked, "Oh great sage, May the blessings of Lord Krishna be upon you! Did you have success in your earlier journey to visit the great Lord?"
Narada, knowing what was coming addressed the young monk, "His Greatness gave me the following instructions for you. Do you see this great tree that you are sitting under? Each leaf represents a life that you must complete before you will acquire perfection through your meditations."
The young monk glanced up into the tree above him assessing the leaves and what Narada had said and replied, "That is not so many, I thank you Narada for your message."
At this, there was a flash and Lord Krishna appeared next to Narada, holding his hand out to the young monk inviting him to join him in his chariot.
The young monk was amazed and asked, "Oh great Lord, I thought I had many lives to fulfill before I would find enlightenment."
Lord Krishna smiled at the young monk and said, "Yes, many lives were before you, but you were willing to perform them in love and faith."