Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Black Cauldron

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Know when to stop, lest you shalt drop... For greed is innate"

A very short story for you guys - an old one that I had read a long while ago.

There was, a long time ago, a greedy money lender in a village. He was as rich as he was greedy. He was the richest man among all the villages around his village, and yet, his thirst for money was not quenched. He, therefore, chose a lot of underhanded methods to rob the poor who needed money to grow richer. He would lend money at very high rates of interest, and the poor who needed and borrowed could not repay, and he would cheat them off their land. He would also scam the illiterate into parting with their land. He was despised, but yet, he grew richer.

One day, an interesting bit of news fell on his ears. A wandering mendicant had arrived to a forest near the village. It seemed that the mendicant had mystic powers that he had gained through years of meditation in the Himalayas. Now, he was just wandering from town to town, giving spiritual guidance to those who sought his wisdom. All the villagers went to seek his blessings, and so did the money lender. The mendicant saw the villagers only one at a time, for he didn't want the prying ears of others to hear the problems of his devotees. And when the money lender's turn came, the mendicant said "Son, what seems to be the problem on your mind?" And the money lender said, "I heard that you have a lot of great powers. Please teach me how to convert rock to gold. I want to grow richer." The mendicant looked at him for a few moments, pointed towards a large cauldron and replied "Son, I cannot teach you that, but I can help you for a while. I have a magical cauldron. Whatever you put in it, it will double overnight. You can use it while I am here." Having replied thus, the mendicant closed his eyes and began to meditate. The lender was not convinced with the powers of  the ordinary looking cauldron, but decided to try it out anyway. The mendicant was a man who had renounced the world, and didn't desire wealth. But yet, the wary lender didn't want to trust him. Thus, he tossed a silver piece into it, bowed to the mendicant and went home. The next day he came and saw that the mendicant was still in meditation. He went to the cauldron and peered into it and lo! There were two silver pieces in it.

His joy knew no bounds. He dropped in five gold pieces in it, and went home. He couldn't sleep all night, for he wanted to peer into the cauldron. The next day he came and saw the mendicant feeding a deer. "Ah, what brings you here son?" asked the hermit. I just came to take my money, said the lender and  bowed into the cauldron and retrieved ecstatically ten gold pieces. Every day for a week, the mendicant added increasingly more and more wealth and harvested double the money. He had already grown significantly richer. The next day when the merchant came, the mendicant told him "I am happy that you come to visit me everyday, my son. I am leaving town in two days. It is time for me to move to the next village"

The merchant was devastated. He asked the mendicant "Oh kind sir. You have helped me so much. But if you leave, how can I double my money? Please leave your cauldron behind" The hermit shook his head and said "No I can't do that, for the cauldron is for the benefit of the world. I can't let only one person benefit out of it." "I will pay a really hefty sum for the cauldron. I am willing to part with half my property for it" said the money lender who knew he could easily recover the money overnight. But the mendicant said "What use is money to a hermit like me? I have given up the entire worldly life. Money, thus, means nothing to me"

The merchant bowed to the hermit and went home. But he couldn't bear the torment. He had only one last chance. He took all his money, and came back. The mendicant was busy meditating. The lender put all the money into the cauldron, bowed to the hermit and went home. Early next morning, as the cock crowed, the merchant went to collect his money one last time. And lo and behold, there was no sign of the mendicant nor anything else around there. However, the large black cauldron was in the same place. The lender felt anxious as he ran to the cauldron and peeked inside. It was empty, save for a piece of paper. The lender's hands became cold and clammy as he read the note on the paper that said:

"You have cheated hundreds of people and robbed them - You never showed any concern nor had any kind feelings. All you eyed was their money and all you cared for was yourself. You had cheated my father ten years ago, and drove him to commit suicide. I grew up cursing you day and night, and wanted to seek my revenge. Your greed has become your downfall. Don't bother tracing me now, you will never find me, for by the time you read this, I would be far far away."

The story and the ending are quite predictable. But the lesson is quite important. A lot of people get trapped into similar scam cases like chit funds. Chit funds are known to give high returns for investment. The problem with this is that, in the beginning, everyone invests very small amounts of money just like the money lender did - just to test. If it works, great and if it failed, no issues - for the amount of money lost is minimal.. But as and when you see the great returns, you wonder - If such a small investment got me a great return, why not invest more and get more? This is what drives people to pour more and more money.

Scamsters know how people think... They also initially repay you with great returns - sometimes legitimate, sometimes through their own pockets, for this is the lure. People who know when to stop will benefit from this great returns and stop. However, the average person is greedy and tries more and more. And the scamster, when he sees that a large enough money has been collected - Suddenly vanishes into thin air. I have seen so many chit fund cases go bad. The money often spent, and when the angry investors yell and get him arrested, he just shrugs and says "I have no money on me. Do what you want" And more likely, he doesn't get caught - rather, he disappears.

One needs to do a thorough research - What is the way in which this guy is going to get my money value up? In case of large banks and mutual funds, all the information is known and they are regulated. The risk is lower, and so is the interest. When the interest is higher, so is the risk - and thus, greed should know where to draw the line.

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