A Case of Decency
Once upon a time, a long time ago, the Buddha was a merchant of pots and pans. There was also another dealer in the same trade who was a very greedy fellow. They had a friendly agreement: dividing the streets between the two of them, each would set about hawking his wares round the streets of his appointed district.
Now in a certain city there was a family which was in financial ruin. Once they had been a family of rich merchants, but by the time of our story they had lost all of their sons and brothers and all of their wealth. The sole survivors were a girl and her grandmother, and they made their living by working menial jobs. Nevertheless, they had in their house a golden bowl that the great merchant, the head of the family, had used for his meals. It had been long out of use and was covered with grime; therefore the two women did not know that it was made out of gold.
There came to their door the greedy hawker on his round, crying, “Water pots for sale! Water pots for sale!” The girl said to her grandmother, “Oh, do buy me a trinket, Grandma.”
“We’re very poor, dear; what can we offer in exchange?”
“Why here’s this bowl which is of no good to us. Let’s barter it.”
The old woman invited the dealer in and offered him a seat. She gave him the bowl saying, ” Sir, could you be so good as to give my grandchild something in exchange for this?”
The greedy hawker took the bowl in his hands, turned it over, and, suspecting it was gold, scratched a line on the back of it with a needle, thereby confirming that it was real gold. Then, thinking that he would get the pot without giving anything whatsoever for it, he cried, “What do you think this is worth? It’s practically worthless!” And then he threw the bowl on the ground, rose up from his seat, and left the house.
Now, it had been agreed upon between the two dealers that one might try the streets that the other had already been to. The Buddha merchant came into that same street and appeared at the door of the house, crying, “Water pots for sale!”
Once again the girl made the same request of her grandmother and the old woman replied, “My dear, the first hawker threw our bowl on the ground and ran out of the house. What do we have left to offer?”
“Oh, that hawker was a harsh-spoken man, Grandma. This one looks like a nice man and speaks kindly. Maybe he would take it.”
“Call him in then.”
So he came into the house, and they gave him a seat and put the bowl into his hands. Seeing that the bowl was made of gold, he said, “Mother, this bowl is worth a hundred thousand pieces; I don’t have its value with me.”
“Sir, the first dealer who came here said that it was practically worthless. He threw it to the ground and went away. It must be the value of your own goodness which has turned the bowl into gold. Take it, give us something for it.”
At the time the Buddha had 500 pieces of money and a stock of pots and pans worth just as much. He gave all of it to them saying, “Let me keep my scales, my bag, and a little bit of change for my return boat fare.” And with their consent he took these and the bowl with him and quickly departed to the river where he went home by boat.
Subsequently the greedy hawker came back to the house and asked them to bring out their bowl, saying he would give them something for it. But the old woman chided him, “You stated that our golden bowl which is worth a hundred thousand pieces was not worth much. But there came an upright dealer, who gave us a thousand pieces for it and took the bowl away.”
Not only did the greedy hawker lose out on the opportunity to make a considerable profit. He also became jealous and full of rage towards his nice competitor and eventually he became a bitter and hateful man.
It is refreshing to hear of such decent behavior in people who are motivated by profits. Let’s remind ourselves that treating others fairly and equitably will result in long term trust and profitability. Those who are solely concerned with their own advantage are simply misguided and tend to be very unhappy. They never seem to be able to have enough, no matter how much they own.