There was once a rich man. He was very, very rich, but you cannot imagine how miserly he was. He had hundreds of thousands of dollars, but for him to spend one penny was extremely difficult. Although he did not have the capacity to be continent, he thought that if he got married, his wife would have to have at least a little of his money. He therefore remained a bachelor all his life, since he did not want to share his money with anyone.
This poor rich miser had no friends, no relatives. He had only a servant to do his cleaning and cooking while he carried on the business of amassing a fortune. This apparent luxury was an unavoidable necessity to him. He could not do without a servant.
When this miser became old, one day he fell sick. He said to his servant, “All my life I have advised you; now I need your advice. Tell me what I should do. If I go to a doctor, the doctor will ask for a fee. But everybody knows that I am very rich. If I don’t go, people will speak ill of me. People will say, ‘Look at this foolish man. He is sick and still he won’t go to a doctor.’ Now what am I to do? If I go to the doctor I will have to pay him his fee. I don’t want to waste any money. What do you think? Do you think that I will die from this kind of sickness?”
“Forgive me to say,” answered the servant, “but there is some possibility that you may die.”
At first the rich man got annoyed at this. Then he said, “All right. I have an excellent idea. Go to the undertaker and ask him how much money he will need when I die. Then go to a doctor and find out how much it will cost to treat me.”
So the servant went to the undertaker, who told him that his lowest fee was fifteen dollars. The doctor said that his minimum fee was twenty dollars. When the servant told this to his master, the master said, “In that case, the best thing is for me to go to the undertaker. It is too expensive to take a cure. I won’t spend five dollars extra just to go to a doctor.”
The old miser would not spend the extra five dollars to cure his illness and he soon died. Then the servant paid fifteen dollars to the undertaker and since his master had made no will and had no family to claim his money, all the rest of it — thousands and thousands of dollars — went to the servant.
Of course the miser was a fool. His attachment to his money became such an obsession at the end of his life that he preferred to die rather than part with any of it, not thinking that once he was dead, it was all gone from him effectually. If he had had any sense, all the money that he had amassed he would have given to some charity or religious organisation. But he never thought of giving it at all. He only wanted to save and hoard and grasp. Why did he want to save money? In order to hear people saying how rich he was.
But what would have happened if he had given the money to some worthy cause? His name would have become immortal. Instead, he kept all his money and in the end the servant got it all. For him it is like a dream. All of a sudden he has become a millionaire. He will spend this money. Everyone will exploit him. It will go to people who are not at all spiritual. It will go from one materialist to another materialist and it will all be wasted.
The miser wanted to be the richest man. He wanted to be very, very rich and God made him rich. But if he had had a bit of generosity, a bit of spirituality, even a little brains, he could have made himself immortal by giving or just by willing his money to the right people. But he did not have that capacity. His life was all stupid selfishness.
In this world we have to use our brains. We have to see what we want and then we have to know how we can immortalise it. In spite of our stupidity, our stubborn qualities, all our silly emotions, we do make money. And why do we want money? In order to hear from people that we are rich. If we had a little intelligence we would want something permanent. Today if we are rich, tomorrow we may be poor. But if our wealth goes to a good cause and is used for a good purpose, then even if we become poor, even if we die, our name and fame will remain on earth.
In the spiritual life we always have to use our wisdom. What will make us immortal is our inner Light, inner Wisdom. And only the thing that will make us immortal will make us rich. Money will come and money will go. But when we have Light, Peace, something divine, then will we be eternally rich.