The art of being a miser

There was a gentleman who wanted to be ‘initiated’ into the fine art of being a miser by someone who was himself a great miser. Although this gentleman had miserly qualities, the great miser was infinitely better than he was in that ‘profession’. One day the gentleman went to the supremely great miser and begged him to teach him how to become a very great miser. The supremely great miser asked, “What will you give me if I make you as great as I am?”

The gentleman said, “I will give you anything you wish.”

The great miser said, “If you will give me anything, then I will make you even greater than I am in miserliness.”

The master-miser took his disciple-miser to a grocery store. The master-miser wanted to buy a pound of flour. He asked the owner, “Is this flour in very good condition?”

The shopkeeper said, “Yes, yes. You can see for yourself. It looks like pure butter. And when you taste it, you will find it tastes like pure butter.”

The master-miser said, “We will be back.”

Then he and his disciple went to another shop where butter was sold. The master-miser said to the owner, “So, I have heard that your butter is by far the best.”

The owner said, “Yes, it is absolutely the best. Can you not see that it is so soft, just like olive oil?”

The master-miser said, “Ah, yes, it does look like olive oil. All right, we will be coming back soon.”

Then the master-miser took his disciple to a store where they sold all kinds of oil. The master-miser asked the shopkeeper, “Do you have olive oil?”

The owner said, “Yes, yes.”

The master-miser said, “Let me see the best olive oil you have.”

The owner brought out a jar of olive oil and said, “This oil is by far the best. Can you not see that it looks like pure water? It is so clear and so pure, just like water.”

The master-miser said to him, “I can see that what you are saying is true. We shall come back.”

Then the master-miser took his disciple home to his house. The disciple-miser sat before the master-miser, eager to hear his words of wisdom. The master-miser said to him, “Do you know now what is the most valuable thing? It is water. We started with flour, which looked like butter. Then we found the butter was like olive oil. Finally, we discovered the olive oil was like water. So you see, water is most important. Water symbolises life itself. Do we pay anything for water? No, it is free. Other things we have to buy, and they are quite expensive, whereas water we do not have to buy. See how much money we have saved in the course of one morning! Now I have given you my lesson. The most valuable thing, according to all the shopkeepers, is water, and we have plenty of water in the house. So let us drink water.”

The master-miser and his disciple both filled their glasses with water and drank it together. Then the master-miser said, “I am very pleased with your devotedness. You have followed me all morning and you have grasped the essence of my teachings. I am sure you will now become a super-excellent miser.”

The disciple-miser said, “Please ask me for anything in return. I will give it to you.”

The master-miser said, “I told you that you will be able to defeat me in our ‘profession’.”

The disciple-miser said, “How can I ever defeat you? You have given me such good advice today.”

The master-miser said, “How will you defeat me? I have a beautiful daughter, and you have a very smart, well-educated son. I want your son to marry my daughter. You will not have to give me even one anna, but I shall have to give you thousands of rupees for my daughter’s dowry. Now, have I not proved to you that you are greater than me in miserliness?”

From: Sri Chinmoy, Life’s bleeding tears and flying smiles, part 10 - , Agni Press, 2001
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