Once a river broke its banks and there was an unexpected flood. This flood was destroying everything in its path — trees, houses and farms were all being destroyed. One tiny village was in a serious crisis. All the villagers decided to go to a nearby village where the flood waters were not so devastating. There was only one boat, and they all jumped into the boat. The boat held only a hundred people. They knew that if they did not cast off as soon as possible, then they would be caught in the surging waters and they would drown.
As they were on the point of leaving, they saw two latecomers approaching the pier. One was the richest man in the village. He had a very bad reputation. He was extremely miserly and loaned money to the poor people at a very, very high interest rate. The other latecomer was a beggar.
The boatman said, “I am sorry. I can only take one more passenger.”
The rich man was so haughty. He said, “Since I am so important, I am the obvious choice.”
But the passengers in the boat did not want to take the rich man on board. They wanted the beggar. The rich man became furious. He said, “I have so much wealth and influence — and you want to save the life of an insignificant street beggar?”
The passengers said, “Yes. We want to take the beggar. We do not want you for two reasons. The first is that you are so rich. If you insist on bringing with you all your wealth, the boat may sink. The second reason is that you are so mean and miserly, whereas this poor man is very kind-hearted. God has made him poor. What can he do? If we take him, then he will appreciate us because we are charitable. He needs our charity and he deserves our charity. You have never shown any sympathy to us. Why should we show sympathy to you?”
The boatman took hold of the beggar and pulled him into the boat. The rich man was shocked to the core. He said, “I curse you all! When you come back, you will find that all your houses have been destroyed by the flood. You will have no place to live. Then, when you come to me for money, I will charge you very, very high interest.”
The passengers said, “See! Now your true nature is coming forward. How bad you are! We will not come to you to borrow money. You are a very, very bad fellow.”
A few days later, when the flood waters ebbed, the villagers returned, and they saw that their houses were all destroyed. The rich man’s house was also destroyed and the rich man himself had drowned. His only son was lamenting his father’s death. The son said, “My father had amassed so much money. Now what shall I do with it? Alas, I have lost my father. There is no one to guide me in these matters.”
One of the villagers said, “Do you believe in the other world?”
The son said, “Yes, I do believe in the other world, but my father could not take his money there.”
The villager said, “True, even though your father was so attached to his money, he could not take it with him. You also will not be able to take this money to the other world.”
“Then where is my father now? Does anybody know?” asked the son in a pitiful voice.
One man stepped forward and said, “I know. I am a man of prayer. Your father is roaming between Heaven and hell.”
The son asked, “What do you mean, roaming between Heaven and hell?”
The man continued, “Your father needs our prayers so that he can go to Heaven. Otherwise, he will be totally lost. At this point, even hell does not want him because he was so bad on earth, and Heaven does not want him because he led a useless life. He did not do anything good for mankind.”
The son said, “All right. If I give you all the money, will you pray for my father?”
All the villagers nodded eagerly. The son said, “I want to distribute the money equally.” But the son was unable to do so because some bad people took more than the rest did. Then the villagers began fighting and fighting. They all completely forgot to pray. They just took the money and built new houses.
Meanwhile, the rich man was loitering in between Heaven and hell. His soul found no place to rest.