A rich man was very fond of a particular servant. He had many servants, but this particular servant he used to take everywhere he went.
One day the rich man wanted to walk along the street in his own village and he asked his servant to follow him. It was a puja day, a festive occasion. The servant was so happy and proud that he was walking with his master on such a special day. Everybody would see that he was with his master that day.
The rich man was generous to others, but with regard to himself he was very strict. So he was wearing very simple clothes, even simpler than the servant’s. The servant said, “Master, what will people think of me if I have on more expensive clothes than you? With your money I have bought these clothes. You are rich and great. Can you not wear something nicer?”
The rich man said, “No! Everybody knows me in this village. Who cares whether I wear simple or beautiful clothes? Since everybody likes me, I don’t have to wear anything expensive. These simple clothes that I have put on are sufficient.”
So the master and servant went from one place to another in the village. They saw many people, some of whom they had never met before. Everyone was nice to them.
The rich man and servant stayed overnight at a friend’s house. The following day the rich man wanted to go to another village, wearing the same clothes.
The servant said, “Let me run back to your house and bring extra clothes for you. Otherwise, what will people think? I am your servant. Even if I wear the same clothes for two days, nobody will mind. I don’t need clean and ironed clothes. But you do need a change of clothes. You are an important man.”
The rich man said, “No, I don’t want to waste time. We are going to another village, so who cares what I wear? Nobody knows me in that village. I can wear simple things or expensive things and nobody is going to know who I am. So it is useless for you to go and bring nice clothes.”
The servant said, “Here people know you, so you don’t have to wear beautiful clothes. There people don’t know you, so you don’t have to wear nice things.”
The master said, “If you have wisdom, then you can manage with next to nothing. But if you are a fool, then you feel that you need many things. If you wear expensive things to please other people, then you are a fool. If you want to show off to your friends and neighbours, you are a fool. Again, you are a greater fool if you go to some other town and want to show absolute strangers how great you are.
“You have to be wise! Seek wisdom and not stupidity. In my own village I do not need anything since everyone knows who I am. And in another village they don’t care for me, so why do I have to impress them?”