Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Seven Jars of Gold

This is a story from Northern India, which I heard at a Unitarian service today, and liked.

A barber, who was passing under a haunted tree, heard a voice say, "Will you accept seven jars full of gold?" The barber looked around, but could see no one. The offer of seven jars of gold, however, roused his cupidity and he cried aloud, "Yes, I shall accept the seven jars." At once came the reply. "Go home, I have carried the jars to your house." The barber ran home in hot haste to verify the truth of this strange announcement. And when he entered the house, he saw the jars before him. He opened them and found them all full of gold, except the last one which was only half-full.

A strong desire now arose in the mind of the barber to fill the seventh jar also; for without it his happiness was incomplete. He therefore converted all his ornaments into gold coins and put them into the jar; but the mysterious vessel was as before, unfilled. This exasperated the barber. Starving himself and his family, he saved some more amount and tried to fill the jar; but the jar remained as before. So one day he humbly requested the king to increase his pay, saying his income was not sufficient to maintain himself on.

Now the barber was a favourite of the king, and as soon as the request was made the king doubled his pay. All this pay he saved and put into the jar, but the greedy jar showed no signs of filling. At last he began to live by begging from door to door, and his professional income and the income from begging all went into the insatiable cavity of the mysterious jar. Months passed, and the condition of the miserable and miserly barber grew worse every day. Seeing his sad plight, the king asked him one day, "Hello! When your pay was half of what you now get, you were happy, cheerful and contented; but with double that pay, I see you morose, careworn and dejected. What isthe matter with you? Have you got 'the seven jars'?"

The barber was taken aback by this question and replied, "Your Majesty, who has informed you of this?" The king said, "Don't you know that these are the signs of the person to whom the Yaksha consigns the seven jars. He offered me also the same jars, but I asked him whether this money might be spent or was merely to be hoarded. No sooner had I asked this question than the Yaksha ran away without any reply. Don't you know that no one can spend that money? It only brings with it the desire of hoarding. Go at once and return the money." The barber was brought to his senses by this advice, and he went to the haunted tree and said, "Take back your gold, O Yaksha." The Yaksha replied, "All right."

When the barber returned home, he found that the seven jars had vanished as mysteriously as they were brought in, and with it also had vanished his life-long savings.

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