Miserliness Leads to Misery

23rd Jan 2008
Sajjana Priya Krishna das

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.

Everyone of us are very much attached to our wealth, especially when we are dolling out money to temples and other charities. We always have the feeling that the moment we part with our money and then that money does not belong to us. Our Maharaj would say that only the money you spend is your money and the rest of it which is in the bank as deposits will be used by your family or if the Bank cheats us we will lose the entire money. This implies that whatever we spend is the real money that belongs to us, in the true sense of the term. In this regard there is a nice story of an acute miser; we as devotees should avoid such pitfall while executing our devotional service especially for charity to temples and other noble causes.

Once there was a miser who had a family of his wife and children living a life full of miserliness. Once his father died and therefore he was contemplating on how to dispose of his father's body without any expense. He decided to take the body to the river by tying his father's body in a wooden plank and dragging it to the Ganges river. While going to the river Lord Vishnu appeared as a brahmana and requested the miser to do the final rites by burning it with proper Vedic rituals. Immediately the miser asked the brahmana about the charge for ritual.

Lord Vishnu(in the form of Brahmana) said, "It will be Rs.250 totally."

Miser replied, "It is too much, can you reduce it?"

Lord Vishnu replied, "Ok, I agree for Rs.125."

The miser still bargained and this way the transaction went on until the miser brought down the charge to Rs.1.25. Lord Vishnu finally agreed to perform the final ritual for the dead body for Rs.1.25.

All the rituals were finished nicely and the Lord (brahmana) asked for his charges. The miser told that today he has finished the rituals and it is not correct for me to part the money today and requested the Lord to come after two or three days.

Lord (Brahmana) went after two or three days to the miser's house and inquired for the miser. Miser, hearing his voice immediately advised his wife to go and tell brahmana to come later because he is not there. The wife duly advised the brahmana and then the brahmana told that he can wait till he comes and then collect the money. Miser's wife informed of the obstinacy of the brahmana. The miser then told his wife again to inform the brahmana that he is sick and therefore he will give the money later. The wife informed the brahmana. The brahmana told that he will wait till he recovers and then take the money from the miser. The miser's wife informed of the developments to miser and then miser out of too much fear of forsaking the money he advised his wife that the miser is dead and she should remove her combed hair, break her bangles and remove her kumkum and go crying profusely to the brahmana and inform of his death. The brahmana then told miser's wife not to worry about the money, he will do the final rituals for the miser also. Miser lay dead by holding his breath and then he was tied and then taken on procession to the smashan ghat. The moment the brahmana torched the fire and tried to burn the body of the miser, the miser woke up from the place and started running away. The brahmana (Lord) showed His original form of Lord Vishnu and caught hold of the miser, laughing profusely. Then the Lord said that since you have pleased Me by making Me laugh on your miserliness, I hereby grant you a benediction. Please ask for it. Immediately the miser requested the Lord not to ask for Rs. 1.25. Then the Lord laughed profusely and disappeared.

Srimad Bhagavatam gives a nice verse 7.6.10 on this type of mentality of miser which needs to be avoided:

ko nv artha-tṛṣṇāṁ visṛjet prāṇebhyo ’pi ya īpsitaḥ
yaṁ krīṇāty asubhiḥ preṣṭhais taskaraḥ sevako vaṇik

Money is so dear that one conceives of money as being sweeter than honey. Therefore, who can give up the desire to accumulate money, especially in household life? Thieves, professional servants [soldiers] and merchants try to acquire money even by risking their very dear lives.

In this verse prāṇebhyo ’pi ya īpsitaḥ is very important to understand. From the story we can see that the Miser was ready to risk even his life for the sake of Rs.1.25.

Prabhupada writes in his unparalleled purport the reason for not forsaking money,

"Thus it is practically proved and everyone will admit that money is sweeter than honey. One may risk everything to acquire money, and this is especially true of rich men who are too attached to household life."

It is very imperative that, we devotees of Krishna consciousness understand that nothing belongs to us and we will not be able to carry a pin with us while leaving this body. In spite of this we have the tendency to accumulate money and not willing to forsake it because of our deep-rooted desire to enjoy insignificant happiness at the later stage of life with our family. We have to understand that the source of income and wealth is not the source of our maintenance. If we ingrain this principle into our tricky mind then we will not be unnecessarily greedy for accumulating too much money for our future requirements. Even Rupa Goswami kept about 25% for emergencies but he doled out 50% of his wealth for Krishna consciousness but at least we should develop the habit of giving at least 5 to 10% of our income or some percentage (who can't afford?) to the Lord's service, then the Lord will reciprocate nicely by giving us the invaluable price jewel of eternal devotional service to Him and if He is pleased, may grant us an entry into His abode.

I pray to the Supreme Lord Vishnu, Prabhupada and Gurudev to bestow Their mercy by making my mind clear of this misconception of miserliness (fully occupied in my mind) and start giving some real contribution to the glorious service in the mission of spreading bhakti to the whole world.

Thank you very much.
Your humble servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Sajjana Priya Krishna das
Abu Dhabi.