Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Vicious Circle

A poor man was struggling to manage his day-to-day life.  The state of his poverty could not be measured or explained.  He simply did not have anything, not even two pairs of decent dress.  He moved around in tattered clothes.  He tried many means for earning a livelihood, but nothing worked.  Repeated failures frustrated him.  Others were reluctant to keep his company.  Life was one big unsolved riddle and mystery for him.  "Why should I ever live?", was a question that was confronting him each day.

A saint had embarked on a pilgrimage and on the way he camped in the poor man's village. Someone suggested to the poor man to meet the saint and seek his blessings.  He was also told that the saint had mystic powers and may be able to find a solution to the man's utter poverty. The poor man now had some hope. He visited the saint and waited for an opportunity to meet him when he was alone. When he got a chance, he fell on the saint's feet and cried uncontrollably.  His pent up emotions got better of him and he could not even explain his problem to the saint.

The saint could understand the problem of the poor man, more through common sense than through mystic powers.  He meditated for some time and by using his powers scanned the past history of the poor man.  During his many previous lives, this man had no record of giving away anything to someone else.  He was extremely selfish and had no tendency to share anything he had.  Since he had no habit of giving to others, his ledger showed "Nil" balance.  As he had forgotten the art of giving to others, he had forfeited his entitlement to receive from others. There was no balance in the account to permit debits and there was no possibility of receiving any credits.  Something had to be done for renewing the account. The sage realized that there was not even the possibility of giving him a loan.  He did not have any margin money to show for borrowing from someone else. He had indeed reached a dead end.  He was caught in the vicious circle.

The sage asked him about his assets or something he could give to others.  The poor man replied that he had nothing with him.  The sage saw that something was partly visible from the pocket of his torn dress.  "What is that? Take it out", he commanded.  It was a small brass tumbler he had kept with him for drinking water. "Let us begin with this", the sage said and took him to the village merchant.  He advised the merchant to purchase the tumbler and give the value to the poor man. "What value can I give to this battered brass tumbler?  It is not even worth three spoons of sugar!", the merchant exclaimed.  "Then you give him two spoons of sugar", advised the sage.  The merchant complied with the instructions.  The sage returned to his camp with the poor man and the small sugar packet. He took out a lemon from his bag and advised the poor man to prepare lemon juice using the sugar with him.  The small quantity of juice was distributed to a few persons available near the camp.  "Your future will be brighter now on.  Lead a pious life and help others, in whatever way you can", advised the sage and left on his pilgrimage.  The poor man followed the advice and continued with his life.

The sage returned from his pilgrimage after a few years and again camped at the village. By this time, the poor man's tide had turned.  He was in much better shape socially and economically.  He helped others whenever the opportunity arose and shared whatever he had with others.  His poverty had gone and he had come out of the vicious circle.  The sage was happy that the account was revived and continued his journey. 
Poverty comes in many shades.  But the general perception is only about one of them; economic poverty.  That is so because it is very evident and visible to all.  It is also due to constant measurement of economic status by people around us. There are other types of poverty as well.  Social poverty or not having a sense of belonging to any recognizable group is another.  We hear of people going into depression or committing suicide despite being financially well off.  A feeling of being unwanted by their close groups at family, friends or at work is often a reason for this and it is a sign of social poverty.  Psychological poverty closely follows social poverty and acts on the mind of the concerned person. Intellectual poverty and moral poverty are still higher orders of poverty.  Of course, these are not very visible and can be easily camouflaged deliberately or otherwise.   

"Garuda Purana" is one of the eighteen puranas and gets its name as it is in the form of a discussion between Lord Mahavishnu and Garuda.  It deals with details of life after death and the rituals that are performed after the death of a person, in some parts of our country. There is a practice of reciting this purana or arrange for its discourse during the fortnight immediately following the death of a person, when the heirs perform sacred rituals. May be due to this practice, no one reads it at other times! Many details in the purana deal with the punishments given to a person in hell for the misdeeds done when alive. This make people shudder at the thought of life after the death and avoid reading this purana itself.

One of the verses in "Garuda Purana" deals with this vicious cycle of poverty and sins.  It clearly identifies the reasons for poverty as not sharing one's wealth with others and not doing good deeds when one is capable of.  It reads thus:

अदत्त दानाच्च भवेत् दरिद्रः दारिद्र दोषात् करोति पापम् |
पाप प्रभावात् नरकं स याति पुनर्दरिद्रः पुनरेव पापी ||

adatta daanachha bhavet daridraha, daridra doshat karoti papam
papa prabhaavat narakam sa yaati, punardaridraha punareva paapi

Due to not giving (sharing), he becomes poor; he commits sins because of that poverty.  As a result of those sins he goes to the lower world (naraka) as a punishment, he is again born poor and repeats the sins.  The vicious cycle continues.......
That leaves us with a pertinent question - should we believe in the theory of existence of other worlds and in re-birth and repeated births?

No one knows for sure, whether there are other worlds or there are re-births. But it is a matter of common sense that all material wealth has limitations of time. Likewise, there is true pleasure in sharing one's possessions with others while living as member of a civilized society.  It is better to share and enjoy their utility while they are still useful rather than hoard them and allow them to decay with time.   


  1. Thank u sir for such meaningful and englightning stories.

    1. liked and understood the relation between giving and poverty. thanks.

  2. Enlightening story. Just read a family committing suicide due to poverty, in today's newspaper. Science also supports this story, that poverty is self perpetuating. Poor ppl are poor at decision making, they pass on their stress response to their children by a process called 'epigenetics'

  3. excellent.A kanjoos was nevver seen giving anything to any body .He managed his life like that .But how can other people be inhuman when such person is in troubole they do help .Once it happed that this kanjoos was getting drowned in flowing tide of a river .he was begging for help One gentlaman asked him to stretch his hand so that he could be rescued.The person preferred getting drowned than stretching the hand.Then the person trying to help understood this problems and shouted ok dont give yolur hand take my hand.Then this knjoos stretched his hand to get him self out of problem

  4. Thanks for the short description of Garuda Purana. As always, engaging - your writing.

  5. true to form a beautifully written article.congrats to Sri.Keshava murti garu!

  6. a beautifully written story about the sage and the poor man. The author excels in such nice expositions of human nature in the various posts of his. may be a good idea to put them all into a book form either hard version or a ePub!

  7. Sir what you said is very true. We don’t know whether we will born again or do we have another world to live after death. But all the material wealth has limitations of time. The concept of Share and Enjoy is the best policy.
    I liked another point you mentioned – Social Poor. Its very true many people measure everything only in economic terms. Of course money is required, but all the time just money will not bring the happiness. How much we share that much you get back – The Vicious Circle.

  8. excellent naration

  9. Excellent . such simple and effective narration to drive home the message which sometimes we fail to learn in One full Lifetime. a.k.sharma

  10. Excellent . Such simple and effective way to drive home the lesson which we sometimes fail to learn in one whole lifetime.