Here is a story..obviously from the great Hindu Mahasamudram. It is an obvious cut paste (which means it is NOT original), but the learning is more materialistic. Obviously at the philosophical level it is the Gandhian philosophy – there is enough for every man’s need, not for every man’s greed. Or you could take it like the philosophy of salt – too much and the broth is spoiled, but absence can make the broth unpalatable. I enjoyed telling it to my daughter..I hope you enjoy reading it!

Long ago, there lived in India, a trader who went daily from his house in the foothills to the town below, for doing some trade.

“I must have a holiday,” he said to himself one day, and he began to climb up into the hills to enjoy the hills. He saw a cave and went inside. He found a large earthen jar. Then another, and another and another — there were seven jars there, altogether! He wondered if he dared to open them. Curiosity overcame fright! There was no sound of anyone about and he did open it. He found he could lift the lid of the first jar. And vow! It was full of gold coins. So were the second, third, fourth and fifth. Under the lid of the sixth jar he found an aged piece of paper.

On it was written, “Finder, beware! The seven jars of gold are yours, but there is a curse. No one who takes them with him can leave the curse behind.”

Now, next to curiosity, greed is perhaps the most powerful urge! He wasted no time in borrowing a cart to carry the jars of gold to his house. It was exhausting, but surely worth the effort or so he thought! Bulky and hard to lift, they had to be taken two by two; in the dark of night he somehow managed to take them to his house. On the last trip, with the seventh jar alone, thankfully the load was lighter, and he noticed nothing.

“Let me count the coins,” he thought, “and see how great my fortune is.”

But when that seventh jar was opened he found it was only half-full.

“What!” he cried, “I was promised seven jars!”

He had thrown the note away and forgotten about the curse. The merchant was overcome and obsessed by a spirit of grasping and greed. Obsessed with greed, the merchant made it the goal of his life now, to fill that seventh jar with gold coins. “I must fill the seventh jar with gold,” was his constant thought. Yet, strangely, the more he put into the jar, the more it remained half-full.

He lived some years more, but never did he enjoy spending the gold he had found, because it was never enough.
Lessons from the story:
•    The trader was a bachelor and led a simple life – it would have hardly mattered whether he had the gold or did not have – money does not always change lives.
•    Once we see 7 jars, we think it is our right to get it. Like we think the market SHOULD go to 21000.
•    We have got used to a tax free compounding of equity returns – so again it has become our RIGHT.
•    If my investment of Rs. 500 in 1978 has grown to Rs. 32,00,000 today, it is MY RIGHT. However if I have to pay 10% of that in tax, it hurts. However if it had become only (!) Rs. 29,00,000 I would not have cribbed, that is all.
•    If your goal is not well articulated and well thought of, life can be terrible.
•    If the trader had got 4 jars, and the 5th jar was just half, he would have spent the rest of his life making that full. Funny, we forget WHAT WE HAVE.
•    What we have – our family, friends, enough to eat, a roof over our head – are perhaps far more important, but we ignore them.
•    The government can tax only people who have money – so capital gains will become a reality sooner or later, be ready.
•    Wealth tax and Estate duty exist all over the world, we will have to learn to accept it – sooner or later.

•    Curiosity, Greed, Fear – need to be controlled, we can rarely conquer it fully.
•    Risk is a part of investing – the merchant throwing away the chit did not ELIMINATE the risk.
•    To enjoy life you do not need too much money, you should know how to manage money well.
•    It is easier to get wealth than to use it for happiness. You can even get it with luck, but managing it is an art.

One important learning for the life insurance industry – mis-selling was done even in mythological tales – and the buyer was disappointed (6 and a half jars vs. 7 jars promised: AND ALL FREE). What will happen to a life insurance customer who has been promised 36% return who gets 3.6% return? L O L.

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  1. Excellent post Subra

    Quite a good learning here with story . I have comments on two points

    “We have got used to a tax free compounding of equity returns – so again it has become our RIGHT.”

    I see this a lot with my readers , When DTC talked about the tax on LTCG , people were cribbing so much that it looked like they would just shun the idea of investing in equity itself just to save themselves from paying tax ,rather than concentrating on the returns they are getting from equity .

    “If my investment of Rs. 500 in 1978 has grown to Rs. 32,00,000 today, it is MY RIGHT. However if I have to pay 10% of that in tax, it hurts. However if it had become only (!) Rs. 29,00,000 I would not have cribbed, that is all.”

    This is another classic thing , behavioural finance at its best, investors gets anchored to what they have seen or possess , Rather than getting 29 lacs without tax , it would be better to give them 25 lacs and then give some incentive (reverse tax) and give 4 lacs etc to them would make them more happy 🙂 LOL


  2. one feedback from a client/ friend:

    “tu training karta hai ke story telling karta hai” – the kids in our office who attended your training were raving about your i know why”

    thanks chief, thanks a lot..easier to remember stories, not theories. Not my idea -stolen straight from the Vedas. Ramayan, Mahabharat, Vashishta yoga, Jataka tales – all are examples of what I do. Obviously I do a cut n paste so well, people think it is original.

    Ps: Only 2 original story tellers are Valmiki and Vyasa. All others do a Copy Paste. So I copy only from the original – at least there are no copy right issues 🙂

  3. Dr Mohammed Ali Khan

    @ if I have to pay 10% of that in tax, it hurts…

    It hurts because.. My tax money is spent on useless gimmicks like Commonwealth games, Ambedkar parks,free colour TVs,Swiss bank accounts of politicians and bureaucrats..

    If I see my tax money going into good roads, rails and other infrastructure projects, If I see my tax money going into good pay & weapons for the Police and the Army, If I see my tax money going into a more efficient judicial system.. Then I will not crib..

    I see my money being stolen and wasted on useless things.. Why should I not crib?

  4. I am yet to meet a Honest man Dr. Khan – honest by CHOICE – not by force. The first stone should be thrown by a man who has not sinned. Work has taken me around the world – and all over the world people are the same. No taxes please. It does not work that way. If I have to change the world, I need to be in the governmnet. Not sit in some ivory tower and ‘hope’ somebody will do it. Governance in India will only get worse – see the kind of people wanting to pass the IAS. Only those who cannot get in anywhere else….and that to with the clear intention of getting a nice dowry and lots of money. Be the change that you want to be….sorry if it hurts

  5. Was tempted to write a reply, although I have been following the blog for a while.
    Yes, most of (nee ALL) today’s ills in the world are a result of greed and the resultant exploitation of everything which includes nature and every other human being. The West has successfully managed to ingratiate into all other cultures (I specifically mean Asian nations, which are ancient and driven by a different sense of values) the aspect of nuancing theories and articulating them to confusion that it is the confine of a very few and understood by even fewer people, these then become the ‘ideal’ and ‘successful’ career stories. It would probably require a multiple dip in the Americas for them to realize that simple living and high thinking should drive any business and growth for the sake of growth will only make the world worser.

  6. @Asoke

    I cannot change the world.. Thats why Im cribbing..

    Watching with dispair.. We are a nation of intelligent and hard working people.. Yet we remain a desperately poor country..When I think of what would have happened if only our leaders had not been enamored by this stupid ideology called Socialism, which gives too much power to the Government bureaucrat and and too little incentive to the entrepreneur..
    (In a country where 50 % are illiterate, it takes 14 approvals and 4 – 5 years to legitimately start a private school, and schools are not supposed to make profits… )

    We as a nation have so much potential.. If only our politicians and bureaucrats not waste if on useless things!!
    Imagine, what a rich and prosperous nation we could have been !!!

    As an Indian who loves his country passionately.. Should I at least not crib?

  7. re. cribbing: i finally found a good answer to : “if you dont vote,you have no right to complain” stuff that gets thrown at disillusioned voters like me.
    infact, those who vote,have forfeited the right to crib -for they accept today’s system and abide by its absurd rules that benefit the elite.
    it is the principled non voter who has more rights to complain against the system since he rejects it.

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