Once upon a time, there lived four young Brahmin boys in a small village. They were bored of the simple life they led, and wanted to earn money and live a comfortable life. They did not want to work hard as farmers or acquire learning as Brahmins did in their little village.
They decided to leave their village and set out into the world. “We shall visit other places and find a way to make lots of money” they decided, and set out on their journey.
They visited towns and great cities, but all the methods to make money involved a lot of hard work as well as knowledge, and they were unable to find any task to their liking. Finally, one day, they met an old and wise-looking sage who asked why they were wandering about.
“O wise one, we want to make lots of money, as fast as possible, so that we can spend our life in comfort and happiness. We do not want to remain as poor as the rest of the people in our village, and that is why we are travelling, looking out for the right opportunity” they said.
The sage replied, “Sons, your travelling has borne fruit with our meeting. I can help you achieve your goals. Here are four cotton wicks. Take them and go to the slopes of the mighty
Himalayas. Where your wicks fall, you will find a great treasure!” Handing over one wick to each of them, the sage disappeared.
The boys were thrilled, and set out for the
Himalayas. Just as they began ascending the snow covered mountain, the first wick fell.
The boy who had held that wick began digging, and found copper-ore in that spot. He was very happy and collected all the copper he could carry and said, “Our quest has ended, for this will gain us a lot of money. Let us take this copper and return.” But the other boys said, “it is just your wick which has fallen, and this is just copper, the basest of all metals. We shall journey further, and seek a better fortune.” The first boy said, “You can proceed. I am satisfied with this, and shall return home with what I have.”
A little further up the hill, the second wick fell, and they found the area full of silver. Again, the boy who had held that wick was satisfied, and decided to return with all the silver he could carry. The other two however said, “First we found copper and then silver. We shall surely find gold and diamonds next.” They left their friend alone and climbed up further.
At last, the third wick fell, and as they had anticipated, they found gold. The boy said, “My friend, this is what we came for, and here it is, at last – So much of gold, and all for us. Let us take all the gold we can carry and return home. Our family must be missing us.”
But his friend was not yet satisfied. “It is your wick which has fallen, and if you are satisfied, you can return like the others. My wick is yet to fall, and I shall surely find diamonds next. What is gold when compared to diamonds? I do not wish to return” he said.
The third boy did not want to leave without his best friend, so he said, “Friend, we know by now that these wicks are magical, but we have been taught to be wary of magic. I feel in my heart that we should not be greedy and return home now, but if you insist, you can go further. However, I shall not return alone, but shall wait for you here till you return with what you find.”
The fourth boy continued up the steep mountain, until at last he came to a plateau. He was hungry and thirsty, and fatigued by the difficult climb. All he wanted was water, but there wasn’t a sign of it. Instead, he saw a haggard-looking man with blood dripping down his body, for there was a wheel whirling on his head.
He went up to the man and asked, “Sir, why are you standing here, and in this shape, and why is that wheel on your head?” As soon as he said these words, the wheel left the man’s head and settled on his own!
Suffering from the pain from the whirring wheel, and absolutely shocked by the change of events, he asked the man who was now stretching his limbs happily “What is this? Why has this happened? When will I be freed?”
The man replied, “This is a device set by the Lord of Wealth to safeguard his treasures. Anticipating that magicians would send their disciples to gather wealth, he has arranged that whoever gets so far with a magic wick in his hands will have to undergo this suffering. You will be freed only when another man like you comes here with a wick in his hands and asks you the same question you asked me. Till then, you will not know hunger or thirst, sickness or death. You just have to stand here and experience the suffering as a punishment for your greed.” Saying this, the man walked away, happy to be free at last.
Meanwhile, the third boy was waiting for his friend, and started worrying when there was no sign of him. When he at last saw a strange man going down the hill happily, and still couldn’t see his friend, he decided to search for him. He also climbed up and reached the plateau and saw the strange sight, and it was a while before he recognized his friend.
Hearing the sad tale from his friend’s lips, he said, “My friend, I asked you to be satisfied with the gold, and beware of the magic wick, but you would not listen to me. This suffering is the outcome of your greed, and I cannot do anything to help you. I do not know how long it will take you to be free of this curse, so I cannot wait for you any longer. Allow me to return to the village.”
Saying thus, the third friend returned to the city, sold all his gold at a high price, and returned to his village a rich man. He was satisfied with his wealth, and now worked hard, and also helped others, for he had learnt that it was not wise to be greedy.