Why the Rich Man Became Poor and the Poor Man Became Rich
Once upon a time there lived in India two friends—Mr. Sham, the rich man, and Mr. Honest, the poor man. Both lived with their families in a large double house. Mr. Sham was a shameless rogue and dissolute individual, whereas Mr. Honest was a very upright, religious man. Their modes of living could in no way explain their different destinies in life.
Mr. Sham was unfaithful to his wife and indulged in unbridled sin, yet he had a loyal, beautiful, spiritual wife who put up with his cruel ways. It seemed that the more Mr. Sham sinned and caroused, the more he prospered, and grew strong and healthy.
On the other hand, Mr. Honest was strictly loyal to his wife, even though she was ugly, nagging, and unfaithful. Yet, it seemed that the more Mr. Honest absorbed himself in metaphysics and meditation, the worse his misfortunes became. Loss of friends, bad investments, and extreme poverty doggedly pursued him.
Mr. Sham often said: “Mr. Honest, look here, if you will forsake all religious and metaphysical nuttiness, I will give you a financial start and you will then attract riches and friends.”
Mr. Honest, in reply, would remonstrate, saying: “Nay, my friend, thank you for your offer, but I have no intention of giving up my virtuous ways, which give me an inner satisfaction, even though they do not yield a harvest of wealth and prosperity.”
One evening Mr. Sham forced an issue on Mr. Honest in the house parlor. Mr. Sham gravely said: “Don’t you see that I live a natural life? I take a drink when I want it. I do what my impulses move me to do, and see, I am as healthy and happy as a lark.
“Your metaphysics have paralyzed your will power and creative ability, and you have become queer in your mind. Your sick mind keeps you physically and financially sick. Look here! Give up God and follow me, and you will be happy. There is no God, and there are no laws of life except what you create.”
Mr. Honest, who was beside himself with wrath, shouted: “You ignorant man, there is a God and He listens to prayers. He has mysterious ways of rewarding His devotees after they pass His earthly tests. I bet I can show you that God exists and that He responds to prayers.”
Mr. Sham shot back a quick challenge: “Well, Mr. Super-Favorite of a non-existent God, why don’t you coax your Almighty Nothingness with your prayers to demonstrate something tangible to me?”
Mr. Honest, with perfect assurance, answered back: “All right, I accept your challenge. I will start praying to God night and day for a month. I am confident God will answer my prayer through all that happens to you and me on Friday, a month from now.”
Mr. Sham retorted: “What do you mean by all that happens to you and me on Friday a month from now?’”
Mr. Honest responded: “If God sends fortune to you and misfortune to me on that Friday, then you win and we shall know there is no God. But if He sends fortune to me and misfortune to you, then you will know that God exists and has responded to my prayers. If I lose, I will follow your ways of living, and if you lose, you must follow mine.”
Mr. Sham burst into a torrent of laughter and said: “All right, Archangel, I will wait for your prayers to bring God’s action on the appointed Friday. And remember, if I win, you must follow my natural ways of living.”
Mr. Honest prayed to God night and day for a month in the following manner: “Heavenly Father, my own dear God, if You exist, please punish Sham on Friday and bring me good fortune, so that I may win for Your sake.”
When that telltale Friday arrived, Mr. Sham was in high spirits. He felt he was sure to win the bet and, led by a strange hunch, went to a near-by forest to hunt. Ruthlessly he killed more birds than he needed to feed his family and packed them on his horse.
On his way home, Mr. Sham stopped under a shady tree to rest. As he lay on the ground, he began to strike absent-mindedly at the sod with his knife. Suddenly he heard a metallic sound. Curious, he began to dig and struck an iron chest. Opening the lid, to his amazement, he beheld three million dollars in pirate-plundered gold coins.
Mr. Sham was beside himself with joy and, emptying his sacks of the dead birds, filled them with the gold coins. On his arrival home, to his great astonishment and merriment, he heard that Mr. Honest, while walking in a prayerful mood, had nearly been killed through a collision with a horse and carriage, and had been carried unconscious to the hospital.
Exultingly Mr. Sham said to himself: “Now I know that there is no God. I hope Mr. Honest recovers from his accident and lives long enough to realize this.”
On his return from the hospital, Mr. Honest heard about his friend’s luck that Friday afternoon. In response he threw all his metaphysical books into the fire and rushed out of the house into the forest, determined to end his life. He could not believe in God any longer, but neither could he relinquish virtue or deliberately become evil. So he went to a lake in the jungle and was tying himself to a stone to drown himself, when God sent a plainly dressed saint to explain matters to him.
The saint gently but firmly accosted him: “Mr. Honest, what are you doing there on this glorious God-ordained day?”
Mr. Honest angrily replied: “Get away. It is none of your business what I am doing. I don’t ever again want to hear that meaningless word ‘God.’”
To this the saint replied: “Why? Is it because you bet about God and lost by being run over by a horse and carriage?”Mr. Honest was astonished that this stranger knew about the bet.
Softening he said: “Honored sir, can you tell me why I, who have zealously studied metaphysics and faithfully meditated, should grow physically and financially poorer in every way. And why did God not only turn a deaf ear to my prayer, but made a fool of me before Mr. Sham, seemingly proving to him the truth of atheism?”
The saint replied: “Mr. Honest, you could not bribe God by your prayers. You must never bet about God, and whenever you pray, you must not decide that He has to answer your prayers. You should depend upon His wisdom to determine whether your prayers should be fulfilled.
“Do you know, Mr. Honest, that in your past incarnation you were a great sinner, and thus sick all the time, and that you made up your mind to be a virtuous man only just before your death? That is why, in this life you were born with a strong resolution to study metaphysics and to meditate. But because you were a sinner before, you have met with many physical, mental, and spiritual reverses in this life. You also had a very good, forgiving wife whom you never appreciated and tortured with your evil ways.
“For all the sins of your past life it was ordained that on Friday you were to die, but because you have been virtuous in this life, your life was spared and you escaped with only an accident. All the evil seeds of your past actions have now sprouted and are dead, and the balance of virtue in you has become greater than the evil. Return home, and henceforth luck will seek you in everything.”
Mr. Honest sobbed with gratitude and burst forth: “O God, my Beloved. I crave your pardon. Forgive my ignorant blasphemies against you.”
Then Mr. Honest inquired: “Honored saint, will you satisfy my curiosity as to why all good things were attracted to Mr. Sham, and why even on that Friday he found three million dollars?”
“Well, my son,” the saint replied, “Mr. Sham in his past life was a tolerably virtuous man, but in time became tired of his virtuous life and made up his mind to live according to his evil impulses. And it was just about then that he died.
“So, Mr. Sham was born a sinner due to his resolution before death. But because he was virtuous for most of his last incarnation, he automatically reaped the results of his past good actions. Thus he attracted to himself a good wife, friends, fortune, and health.
“Now, however, the balance is turned and the sins of this life have grown heavier than his past virtue. The treasure he received that Friday is nothing compared to the imperishable virtue you have acquired in this life by constant hard labor.”
Saying this, the saint vanished. Mr. Honest returned home to find his nagging wife stricken with a terrible disease. After she died, he met a sweet and spiritual woman, whom he married. His ill health disappeared and he received a large inheritance from a rich aunt, who changed her will a few hours before her death.
On the other hand, Mr. Sham found himself suddenly stricken with paralysis. Shortly after this, his wife died. Mr. Sham had buried all of his money in a secret chamber beneath the floor under his bed, but a disgruntled servant got scent of it and arranged for masked robbers to steal the money while Mr. Sham lay helpless. After that, Mr. Sham lived the rest of his life on the charity of his friend, Mr. Honest.
From the Praecepta Lessons, 1938.
If You Die Trying You Will Be Reborn
with the Determination to Succeed
by Paramhansa Yogananda
According to the law of cause and effect, the mental state of an individual preceding death follows him in the after-death state.
The individual who dies battling his evil tendencies is reborn with a strong tendency to resist evil until success is achieved. But when a man dies in the consciousness of his inability to conquer temptations, he finds that formidable negative tendencies dictate the moods and habits of his new life.
Every individual should continuously fight his prenatal or acquired bad habits. All evil tendencies, no matter how strong, are only mental grafts and can never destroy the power of the soul.
Even if a person is overpowered by evil tendencies, he can strengthen his virtuous tendencies by contacting the soul’s power of goodness in meditation. With a little spark of deep meditation, he can ignite the dynamite of eternal goodness within himself and explode mountains of self-created evil.
Devotees who achieve scant spiritual progress after years of regular but absent-minded meditation often become discouraged for not having gained a foothold in the kingdom of cosmic consciousness. Such souls fail to perceive the depths of their accumulated ignorance, and how it compares with the indifferent spiritual efforts of a few years of one life.
A person can rouse his spiritual powers by continuously fighting restlessness with the silence of meditation. One who dies while making a strong spiritual effort will be reborn with spiritual tendencies and a great determination to win the kingdom of bliss and immortality.
Bhagavad Gita Commentaries: Chapter 2, Stanza 37, Section 2