Once upon a time there was a rich merchant in a small town in Korea. His house was the biggest in town. He had many businesses and a lot of people were on his payroll.
He had a beautiful wife but he was so busy with his trade that he often neglected her. Although she loved him very much they never had any children and she was feeling lonely.
She regularly spent a lot of time looking through the window at the back of the house that was opening toward the yard of their neighbor, the potter. She liked watching the harmonious relationship between the potter and his wife and how happy they were while looking after their children.
While the merchant was worrying how to pay his workers less money so that his profit would grow, the potter and his wife were making small colorfully painted clay toys that they would sell in front of their house.
In spite of being very poor, the potter and his family were very content with their lives. They would wake up very early, prepare breakfast for their children and then play with them for a little while before starting work. Then he would spin the potter’s wheel and make perfect bowls and teacups. His wife would decorate them and apply the glaze. Later they would load the dishware into the big furnace behind their hut and bake them for two full days. And all the while they would happily talk to one another and even sing together with beautiful clear voices.
Seeing all this, the merchant’s wife was wishing that her husband would make more time for himself and their family instead of counting his money every day till late at night. Because he was so concerned with money, the merchant was never getting enough sleep or enjoying his food.
– Dear husband, I cooked your favorite beef stew tonight. How about we enjoy it together in the gazebo under the evening stars. The weather is so pleasant and the cherry blossoms are so fragrant.
– Cannot, my dear. I haven’t finished the accounting books for today’s business.
– I wish you would take better care of yourself, sleep more and savor your food. Your health is getting worse because of too much worry. I sometimes think about our neighbor, the potter. His family is poor but they are happy and very healthy and have no care in the world.
– They barely have two pennies to rub together. I don’t know how they can sing so joyfully all afternoon while making those toys. They scarcely earn enough to go through the week after selling them…while I make 100 times that money in a week.
– I’d give up all our money to have a harmonious family life like the potter’s.
– You’re talking nonsense my dear.
– I mean it, I wish we were as peaceful and happy as the potter and his family is!
“Hmmm, I will take care of that” thought the merchant to himself with a sly smirk on his face.
That night, he put 9 gold coins in a money purse and threw it in the potter’s yard.
– This should fix our happiness and contentment problem! remarked the merchant going to bed.
Next morning, the potter discovered the little purse in his yard and he almost fainted when he discovered the gold coins. He never earned that much money in his life, his toys used to be sold for 1 tenth of a copper coin each and he never managed to set anything aside.
Suddenly a thought came to his mind: “Now that you have 9 gold coins, how about you work hard to convert it into 10 gold coins?”
– Not a bad idea, and then my family can have a comfortable life! exclaimed the potter to himself.
That day he started to work early, scolding his kids for always wanting to play. He quickly ate and did not talk to his wife. He started to make the toys quickly and didn’t put in the love and care that he normally used to .
His mind was calculating the money he can make that day and how quickly he can turn his wealth into 10 gold coins.
From that day onward the poor potter started to behave like the rich merchant. He would work till late at night, he would not talk to his kids and wife anymore, he stopped enjoying his meals, and would always be thinking about money-making.
After a few months, the potter was still far from having 10 gold coins and he was already pondering how to work even harder to make 20 gold coins. His health deteriorated and his family was not happy anymore. Villagers were not buying his toys so much as they did not find the same quality.
– I did it! I destroyed the potter’s happy life, finally my wife can’t complain anymore! grinned the merchant.
Months have passed by and the 2 neighbors became very ill, so ill that no prescription or doctor could cure them. Luckily there was a Taoist master living in a mountain nearby the village and he was famous for being able to cure rare diseases.
The merchant and the potter went to see him together, as their symptoms were identical.
The Taoist was sitting crossed-legs on a rock slate in front of his cave. The two neighbors bowed to him and didn’t even have time to open their mouths that the master exclaimed:
– It’s a great disease you’re both carrying there! Obsession for wealth! Each of you has a black karma cloud on the top of your head in another dimension. This karma is controlling your thoughts and makes you pursue money.
– But how did it get there?
– It started growing above your head with your first wrong thought about wealth.
– Hmmm…I think I can remember…it was like someone asking me what I thought about turning 9 gold coins into 10 and I agreed it was a good idea, said the potter.
– Yes, that’s when it all started.
– Oh my goodness, how can we get rid of them? wept the merchant.
– Those black clouds can stay on only when you have bad and improper thoughts. Clear your mind of them and the karma will be transformed into virtue.
– But isn’t it a good thought to work hard to make money?
– Well, from my perspective, wealth is given to each person according to the amount of virtue they carry. So do good deeds and be virtuous and then wealth will follow. This is how you gain naturally without pursuit.”
With this the master turned into a white little cloud and flew into the distance.
The two neighbors bowed in the cloud’s direction and feeling light and enlightened they went off to their homes.
From that day on they stopped obsessing over money and started paying attention to the people around them. They became very helpful to the villagers and affectionate to their families. They were doing good deeds wherever they could and soon the entire region flourished, trade was booming and people were blessed with health and happiness. And they lived happily ever after!