the Cheap [Miserliness]
Once upon a time, there was a billionaire in northern India. He
was an adviser to a king. Although he was very rich he was not at
all good looking. He was lame due to crooked feet, and his hands
were also deformed into crooked positions. His eyes were crooked
too, that is to say, he was cross-eyed. And some would say he had
a crooked mind as well, for he was without any religion whatsoever!
You might think people would call him, 'Illisa the Crooked', but
that was not the case.
also happened to be a miser, one who will not give anything to anybody.
He would not even spend any of his wealth on his own enjoyment.
Therefore, it was said that his home was like a pond possessed by
demons, where no one could quench his thirst.
Illisa's ancestors, going back seven generations, were the most
generous of gift givers. They gave away the very best of their possessions.
But when Illisa inherited the family fortune, he abandoned that
great family tradition.
family had always maintained a charity dining hall, where anyone
could come for a free hot meal. Illisa burned this free food kitchen
to the ground, since he wanted to be rid of the expense. Then he
pushed the poor and hungry from his door, hitting them as they went.
He quickly earned a reputation for hoarding all his wealth and possessions.
Soon people began calling him, 'Illisa the Cheap'.
day when he was returning home from advising the king, Illisa saw
a tired worn out villager by the side of the road. He had obviously
walked a great distance. He was sitting on the ground pouring cheap
wine into a cup. He was drinking it, along with some smelly dried
this made Illisa thirsty for a drink of liquor. Then he thought,
"I would love to have a drink! But if I do, others may want
to drink with me, and that could cost me money!" For that reason
alone, he suppressed his craving for alcohol.
time passed, his craving did not disappear. Instead, fighting it
and worrying constantly made him look sick. His skin turned yellow,
and he became thinner and thinner until the veins stuck out from
his flesh. He fought a constant battle against his thirst for liquor.
He slept face down, holding onto the bed tightly while he slept.
wife began to notice the changes in him. One day, while massaging
his back to comfort him, she asked, "Are you sick, my husband?"
"No," said Illisa. Did the king get angry at you?"
she asked. "No," said he. "Have our children or the
servants done anything to upset you?" asked his wife. Again
he said "No." "Do you have a strong craving for something?"
the Cheap kept silent. He was afraid that if he told her it might
end up costing him money! But his wife began pleading, "Tell
me, please tell me." Finally, swallowing hard and clearing
his throat, he answered, "Yes, I do have a strong craving."
"A craving for what?" she asked. "For a drink of
alcoholic liquor," he admitted at last.
is that all!" said his wife. "Why didn't you tell me this
at first? You are not poor. You can easily afford to buy a drink
for yourself and the whole city as well! Shall I brew a big batch
of liquor for us all?"
course this was not what Illisa the Cheap wanted to hear. He blurted
out. 'Why should we give liquor to others? Let them earn their own!"
Then his wife asked. "Well then, what about just for us and
our neighbors?" "I didn't know you had become so rich
all of a sudden!" he shot back at her. How about just our household?"
she asked. How generous you are with my money!" he replied.
"All right then," she said, "I will brew just enough
liquor for you and me, my husband." "Why should you be
included? Women should not drink liquor!"
I understand you perfectly well!" said Illisa's wife. "I
will make only enough liquor for you alone." But Illisa the
Cheap always thought of even the slightest chance of spending money.
He said, "If you prepare liquor here, people will notice and
come ask for some. Even if I buy some in a liquor store and bring
it here to drink, others will find out and want some. There will
be no liquor given away in this house!"
Illisa decided to give the smallest coin he had to a servant boy,
and sent him to the liquor store. When he returned, Illisa took
him down to the riverside. He took the small bottle of liquor from
the boy, and set him to stand watch nearby. Then Illisa the Cheap
hid in the underbrush, poured some liquor into a cup, and secretly
just so happened that when Illisa's father had died, he had been
reborn as Sakka, King of the Heaven of 33. This was because of his
this particular moment, Sakka was curious about whether his free
food kitchen was still giving out food to all who wished it. He
discovered that it no longer existed, that his son had given up
the family tradition and had even kicked the hungry out onto the
street! He saw his miserly son drinking by himself, hiding in the
bushes, afraid he might have to share with others.
decided to change Illisa's mind and teach him a lesson about the
results of both good and bad actions. He decided to make him become
generous, rather than cheap, so that he too might be reborn in a
King of the Heaven of 33 disguised himself so that he looked exactly
like Illisa the Cheap. He too had crooked feet, crooked hands and
crooked eyes. He entered the city, went to the palace, and asked
for an audience with the king. The king said, "Let my adviser
Illisa come in."
asked, "Why have you come at this untimely moment?" "My
lord," said Sakka, "I have come to give my billionaire's
wealth to you to fill up the treasury." The king replied, "No,
no. I have enough, much more than that." The disguised Sakka
said, "Then if you do not want it my lord kindly permit me
to give it away as I wish." "Do as you say," said
went to Illisa's house. The servants greeted him as if he were indeed
their master. He entered the house and sat down. He summoned the
gate keeper and said, "If anybody comes here who looks like
me and says, 'This house is mine', don't let him in. Instead beat
him on the back and kick him out!" Then he went upstairs and
called for Illisa's wife. Smiling at her he said, "My love,
let us be generous!"
first, Illisa's wife, children and servants were surprised. They
said to each other, "It was never in his mind to give anything
to anybody before today. This must be because he's been drinking
alcohol and has gotten a little soft in the head!"
wife said, "As you wish, my lord, give away as much as you
like." Tall for the drummer," said Sakka, "and order
him to go and beat his drum in the city. Have him announce that
all who desire gold, silver, pearls, jewels, lapis lazuli, diamonds
and coral, are to come to the home of Illisa the billionaire."
She did as he said.
a big crowd began to arrive, carrying baskets, buckets and bags.
Sakka opened up the store rooms of Illisa's wealth. He said, "I
give you all these riches. Take as much as you want and go."
The people took it all outside and piled it up. They filled up their
containers and carried them away.
clever man from the countryside harnessed Illisa the Cheap's bullocks
to Illisa the Cheap's bullock cart. Then he filled it to the brim
with Illisa the Cheap's seven treasures, and rode out of the city
by the main road.
knowing it, he passed by the bushes where the real Illisa was still
drinking liquor. He was so happy to be suddenly rich, that he shouted
out as he went, "May Lord Illisa the billionaire live a hundred
years! Because of you I have struck the jackpot. I won't have to
work another day in my life! These were your bullocks, your cart
and your seven treasures. They were not given to me by my father
and mother but by you, Illisa the generous!"
hidden Illisa was shocked to hear this. He thought, "This man
is talking about me! Has the king taken my wealth and given it away?"
Then: he jumped out from the bushes and shouted, "Hey you,
what are you doing with my bullock cart?" He grabbed the reins
and stopped the cart.
villager got down and said, "What's wrong with you? The billionaire
Lord Illisa is giving his wealth to all the people of the city.
What do you think you're doing?"
he said this he struck Illisa on the head as hard as a thunderclap
and rode away on the cart filled with treasure.
the Cheap bounced to his feet and chased after the cart. He grabbed
the reins again. This time the villager held onto Illisa by the
hair, pulled his head down, and struck it hard with his elbow. He
grabbed him by the neck, threw him to the ground, and then continued
on his way.
this rough treatment sobered up Illisa. He ran home as fast as he
could. He saw the crowds of people carrying off his precious riches.
He grabbed hold of them to stop them, but they just pushed him out
of the way and knocked him down. Nearly fainting from his bruises,
he tried to get into his home. But the gate keeper said, "Where
do you think you're going?" Beating him with a cane, he grabbed
him by the neck and threw him out.
thought, "Now no one can help me but the king." So he
ran to the palace and went straight inside. He said, "My lord,
why do you want my house to be looted?" The king said, "This
is not my doing. I myself heard you say that if I would not accept
your wealth, you would give it to all the citizens. I applaud your
generosity! And did you not send a drummer into the streets to announce
you were giving your wealth to any and all?"
lord king must be joking!" said Illisa. "I didn't do any
such thing. People don't call me 'Illisa the Cheap' for nothing!
I don't give anything to anybody if I can help it! Please, lord
king, summon whoever is giving my treasures away, and clear up this
being summoned by the king, Sakka came to the palace. Illisa asked,
"Who is the real billionaire, my lord king?" Neither the
king nor his ministers could tell the difference between them.
king said, "We cannot recognize which one it is. Do you know
someone who can recognize you for sure?" "Yes, my lord,
my wife can recognize me," said Illisa. But when she was called
for and asked to decide, she stood next to Sakka and said, "This
is my husband." When Illisa's children and servants were summoned,
they too picked Sakka.
thought, "I have a wart on my head, covered up by my hair.
Only my barber knows this." So he said to the king, "Please
summon my barber. He knows me very well."
barber was called for and the king asked him, "Can you tell
us which of these two men is Illisa the billionaire?" "I
must examine their heads," he said, "then I will determine
who the real Illisa is." "Do so," said the king.
Sakka, King of the Heaven of 33, made a wart appear on his head.
When the barber examined them he found warts on both their heads.
He said, "Oh lord king, I cannot recognize which of these is
Illisa. Both have crooked feet, both have crooked hands, both have
crooked eyes, and both have warts on the same spots on their heads.
I can't tell the difference!"
these words, Illisa began trembling. His mind became so unbalanced
from losing his last hope of regaining his wealth, that he fainted
on the spot.
that very moment, Sakka said, "I am not Illisa. I am Sakka,
King of the Gods of the Heaven of 33." As he said this, he
used his super powers to rise into the air and remain suspended
splashed cold water on Illisa's face and woke him from his fainting
spell. He knelt down in respect before Sakka, King of Gods.
Then Sakka spoke: "This wealth came from me, Illisa, not from
you. I myself, when I was your father, did many meritorious deeds.
I was glad to give to the poor and needy. That is why, when I died,
I was reborn as Sakka, King of Gods.
you have violated our family tradition. Being a non-giver, living
the life of a miser, burning my charity dining hall to the ground,
and chasing the homeless beggars from your door you have
kept all the family wealth to yourself. You are so cheap that you
cannot even use the wealth for your own enjoyment! It is utterly
wasted and useless. The family fortune has become like a pond possessed
by demons, where no one can quench his thirst. It would be better
if you were dead!
my former son, if you change your ways you will be the one to benefit
most. If you rebuild my free food kitchen and give hot meals to
all who ask, you will earn both merit and peace of mind. But if
you refuse to be generous, I will make all your riches disappear.
And I will split your crooked skull with my divine diamond dagger!"
fear of his own death, Illisa the Cheap promised, "I will give
generously from now on, oh King of Gods."
accepted his promise. Still floating in the air, he preached on
the true value of giving. He also convinced him to practice the
Five Training Steps, for the benefit of himself and others. These
are to give up entirely: destroying life, taking what is not given,
sexual wrongdoing, speaking falsely, and losing one's mind from
Sakka disappeared and returned to his heavenly home.
did indeed change his ways. He gave alms generously, did many other
good deeds, and became much happier. When he died he was reborn
in a heaven world.
moral is: Poor indeed is the rich man who
won't part with a penny.