in the Desert
[The Correct Way of Thinking]
upon a time there were two merchants, who were friends.
Both of them were getting ready for business trips to
sell their merchandise, so they had to decide whether
to travel together. They agreed that, since each had about
500 carts, and they were going to the same place along
the same road, it would be too crowded to go at the same
decided that it would be much better to go first. He thought,
"The road will not be rutted by the carts, the bullocks
will be able to choose the best of all the grass, we will
find the best fruits and vegetables to eat, my people
will appreciate my leadership and, in the end, I will
be able to bargain for the best prices."
other merchant considered carefully and realized there
were advantages to going second. He thought, "My
friend's carts will level the ground so we won't have
to do any road work, his bullocks will eat the old rough
grass and new tender shoots will spring up for mine to
eat. In the same way, they will pick the old fruits and
vegetables and fresh ones will grow for us to enjoy. I
won't have to waste my time bargaining when I can take
the price already set and make my profit." So he
agreed to let his friend go first. This friend was sure
he'd fooled him and gotten the best of him - so he set
out first on the journey.
merchant who went first had a troublesome time of it.
They came to a wilderness called the 'Waterless Desert',
which the local people said was haunted by demons. When
the caravan reached the middle of it, they met a large
group coming from the opposite direction. They had carts
that were mud smeared and dripping with water. They had
lotuses and water lilies in their hands and in the carts.
The head man, who had a know-it-all attitude, said to
the merchant, "Why are you carrying these heavy loads
of water? In a short time you will reach that oasis on
the horizon with plenty of water to drink and dates to
eat. Your bullocks are tired from pulling those heavy
carts filled with extra water - so throw away the water
and be kind to your overworked animals!"
though the local people had warned them, the merchant
did not realize that these were not real people, but demons
in disguise. They were even in danger of being eaten by
them. Being confident that they were helpful people, he
followed their advice and had all his water emptied onto
they continued on their way they found no oasis or any
water at all. Some realized they'd been fooled by beings
that might have been demons, and started to grumble and
accuse the merchant. At the end of the day, all the people
were tired out. The bullocks were too weak from lack of
water to pull their heavy carts. All the people and animals
lay down in a haphazard manner and fell into a deep sleep.
Lo and behold, during the night the demons came in their
true frightening forms and gobbled up all the weak defenseless
beings. When they were done there were only bones lying
scattered around - not one human or animal was left alive.
several months, the second merchant began his journey
along the same way. When he arrived at the wilderness,
he assembled all his people and advised them - "This
is called the 'Waterless Desert' and I have heard that
it is haunted by demons and ghosts. Therefore we should
be careful. Since there may be poison plants and foul
water, don't drink any local water without asking me."
In this way they started into the desert.
getting about halfway through, in the same way as with
the first caravan, they were met by the water soaked demons
in disguise. They told them the oasis was near and they
should throw away their water. But the wise merchant saw
through them right away. He knew it didn't make sense
to have an oasis in a place called 'Waterless Desert'.
And besides, these people had bulging red eyes and an
aggressive and pushy attitude, so he suspected they might
be demons. He told them to leave them alone saying, "We
are business men who don't throw away good water before
we know where the next is coming from."
seeing that his own people had doubts, the merchant said
to them, "Don't believe these people, who may be
demons, until we actually find water. The oasis they point
to may be just an illusion or a mirage. Have you ever
heard of water in this 'Waterless Desert'? Do you feel
any rain-wind or see any storm clouds?" They all
said, "No", and he continued, "If we believe
these strangers and throw away our water, then later we
may not have any to drink or cook with - then we will
be weak and thirsty and it would be easy for demons to
come and rob us, or even eat us up! Therefore, until we
really find water, do not waste even a drop!"
caravan continued on its way and, that evening, reached
the place where the first caravan's people and bullocks
had been killed and eaten by the demons. They found the
carts and human and animal bones lying all around. They
recognized that the fully loaded carts and the scattered
bones belonged to the former caravan. The wise merchant
told certain people to stand watch around the camp during
next morning the people ate breakfast, and fed their bullocks
well. They added to their goods the most valuable things
left from the first caravan. So they finished their journey
very successfully, and returned home safely so that they
and their families could enjoy their profits.
moral is: One must always be wise enough not to
be fooled by tricky talk and false appearances.