The Gift of Greed
I heard a great story from the late Father Anthony de Mello (AKA Father Tony), a Jesuit priest from Goa, India’s smallest state.
Father Tony talked about the God Vishnu who, according to the Hindu tradition, is the Supreme and all-pervading being who brought the universe into existence.
(Substitute your own deities and names as needed.)
Here’s my telling of his story:
Once upon a time, Vishnu visited a man in his dream.
He told the man, “If you go to this corner at noon, there will be a wandering mendicant, and he will give to you the greatest of all gifts, if you only you ask him for it.”
As instructed, the man went to that corner at the specified time.
Then, as predicted, a wandering mendicant approached him.
The man was so excited. He exclaimed to the mendicant, “Excuse me, you won’t believe this…or maybe you will…but I was visited by the God Vishnu, and he said you would give me the greatest of all gifts, if only I asked you for it.”
The mendicant replied, “Certainly. Anything I have, I would be so happy to give to you.”
The mendicant opened his satchel and showed the man its contents. Among them was a giant, glittering diamond the size of a baseball.
The man eyed it, mesmerized. “May I have that?”
“Sure! I don’t need that. I picked it up at a river bank about a week ago.”
The man was thrilled! He took the diamond, and shortly thereafter, the mendicant walked off.
The man fantasized about riches, fame, and everything he could get now that he owned this diamond.
About ten minutes later, he realized he had made a terrible mistake. He raced after the mendicant.
“Wait! Sir, wait!” He caught up and pleaded, “I’ve made the wrong decision. I don’t want this diamond. I don’t want it at all. Please take it back.”
The mendicant took the diamond, placed it back in his satchel, and said, “Okay. Well, what is it I have that I can give to you?”
The man answered, “What I want is your ability to not want the diamond.”
Isn’t that a great story?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be free of want, desire, and greed?
Would you ask for diamond or the ability to not want the diamond? Or is there another human attribute you would rather instead?
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once quipped, “Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.”
I love material stuff. I love electronics, technology, and gifts. I have greed. I fantasize about extinguishing my wants (and perhaps you have thought about doing the same for yourself), but I don’t think any of us can ever fully eliminate our desires.
The best we can do is to realize our wants, and then work towards minimizing them.
Spiritual-religious advice: In lieu of (or in addition to) the tangible gift you would normally give someone, write a card stating what qualities or attributes you would give to that person if you could. (I’m certain they will appreciate it more than any “thing” you might buy them.)