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Unformatted text preview: 92 ' PARABOLA The Wise and the l
Foolish Merchants Buddhist N THE LONG AGO DAYS, there were two merchants, one a wise man,
the other one with no wisdom at all.
Now as it happened, both merchants had loaded up their wagons,
ﬁve hundred each, and both were planning to head towards the same desert ,
city at the same time. The foolish merchant was eager to start out. The wise merchant thought I"
ﬁrst. And the wise merchant said to the foolish one, “A thousand wagons
traveling together on the same route at the same time will surely be too
much for that desert land to support. There will not be enough food or
water for all those men and all those oxen. We cannot travel together.
Would you rather go ﬁrst or follow later?” The foolish merchant said without thinking, “I will go ﬁrst! That way
I’ll have a road untouched by wagon Wheels, my oxen will get the ﬁrst
grass, my men will ﬁnd the ﬁrst edible plants, and we will have undis-
turbed water. And I will be able to put whatever price I want on my goods!
Yes, I will go ﬁrst.” But the wise merchant thought it all through. The first wagons would
smooth down the tough road, making it easier for his wagons to pass. The
ﬁrst oxen would eat the rough desert grass, giving the second oxen sweet
new grass to eat. The same would be true of the edible plants. And if the
first caravan found no surface water, the men would have to dig wells. The
second caravan would be able to use them. And by the time the wise mer—
chant reached the city, the foolish merchant would have done all the work
of arranging prices. “Very well,” he said, “I will follow.” So the foolish merchant yoked his oxen to his wagons and set out. The
way was rough and the grass was tough. When the caravan came to a well, .
the foolish merchant ﬁlled up all the caravan’s huge water jars with water ’
before they set out again into the deepest part of the desert. That was his
only bit of Wisdom. ’- Now, a ghoulish yak/aha lived in the desert, and secretly watched the car- i
avan approach. He transformed himself into the likeness of a lord in rich
silks and gold jewelry, and conjured up a carriage for himself and atten— :
' ,: 5.
4. ,, FALL 2004 - dants. Then the crafty yak/61921 added the illusion that he, his carriage,
and his clothes were wet, and that he wore a wreath of water lilies. He
rode out to meet the caravan, and greeted the foolish merchant politely. The foolish merchant noticed only the richness of the false lord’s
clothing, and the wetness dripping from him. “Did it rain while you
were on the road?” he asked. “Or did you find a pool with water lilies
growing?” “Surely you jest!” the yakkba cried. “Do you not know that just
beyond that far hill there lies a land full of water? It is forever raining
there, and there are lakes aplenty with water lilies growing in them.
Are those not huge, heavy water jugs burdening your wagons?” “Yes, they are.” “So, now! You were wise to carry water with you this far. But with
so much water just ahead, you need no longer slow down your caravan
and tire out your oxen by lugging such a heavy load. Why not throw
the jugs away and reach your destination so much sooner?” With that, the yak/eh: pretended to ride quickly away, and soon was
hidden again in the desert. The foolish merchant believed everything the yakkha had said. He thought only of the proﬁt he would make, and destroyed all the
water jugs. It was his most
There was no water,
only desert and more
desert. The men
and the oxen grew
parched and weary, and at last collapsed.
Then the ya/ek/m came out of hiding,
slew them all, and
down to the bare
bones. After a month
had passed, the wise
merchant set out
with his caravan.
He, too, filled all
his water jars. Sure enough,
the ya/ek/m spotted
them. He came 93 94 ' PARABOLA riding boldly forward in his disguise as a water—drenched, richly clad
lord. But the wise merchant refused to let himself be fooled by what
only seemed to be. “Get away from us!” he ordered. “We want nothing to do with
you!” So ﬁerce was his cry that the yak/aha fled. But the wise merchant’s
men were puzzled. “Sir, why did you chase that noble lord away? And _
why did you nor wish to listen to him? If we cast the heavy water jugs ‘ 5
away, we can reach that rain-wet land of which he spoke, and travel ‘ i
on quickly from there.” “Do not be fools,” the wise merchant told them all. “Has anyone
among you ever heard that there might be a lake or other water in all
this desert land?” “No, sir,” they admitted. “This is known as the Waterless Desert.” “And as for rain, have any of you seen even the top of even a single
storm cloud? Or felt even the slightest touch of a rain—wind?” “No, sir,” they admitted. > “Has any man here seen a ﬂash of lightning or heard a roar of
thunder?” " “No, sir,” they admitted. “Precisely!” the wise merchant said. “Did any among you actually
look clearly at that ﬁnely clad and soaking wet lord?” '3 Now the men were confused. “No, sir.” i “Ah, but I did! He had red eyes, too red to have been caused by
water in them. He claimed there was water where I knew there was
none. And strangest of all, he cast no shadow. That was no man, but
a yakkbal He hoped that he could trick us into caSting away our water ‘
so that we would be weakened. Then he would kill and eat us. Now .
let us hurry on. Where there is one yakk/m, there may be more.” ’ Soon the wise merchant and his caravan came across the sad ruin
of the foolish merchant’s caravan. The wise merchant ordered his men 1
to put the wagons in a circle, with the oxen and themselves safely .
within the ring. He posted guards to stand watch, swords drawn, all
that night. 1 And no yak/aha dared approach. 3 At daybreak the merchant and his caravan continued on to their
destination, where he sold his goods and made himself and his men a
nice proﬁt. He and his caravan returned home again without the loss
of a single man. And so it was that the foolish merchant came to utter destruction,
while the wise merchant, spurning the yak/aka} lies and clinging to the truth, escaped all danger. ——Reta/d by fosepbzz Sherman, from thefamleas Copied for online use by students enrolled in BEM 261 at Wake Forest University, Fall 2016 only.
Reprint rights retained by Joseph Sherman. These pages extracted from Parabola Magazine,
Fall 2004 — Volume 29 Issue No. 3 ISSN 0362-1596. ...
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