Once upon a time, in a village in Central India, there was a very wealthy land owner named Dhanlal, who was extremely miserly. He was so.. so miserly that he used to eat just one item a day like rice on one day, dal on another day, vegetables on one day and so on as it would be very ‘costly’ to eat all dishes on the same day. The whole day time he spent in counting the money he hoarded. His family members were a distressed lot as they also were subjected to the torture of one dish a day.
One day as Dhanlal was counting the coins, there was a sadhu going on his way singing bhajans , stopping in front of each house in the village. In olden days the practice of feeding sadhus or needy people was common and the sadhus used to enlighten the public with their spiritual talks and stories in return.
The sadhu stood in front of Dhanlal’s house and sang a song on earning merit by helping the needy. The song was about how the quality of charity was essential to get Moksha or salvation. Dhanlal was hearing the song all the while counting his coins but did not move an inch. But somehow, the song kept ringing in his ears and he knew he had to do some charity to get salvation.
He spent two or three days in calculating how much he would lose if he spent a certain quantity of rice in alms everyday to a few needy people. Then he decided that he would give one fistful – just one fistful of rice to one person everyday. He would not lose much at the same time he would qualify for salvation.
He started his “charity”. He was particular that the same fellow should not get the rice everyday lest he become “rich”. One fistful a day went on for a month or so. The sadhu who had sung the song was camping near the banyan tree on the river bank on the other end of the village. Dhanlal wanted to go and meet him.
So he went and met the sadhu and told him how he was influenced by his song and how he had started being very charitable by donating a FISTFUL OF RICE EVERY DAY.
The sadhu did not utter a word. He signalled to Dhanlal to wait and went and sat under the banyan tree. He did something like gnawing at the roots of the tree with his nails and Dhanlal did not understand what he was doing. Dhanlal waited and waited and waited for three hours. He got very impatient. He wanted to check the status of his salvation efforts and go back and count his coins and here was this sadhu doing some useless thing making him wait.
Dhanlal called out “Swamiji, Can you please talk to me for a moment and then do what you are doing?” The sadhu said “Beta wait for sometime. I shall come as soon as I cut the roots of this tree with my nails. It wont be long”
Dhanlal was amused. He did not imagine that the sadhu was so silly. He laughed out aloud and said , “Swamiji do you know how many hundred years it will take to cut such heavy roots with your nails?? Ha ha ha ….” The sadhu coolly replied “Only that many number of years it will take as it will take for your salvation with half heartedly donating one fistful of rice a day!”
Dhanlal immediately realised his folly and fell at the feet of the sadhu who had with his simple action made him realise his mistake. Dhanlal turned a new leaf much to the happiness of his family members and the villagers and it is said that he became to be called “Daanlaal” from “Dhanlal”!!!
Help the needy in times of need and be happy like Daanlaal.