Once upon a time, there lived a barber in a city in central India. He was working at the king’s palace. He was a happy go lucky fellow and so even though he did not earn much he was always happy and cheerful. The king liked him for his cheerful attitude as he liked to see cheerful faces in the morning.
The barber’s house was quite far away in a village and he had to pass through a forest every day while going for work and coming home. He used to pass by a huge banyan tree in the jungle every day.
One day, when he was passing by the tree, he heard a booming voice. “Halt”, said the voice. The barber, though not frightened, was startled a bit by the voice.”Who are you?” he asked, looking around, as he could find no human being nearby.
“I am a Yaksha living in this tree”, the voice said. “I see you going past this tree everyday and I think you work in the city. Where do you work and how much do you earn?”
“I work in the palace and I earn just enough to make ends meet”, said the barber. “Why do you ask?”
“Well”, said the voice, “I am the guardian of seven jars of gold in the hollow of this tree. I like you and I want to gift them to you. You can take them to your house and if ever you do not need them, you can bring them back to me.”
The barber could not believe his luck. “I shall take them”, said he and eagerly peeped into the hollow of the tree trunk. To his utter surprise, he found that there were indeed seven closed jars. Without opening them, he took them back home and told his wife about his luck. The wife was indeed happy and eagerly opened the jars. To their surprise the barber and his wife found six jars full of shining gold coins, but the seventh jar however was only half full. They were disappointed at this discovery.
“I shall ask the Yaksha tomorrow. Maybe the balance of gold coins is in the hollow of the trunk itself!” said the barber to his wife. Already his mind was full of curiosity as to why the seventh jar was only half full. He could not stop thinking about the jars and his luck and could not sleep at all.
Early in the morning he left to meet the Yaksha. As he neared the tree he heard the Yaksha call out,”Hello friend, what is it that brings you here so early? It is not your usual time yet” “Er…well,l want to ask you something… One jar out of the seven is only half full. Why is that?”
The Yaksha replied,”It is like that only. You can fill up the jar with your earnings. And if ever you do not need the jars bring them back as they are, okay?” The barber nodded his head though he was puzzled and went home.he told his wife what the Yaksha told him.The husband and wife picked up a few coins from the seventh jar and the level reduced and they hurriedly put back the coins in the jar. The wife said,” Do not worry my dear! From now on we shall save whatever we earn and put it in this jar and fill it up fast.”
The barber went for work with a confused mind. He didn’t talk much, to the surprise of the king.He was also not smiling as usual. The king had never seen him this way but anyhow thought that he must be having some domestic problem and therefore did not ask him anything. The barber took his day’s wages and went home. His wage was a gold coin.
As soon as he went home, he dropped the coin in the half full jar. He told his wife,”For the next few days, we shall eat with whatever provisions are available, for, I want to fill the seventh jar.” “Okay”, said the wife. “The provisions at home will last for three days. But there are no vegetables for tomorrow.” “Never mind”, said the barber. Pluck the greens from the garden and cook them.” The wife agreed as she also wanted to see the seventh jar full.
Over the next two weeks the barber’s earnings went straight into the jar. The jar however seemed to be absorbing all that was put into it. The level of gold coins did not rise by even a millimeter. The barber and his wife were puzzled and worried. Why the jar was not getting full was the only topic they discussed amongst themselves late in the nights. The barber decided to do extra work and went to the market in the evenings to help another barber and thereby earned extra money. The wife took up a job as domestic help and earned some money.
However they spent a miniscule portion of what they earned towards their needs and put the major portion in the seventh jar. The coins in the jar however remained at the same level as it was on the first day. Due to their extra occupation, the couple hardly talked to each other these days. The barber had lost his cheer and wore a very worried look. He hardly joked or laughed when he heard anything funny.
The king was noticing the behavior of the barber. Initially he had ignored it but as days went by it was difficult for him to ignore the barber as the barber’s sullen face was affecting the king too. He did not feel good to see a constantly worried face with lot of mental burden every day in the morning.
One day the king decided that enough was enough. He asked the barber what the matter was. Though initially reluctant, the barber blurted out the cause of his worry. The king was quiet for some time. He was a wise man and could empathize with others and so felt sorry for the barber. “Do you want to be happy once again?”, he asked the barber. “Yes. Your majesty”, said the barber, his eyes filled with tears. “Will you do as I say?”said the king. “Yes Sire” said the barber willing to do anything for getting relieved from this mental torture. “Well then”said the king.”Go and. give back the jars of gold from wherever you got them from”
The barber knew that that was the right solution and he had also contemplated this. He had realized that the jars were the primary reason for his change in attitude and lifestyles and lack of cheer from his life. Almost instantly, he agreed to do what the king said and went home straight. “Bring the jars”, he told his wife, “let us give them back to the Yaksha.” The wife also had realized their folly and willingly brought the jars out.
The barber took the jars and hurried to the banyan tree. He placed them in the hollow and addressed the Yaksha in a cold voice, “Here! Take your gold coins back! I was a fool to have accepted them. They have robbed me of my happiness and have given me only sorrow”
The Yaksha replied, “You were a fool to have added all your earnings in the jar! And you cannot have them now as I already told you that I want the jars as I gave them to you.” The barber angrily turned to go back when he heard the Yaksha’s booming voice again.
“But you have to thank me , friend, for now you are wise to know that it is always better to enjoy what you have rather than going after what you do not have”. The barber went back, finally relieved and wiser and remained so for the rest of his life.