This is a story I read a few months ago that I have been thinking a lot about recently – specifically, the idea I have been entertaining is whether the world is exactly as it is meant to be, and always will be. Perhaps looking at the world helps us to accept it, for good and bad, and lead a better more fulfilled life – yes it is full of ignorance, darkness, injustice, but also knowledge, light and compassion. Just decide which you want to focus on and contribute to.
There once was a poor man who wanted to make some money. He had heard that if he could get control over a ghost, it would do anything he told it to do and he wanted to use this power to obtain great wealth.
Not knowing where to find a ghost or where to even begin looking, he decided to find someone who would – a sage who lived in a nearby forest. And so he set off on a journey to find the great sage he had heard so much about, who was said to possess all kinds of knowledge and wisdom, even special powers. The man felt sure this sage would be able to help him and was determined to seek him out.
After many days over searching, in the dark depths of a thick forest he found the very old and frail looking man. His hair was thick and knotted at the top, and he was sat meditating before a fire. Not wanting to risk his wrath by disturbing him, he waited for him to finish.
When at last the great sage’s eyes opened, the man fell at his feet and began to weep. “My son, what has happened to you? Who are you? Why did you come here?”
Mumbling through his tears, the man replied: “I’m really very poor. I have nothing. I want a ghost to work for me, and I know you are the only one who can help me. Please sir, I beg you, please help me. I beg you to help me.”
The sage raised his eyebrow in surprise, knowing the man didn’t realise what he was getting into. “Leave this place now, we are done here. Go home”
The poor man however, was extremely persistent. He began to follow the sage around everyday, waiting and hoping he would help him. Weeks passed and the sage grew tired of him. “Here, take this mantra. Repeat it and a ghost will be bound to your command. But beware, they are terrible creatures and need work. If you don’t give him something to do… he will take your life”
The man smiled and immediately ran off, feeling confident he had plenty for the ghost to do. Without wasting any time, he immediately began reciting the mantra. And a ghost soon appeared. “I am a ghost and you have bound me to work for you. You better keep me occupied, because the moment I have nothing to do and I have no commands to follow – I will kill you fool!” the ghost said in a deep menacing voice.
The man was a little scared for a moment, and thought about what he had done. But then he smiled, and laughed. “Build me a palace then… to get started” To his surprise, the ghost waved his hand and it was done. A beautiful palace rose in front of him from the ground.
“Next…” The ghost said, looking unimpressed.
Jumping up and down excitedly, the man shouted “Bring me jewels…money!! gold!! wealth!! women!!” and began shouting out everything he had dreamed so long of. And to his delight, they appeared just as quickly as the palace. Before long he was surrounded by a small kingdom, women, gold, jewels, money – everything.
He gazed at his new possessions greedily, and forgot about the ghost. “Give me more work!! More work NOW! Otherwise I will kill you right here!” Realising the ghost was getting agitated, he increased his demands. “Okay. Build me a city, bigger than no other, richer and higher than any other in this world”
But the ghost took no time at all, and it was done in an instant. The man panicked, he was in trouble. “What next? Or is it time for me to eat?” Now the man began to fret, he had nothing left to think of. He began to run as fast as he could back to where he had left the sage and thankfully he was still there.
“Sir! I have nothing left for the ghost to do!! Please help!” the man shouted as he approached, his voice quivering. “Help me please, save my life! He finished everything I gave me in a second… what shall I do?!”
The kind sage felt pity for the poor man and looked at the man, seeing how he was suffering felt he should help. “I don’t want anything, it can all go back, please just help!”
“You are a fool. Stand up and listen. See that dog over there” he said, pointing to a nearby wild dog, “cut off it’s tail and tell the ghost to straighten it out. That will keep him busy. Go now before it finds you!” Hastily the man caught the dog, and with the blade in his pocket, cut the tail off the dog. As he did so, the ghost appeared, and rushed towards him threateningly.
Holding the tail out before him in terror the man squeezed his eyes closed and said: “Straighten out this dog’s tail for me!”
The ghost stopped, and snatched it out of his outstretched hand. “I’ll do it now and then kill you. Ha ha ha!” The man watched, his heart beating hard against his chest, as the ghost began working.
He sat on the ground and slowly and carefully straightened the curly tail out. But as soon as he let it go, it instantly curled up again. Once more he laboriously straightened it out, only to find it again curled up as soon as he let go of it. So it went on for days and days, until he was exhausted and said, “I have never been in such a trouble before in my life. I’m a very old ghost but never have I been in such a trouble”.
At last the ghost said to the man “Sir, I’ll make a compromise with you: you let me off and I‘ll let you keep all I’ve given you and promise not to harm you”.
The man took the offer gladly and heaved a sigh of relief.
Moral: This world is like a dog’s curly tail, and people have been striving to straighten it out for hundreds of years; but when they let it go, it has curled up again. How could it be otherwise?
One must first know how to work without attachment, then one will not be a fanatic. When we know that this world is like a dog’s curly tail and will never get straightened, we shall not become fanatics. If there were no fanaticism in the world, it would make much more progress than it does now. It is a mistake to think that fanaticism can make for the progress of mankind. On the contrary, it is a retarding element creating hatred and anger, and causing people to fight each other, and making them unsympathetic. We think that whatever we do or possess is the best in the world, and what we do not do or possess is of no value. So, always remember the instance of the curly tail of the dog whenever you have a tendency to become a fanatic.