You have not given
until the giving has hurt you
and has at once quadrupled your cheer !
During Yudhisthir’s rajsuya yagya, after the Mahabharata War, a peculiarly large squirrel visited the site and began rolling on the hallowed grounds. Its body was covered with hair, half of which was golden in colour.
When asked by curious attendees and participants of the yagya, the squirrel said, “O King, I have previously been to a site of glorious giving, rolling on which half of my hair turned golden. I thought, yours was an even grander affair, during which much was given away to the poor, needy and the scholarly. I believed, rolling at this site would convert the other half of my golden. But nothing has happened. It suggests to me that the giving here was not of enough merit. I do not know why, though.”
There was palpable sadness in the squirrel’s eyes as he spoke thus. The king asked the squirrel to describe the “sacrifice” that had taken place at the site of his previous trasforming encounter.
“O King, there wasn’t much there, no grandeur in happening there, no congregation of prestigeous scholars and honourable attendees. It was just a poor family of four, two parents and two children, who had not eaten anything for days. But that evening, the man had chance obtained enough flour for gour flatbreads, which the woman had then prepared and was serving before the seated members of the family. Just before the psrtaking was about to begin, however, they heard the call of a mendicant who had knocked at the door. He asked to be fed because he had not had anything to eat during the day.
“The man, O King, who had answered the call, came back in and asked his wife if it was alright for him to give way his portion of food to the hungry visitor. The woman cheerfully nodded, giving her assent, saying, “Don’t worry, Husband, we have enough between us to partake.” The man invited the visitor in, offered him a seat, and served his plate alongwith a glass of water, asking to be forgiven for the bare fare he was able to offer to the honoured guest.
“The visitor ate the flstbread in no time and looked at the man, expecting to be asked for more. Even before the man could look at his wife for her advice on the peculiar situation, the woman picked up her share and handed it to the man, to be given to the hungry visitor. But that too was over in no time and the guest waited still, for more. Seeing this, the elder son offered his portion to his father, to be served to the guest. Expecting what was to follow, the youngest of the family also stood and extended his plate to the man even before the guest would have to look up in askance.
“Thus fulfilled, O King, the visitor topped off his meal with quick gulps of water and was soon on his way. The family drank bellyful of water and went to bed on their starved stomachs. It was found, next morning, that all of them had passed away in their sleep. Hearing of this commotion amongst the neighbours, I had gone inside the poor man’s hut and, as is my whimsical nature, had rolled on its floor for a short while. When I next went to the waterhole to quench my thirst, I observed this grand transformation in my look : one half of my body had turned gloriously golden. That half seemed so ethereal and sublime, I danced with joy and blessed the poor family for its deed. Since then, I have been visiting every hallowed ground of sacrifice, much grander than the poor man’s hut, but have been disappointed. And the story repeats here…”
The entire congregation, listening to the squirrel’s words, were shocked to be told how little all the declared ‘sacrifice’, and giving away of wealth and goods, meant in truth, compared to the giving of plain flatbreads by the poor family to their honoured chance visitor.