Poor & Rich or Rich & Dead?

This story was told by Sir John Kotelawala to Dr Ariyaratme, founder of the Sarvodaya Movement, in “Bhava Thanha: An Autobigraphy, Vol 1, by A. T. Ariyaratne.

“In a certain country a young couple lived in a mud hut built on the periphery of a jungle.They would get up in the morning, find something to eat, pack their lunches and enter the forest, carrying a knife, axe and coir rope. All day they chopped wood. Before coming back home they would always pay homage to the tree God by lighting a clay oil lamp. So life went on and they grew older day by day. But their happiness did not wane. They lived very independently.

One day the tree God felt sorry for the couple. He mused: ‘For 50 years these two have been lighting a lamp for me and worshipping me. What have I done for them in return?’ He decided to give them in return.

One day the couple finished their chores in the forest, had their lunch and then went to light the lamp for the tree God. What did they see? In a watti (basket) placed the base of the tree, were glimmering gem stones.

‘Oh! Finally the god has rewarded us,’ they exclaimed. And wrapping the gems in a cloth, they left their equipment and bundles of wood there and returned home.

That night the old woman cooked the most delicious meal for the husband. The man dug a pit near the well and had a good bath, The wife came to the well to wash herself. The man took a mammoty and struck a blow on the woman’s head and killed her, put her body into the pit, covered it with soil, washed himself and went home happily.

Then he began to have his dinner. After a few mouthfuls he too died. The woman had added poison to his food, hoping to kill him so she could wed a younger man”.