There was a poor man who wanted some money; and somehow he had heard
that if he could get hold of a ghost, he might command him to bring money or
anything else he liked; so he was very anxious to get hold of a ghost. He went
about searching for a man who would give him a ghost, and at last he found a
sage with great powers, and besought his help. The sage asked him what he
would do with a ghost. I want a ghost to work for me; teach me how to get hold
of one, sir; I desire it very much," replied the man. But the sage said, "Don't
disturb yourself, go home." The next day the man went again to the sage and
began to weep and pray, "Give me a ghost; I must have a ghost, sir, to help
me." At last the sage was disgusted, and said, "Take this charm, repeat this
magic word, and a ghost will come, and whatever you say to him he will do.
But beware; they are terrible beings, and must be kept continually busy. If you
fail to give him work, he will take your life." The man replied, "That is easy; I
can give him work for all his life." Then he went to a forest, and after long
repetition of the magic word, a huge ghost appeared before him, and said, "I am
a ghost. I have been conquered by your magic; but you must keep me
constantly employed. The moment you fail to give me work I will kill you."
The man said, "Build me a palace," and the ghost said, "It is done; the palace is
built." "Bring me money," said the man. "Here is your money," said the ghost.
"Cut this forest down, and build a city in its place." "That is done," said the
ghost, "anything more?" Now the man began to be frightened and thought he
could give him nothing more to do; he did everything in a trice. The ghost said,
"Give me something to do or I will eat you up." The poor man could find no
further occupation for him, and was frightened. So he ran and ran and at last
reached the sage, and said, "Oh, sir, protect my life!" The sage asked him what
the matter was, and the man replied, "I have nothing to give the ghost to do.
Everything I tell him to do he does in a moment, and he threatens to eat me up
if I do not give him work." Just then the ghost arrived, saying, "I'll eat you up,"
and he would have swallowed the man. The man began to shake, and begged
the sage to save his life. The sage said, "I will find you a way out. Look at that
dog with a curly tail. Draw your sword quickly and cut the tail off and give it to
the ghost to straighten out." The man cut off the dog's tail and gave it to the
ghost, saying, "Straighten that out for me." The ghost took it and slowly and
carefully straightened it 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 attempted to let go of it. Again he patiently straightened it out,
but as soon as he let it go, it curled up again. So he went on for days and days,
until he was exhausted and said, "I was never in such trouble before in my life.
I am an old veteran ghost, but never before was I in such trouble." "I will make
a compromise with you ;" he said to the man, "you let me off and I will let you
keep all I have given you and will promise not to harm you." The man was
much pleased, and accepted the offer gladly.
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. You need
not worry or make yourself sleepless about the world; it will go on without
you. When you have avoided fanaticism, then alone will you work well. It is
the level-headed man, the calm man, of good judgment and cool nerves, of
great sympathy and love, who does good work and so does good to himself.
The fanatic is foolish and has no sympathy; he can never straighten the world,
nor himself become pure and perfect.