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Chapter 27: This I Call “The Razor’s Edge”

There is an ancient parable in India: A man was a great devotee, but as devotees are, his devotion was not a gratitude but a greed. He was asking God, “Give me something so that I can perform miracles. Just one small thing I am asking. For years I have been praying, and there is no response.” And finally it happened. God must have become bored and tired, because every morning, every evening, the same prayer: “Give me some power of miracles.”

So he gave him a small seashell and told him, “This is no ordinary seashell, it is magical. If you ask for something, that thing will immediately be presented to you.” He tried and it worked. He asked for something and immediately the thing appeared. He created a big palace, gathered all kinds of luxuries, and became the richest man of his land. But one day he got into great trouble.

A sage was passing through the city. He was very famous, very much respected, and naturally, the richest man invited him to stay in his guest house. And in the night he saw that great sage sitting outside the guest house on the lawn, with a similar kind of seashell but of double the size. And he was asking the seashell, “Give me one hundred rupees,” and the seashell would say, “I will give you two hundred.”

The rich man thought, “This is.. I was thinking that I have got the most miraculous thing in the world, but this man has got something which even answers and asks, ‘Are you ready to receive two hundred?’” He thought, “It will be good.he is a sage, perhaps he may be willing to exchange.”

He went to him with his shell, and he said, “You are a sage; I am a worldly man. I also have got this miraculous seashell, but it only gives what I ask. Your seashell.I have never even dreamt. But you are a sage, you can do well with my shell and you can give me your shell.”

The sage said, “There is no problem, you can have it.” The man rushed into his palace. He had a small hiding place where he used to ask the seashell for things. With the new seashell he entered there, locked the door from inside, and asked the seashell, “Give me one crore rupees.” And the seashell said, “No, I will give you two crore.” He said, “That’s very good. Give me two crore.” The seashell said, “No, I will give you four crore.” The man said, “Okay, give me four crore.”

The seashell said, “Now I have changed my mind, I will give you eight crore.” This went on - nothing was given, just it was doubled. He became afraid; he said, “What is the matter? Whatever I say, you simply double it.” The seashell said, “That is my quality, I don’t give anything.”

He rushed out to get his old shell back, but by that time the saint had disappeared. He was so miserable, but the seashell said to him, “Why are you so miserable? I am ready to do whatever you say, just say it.”

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