A man had been worshipping Shiva and harassing him for a very, very long time. What else is worship if not harassment? – just one tune, just one refrain: “Oh Lord! Give me something so that my life will become a joy! I am asking you only this once, but give me something so that there simply remains no need to ask for anything anymore.”
So after constant pestering, tremendous harassment…because this man took no heed whether it was morning, evening or night. Any time he woke up, it could be in the middle of the night, he would be after Shiva. Finally Shiva gave the man a conch shell so he could fulfill his wishes. And Shiva said to him, “The special thing about this conch shell is that from today, whatsoever you will ask it for, it will give it to you. Now, you need not bother yourself anymore: there is no need for worship and prayer. You can leave me in peace! Whatsoever you want, simply ask the conch shell for it. It will provide you with it instantly. Just ask, and the thing will be given.”
The man tried it. He asked for a palace to be built and it was instantly done. He asked for a huge pile of gold coins and that was given. He felt blessed beyond measure. Even if Shiva hadn’t pleaded with him in such a way, he was bound to forget Shiva. He just forgot all about him: where Shiva had gone, what might have happened to him, what calamities might have befallen him. The man simply couldn’t be bothered to worry about all of that. There was only his conch shell and whatsoever he desired….
But then trouble arose. A saint came as a guest to his palace and the saint also had a conch shell. This other conch shell was exactly like his own, except that it was twice as large. And the saint used to keep it very carefully. He did not possess anything else. This big conch shell was the only thing in his bag.
So the man asked the saint, “Why do you keep it under such strict surveillance?”
The saint said, “It is no ordinary conch shell. It is mahashankh, the great conch shell. Ask it for one, and it gives you two. Ask it to build one palace and it builds you two. One is out of the question for it – always.”
The man became greedy. He said, “This is amazing! I also have a conch shell, but a poor one – a mini-sized one. You have unnecessarily made me a poor, wretched fellow. Now I am a poor man. Let me witness the miracle of your conch shell.”
The saint said, “It is next to impossible to witness its miracle. In the deep silence of the night, exactly at midnight when everybody is asleep, is the only time you can ask it for anything. Stay awake tonight and you can hear it for yourself.”
Exactly at midnight, the saint asked the conch shell, “Give me a Kohinoor!”
The conch shell said, “Not one. I will give two.”
The saint said, “Alright, two; give me two.”
The conch shell replied, “Not two, four. Are you aware whom you are talking to? Talk sensibly.”
The saint said, “Alright brother, give me four.”
The great conch shell said, “Now I will give eight.”