Friday, August 9, 2013

Artha Shoucha - Purity in "Financial Dealings"

It was a hot afternoon and the sun was blazing in full glory.  Most of the people were indoors and taking rest after lunch.  Their afternoon siesta was disturbed by the continuous noise of the ringing of the big bell.  The King had arranged for fixing a big bell in an elevated place in front of the palace.  A long  rope tied to the gong was enabling ringing of the bell by pulling the rope.  Anyone aggrieved could go to the bell and pull the string.  The reverberating noise would bring all concerned to the adjoining court hall.  The King himself would arrive and the court would be in session.  The hearings were open and the general public could sit and watch the proceedings.  There was no need to file a complaint and wait for a date for hearing.  The parties to the litigation would be heard immediately.  The evidence would be evaluated and judgement pronounced then and there, save for rare exceptions.  The judgement was just and often harsh on the wrong-doer.  There was no escape from the consequences of wrong-doing, irrespective of who the accused were.  In the early days after the bell was fixed, there were a number of instances when the bell was used by parties seeking justice.  In due course, the very existence of the bell reminded the people of the harsh and merciless judgement that would follow if they did anything wrong.  Now the people were law abiding and did not dare to do any injustice to others.  The community was living peacefully and the state was prospering making everyone happy.

Ringing of the bell after a long time triggered a plethora of questions.  Who is ringing the bell now?  What is the reason? Who is the complainant?  What could be the contents of the complaint?  These were some of the questions on the lips of the people of the city as they flocked the courtyard.  The King also arrived shortly.  Everyone was surprised when they saw the complainant.  The rope tied to the gong was being pulled not by a man or woman but a dog!  It did not make any difference to the King.  He started the proceedings in right earnest.

"What is your complaint and what is the relief you require?" asked the King.
"I was going in the street without disturbing anyone. One man threw a stone at me.  It hit me with full force and I am bleeding profusely.  I want him punished for his act", said the dog.
"Who was the man?", the King asked.

Dog gave the description of the person who hit him.  While this inquiry was going on, the palace Vaidya (Doctor) started applying a bandage on the wounded part of the dog's body.  Within a few minutes, guards of the courtyard brought a man fitting the description given by the dog.  The dog identified its assailant.  Court proceedings continued.

"Did you hit the dog with a stone?", the King thundered.  The assailant did not muster courage to lie.
"Yes, your majesty. I hit the dog with a stone", he agreed.
"What was the reason for throwing a stone?  Did it attack you?", asked the King.
"No your majesty, it was an unprovoked action", said the man sheepishly.

Guilt was established beyond all reasonable doubts.  The attacker had confessed to the crime.  The King had developed a practice of asking the complainant to suggest the nature and quantum of punishment.  He asked the dog to suggest the punishment to the accused.

"Make him a Dharmadarshi (Trustee) of a temple, Your Majesty", said the dog.  Everyone present, including the King and the ministers, were surprised.  To avoid any misunderstanding King asked the dog: "Are you sure of what you are suggesting?  Do you think it is a punishment? Is it not more of  a reward"?

The dog replied in the affirmative.  "Yes, your honour.  I was myself a trustee of a place of worship in my last life.  I had to handle a lot of temple funds.  I could not resist some misappropriation of funds for my own benefit.  I am now born as a dog.  Let this man be made a trustee of public funds.  He is most likely to misappropriate funds for selfish ends.  As a consequence, he will be born as a dog in the next birth.  I am repenting for my misdeeds in the last birth.  I may be born as a man again in my next birth.  Then I can throw a stone at him and take revenge!"

Whether there is a next birth or whether dogs could talk is not the question in this story.  Whether taking revenge is a proper response is also not the moot point.  Handling public funds or others property without misuse is the basic issue.  This has become all the more focused now in view of the multitude of scams that are unearthed regularly, day after day.

Bharata Ratna Sir M Visvesvaraya, former Devan of the princely state of Mysore and identified with the KRS Dam, was known to be an epitome of utmost probity in public life.  He is said to have two sets of candles in is office.  He would use the candle bought from government funds in the night until he finished his official work.  Just as he finished his official work, that candle would be extinguished and another candle bought from his personal funds would be lit for doing other chores.  There cannot be a better example of "Purity in Financial Dealings" than this.  The word "SCAM" would not find any takers if such is the practice today.

Purity in financial dealings is the most precious of all purities.  Especially when it involves public funds or others money.  Hence the saying:

सर्वेषामेव शोउचानां अर्थशोउचम् परम् स्मृतं |
योर्थे शुचिर्हि स शुचिः न म्रुद्वारि शुचिः शुचिः ||

SarvEshAmeva showchANam arthashowcham param smrutam
Yorthe shuchirhi sa shuchihi na mrudwari shuchih shuchihi

"Purity in Financial Dealings" is the most sacred of all purities.  A person not pure in his financial dealings remains impure even if he is clean in all other respects.  Bathing any number of times using any quantity of cleaning material (like mud, soaps etc.) does not make him clean.

Who can tell this to our leaders and their followers (us)?         


  1. Sir, you did a good job on a basic or a minute point, but meaningful, and clearing our thoughts................

  2. your narration reminded me of a definition i heard on "Integrity" recently from a friend of mine: not being tempted to indulge in a financial misdemeanor even when you are 100% sure that it is not going to be noticed by any one. The revered Shri Visweshwarayya belongs to this rare breed. Thanks for your article which, as is with the earlier pieces, very captivating.

    S. Raman

  3. Nice.

    R Jagannathan