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A Miser And His Gold – Spiritual Story by Anthony de Mello

A miser hid his gold at the foot of a tree in his garden. Every week he would dig it up and look at it for hours. One day, a thief dug up the gold and made off with it. When the miser next came to gaze upon his treasure, all he found was an empty hole.

The man began to howl with grief, so his neighbors came running to find out what the trouble was. When they found out, one of them asked, “Did you use any of the gold?”

“No,” said the miser. “I only looked at it every week.”

“Well then,” said the neighbor, “for all the good the gold did you, you might as well come every week and gaze upon the hole.”

This is from The Heart of the Enlightened, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.

The Spiritual Moral / Meaning of This Story

This story presents a profound commentary on the nature of wealth, attachment, and the true value of possessions. The miser's behavior and his ultimate loss provide several spiritual lessons that can be applied to our lives. Each aspect of the story unveils deeper truths about our relationship with material wealth and the significance we attach to it.

The first lesson is about the nature of attachment and its futility. The miser's obsession with his gold, despite not using it, symbolizes the emptiness of attachment to material possessions. His weekly ritual of gazing at the gold reflects how we often place undue importance on accumulating wealth and possessions without considering their actual utility. This attachment leads to an illusion of security and happiness, which is easily shattered, as seen when the thief steals the gold.

Man Buried His Gold In NatureAnother moral of the story concerns the true value of wealth. The neighbor's remark, “for all the good the gold did you, you might as well come every week and gaze upon the hole,” highlights the idea that wealth, if not used or shared, is essentially worthless. The gold did not improve the miser’s life; it merely served as an object of obsession. This teaches us that the value of wealth lies in its potential to be used for beneficial purposes, rather than just being hoarded.

The story also speaks to the transient nature of material possessions. The theft of the gold illustrates how external wealth can be easily lost or taken away. This impermanence should remind us to seek fulfillment and security in more stable and enduring sources, such as relationships, knowledge, and personal growth. The focus on material wealth often blinds us to the more meaningful aspects of life that bring true joy and contentment.

Additionally, the miser's grief and the neighbors' reactions emphasize the importance of perspective. While the miser is devastated by his loss, the neighbor's practical view points out the futility of his attachment. This teaches us the value of maintaining a balanced perspective on our possessions and not letting them define our happiness or self-worth.

The story also touches on the concept of utility and purpose. The miser’s gold, buried and unused, serves no real purpose. This reflects the broader principle that our resources—whether material, intellectual, or emotional—should be utilized in ways that contribute to our well-being and the well-being of others. Idle resources are wasted potential.

Furthermore, the miser's behavior underscores the idea of living in the present and appreciating what we have. His focus on the gold prevents him from enjoying the present moment and the simple pleasures of life. This teaches us to be mindful and grateful for what we have, rather than constantly longing for more or being consumed by our possessions.

Lastly, the story imparts a lesson on generosity and sharing. The miser’s solitary enjoyment of his gold contrasts with the potential joy and benefit that could have come from sharing it. This highlights the spiritual principle that true wealth is found in giving and sharing with others, which enriches our lives far more than hoarding ever could.

Personal Reflection Questions:

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. What material possessions or wealth am I overly attached to, and why?
  2. How do I use my resources—whether financial, intellectual, or emotional—to benefit myself and others?
  3. What is the true value of the possessions I hold dear?
  4. How can I shift my focus from accumulating wealth to creating meaningful experiences?
  5. In what ways can I ensure that my resources serve a useful purpose rather than being hoarded?
  6. How do I cope with the impermanence of material possessions in my life?
  7. What steps can I take to cultivate a sense of fulfillment and security from non-material sources?
  8. How can I practice gratitude for what I have in the present moment?
  9. What opportunities do I have to share my wealth or resources with others?
  10. How can I balance my desire for material wealth with the pursuit of personal growth and well-being?

A Poem Based On This Story

The Hidden Gold: True Riches in Generosity

In a garden's secret place, beneath a tree so old,
A miser hid his treasure, his precious stash of gold,
Each week he'd dig it up and stare, with eyes of greed and lust,
Forgetting all the wealth it held, consumed by hoarding's dust.

One night a thief with silent steps, unearthed the buried prize,
And stole away the gleaming coins beneath the starry skies,
When next the miser came to see his treasure's shining hue,
He found an empty, gaping hole, his wealth no longer true.

He howled in grief, his heart in pain, his neighbors gathered near,
They learned of his misfortune and then one asked sincere,
“Did you use the gold you had, to better life or heart?”
“No,” replied the miser, “I just gazed upon my part.”

“Then for the good it did you,” said the neighbor wise and bold,
“You might as well come every week and gaze upon the hole.”
For wealth that's hoarded, never used, is empty, void, and vain,
True riches lie in what we give, in love that we sustain.

So let us learn from miser's loss, and treasure what we hold,
By sharing, using, spreading joy, not clinging to our gold,
For in the act of giving, in generosity's embrace,
We find a wealth that never fades, a light that time can't erase.