by Morris Seiyo Sensei
In the essay, “A Stone,” in Rev. Koyo Kubose’s Everyday Suchness, there is this passage:
A wise and alert person is not deceived. Those who are gullible or greedy are easily deceived.
When I read this passage, it reminded me of a teaching I once accidentally received as a result of my own ignorance and greed, and it gave me a good laugh to think about this again.
When I was 18 or 19 years old, I was working my way through community college by delivering office supplies. One Friday—a payday—a man pulled up alongside me as I walked across a parking lot to deliver a package. He drove a big gray sedan, and he said he was a manufacturer’s rep for a watch company. He was asking for my help—he had lost his wallet and needed gas money to get back home. Maybe I’d like a great deal on a really nice watch.
He showed me the watch, still in its display box. It was beautiful. I was barely making ends meet in those days, but it happened for some reason that I had a few extra bucks that week, and my old cheap Timex was so scratched and battered I could barely read the face. I really wanted that beautiful watch. It was gold, and had diamonds arranged around the face, and bore the name of a well-known Swiss watchmaker. But no way could I afford a watch like that.
He asked for a hundred bucks. It happened that I had that amount of money, but no way could I spend it on a watch. I offered him less than half. To me, that was still a huge amount of money; it was almost as much as two or three credit hours’ tuition would cost, and I’d have to deprive myself of some basic necessities. But he said he was desperate, and he took the money.
Back in the van, I couldn’t wait to put the watch on. But I noticed something odd—there was an extra “G” in “Omega.” I shrugged it off, finished up my day’s deliveries and headed back to the store, where I proudly showed the watch to my friends at work. They all admired its beauty.
By the end of the day, the watch was running five minutes fast. By the end of the next day, the watch was gaining five minutes every hour and the little “diamonds” had started falling out of their settings and rolling around inside the crystal. When I awoke on day three, the watch had stopped. I wound it, and the hands spun around the face like something out of a cartoon.
I was disappointed, but for some reason I wasn’t angry. My mom suggested I call the police, and some friends offered to help me look for the guy and try to get my money back. But I said no—I had been irresponsible to part with that much of my limited funds for something as frivolous as a fancy watch, and this was the price of folly.
I had definitely learned something that stuck with me to this day. The “businessman” had taught me more than I would have learned in a semester of college about the true value of gold and jewel-encrusted material goods versus the cost of ignorance and greed.
Morris Seiyo Sensei is sensei at the Volusia Buddhist Fellowship and author of Wisdom, Compassion and Serenity: The First Steps on the Buddhist Path.