Buddhist Tales for Young & Old

A Man Named Wise (Cheating)

Once upon a time, the Enlightenment Being was born in a merchants’ family in Benares, in northern India. He was given the name Wise. When he grew up he began doing business with a man whose name just happened to be Verywise.

It came to pass that Wise and Verywise took a caravan of 500 bullock carts into the countryside. After selling all their goods they returned to Benares with their handsome profits.

When it came time to split their gains between them, Verywise said, “I should get twice as much profit as you.” “How come?” asked Wise. “Because you are Wise and I am Verywise. It is obvious that Wise should get only half as much as Verywise.”

Then Wise asked, “Didn’t we both invest equal amounts in this caravan trip? Why do you deserve twice as much profit as I?” Verywise replied, “Because of my quality of being Verywise.” In this way their quarrel went on with no end in sight.

Then Verywise thought, “I have a plan to win this argument.” So he went to his father and asked him to hide inside a huge hollow tree. He said, “When my partner and I come by and ask how to share our profits, then you should say, ‘Verywise deserves a double share.”‘

Verywise returned to Wise and said, ‘My friend, neither of us wants this quarrel. Let’s go to the old sacred tree and ask the tree spirit to settle it.”

When they went to the tree Verywise said solemnly, “My lord tree spirit, we have a problem. Kindly solve it for us.” Then his father, hidden inside the hollow tree, disguised his voice and asked, “What is your question?” The man’s cheating son said, “My lord tree spirit, this man is Wise and I am Verywise. We have done business together. Tell us how to share the profits.” Again disguising his voice, his father responded, “Wise deserves a single share and Verywise deserves a double share.”

Hearing this solution, Wise decided to find out if it really was a tree spirit speaking from inside the tree. So he threw some hay into it and set it on fire. Immediately Verywise’s father grabbed onto a branch, jumped out of the flames and fell on the ground. He said in his own voice,, “Although his name is Verywise, my son is just a clever cheater. I’m lucky that the one named Wise really is so. and I’ve escaped only half toasted!”

Then Wise and Verywise shared their profits equally. Eventually they both died and were reborn as they deserved.


The moral is: A cheater may be clever but not wise.