Chapter 17 — Rama on Greed

Rama speaking:—

I see our vices like a flock of owls flying in the region of our minds, under the darkness of our affections, and in the longsome night of our greed. I am parched by my anxieties like wet clay under the sun, infusing an inner heat by extracting its soft moisture. My mind is like a vast and lonesome wilderness, covered under the mist of errors, and infested by the terrible fiend of desire that is continually floundering about it. My wailings and tears serve only to expand and mature my anxiety, as the dews of night open and ripen the blossoms of beans and give them a bright golden color.

Greed by raising expectations in men, serves only to whirl them about, like a vortex of the sea swallows marine animals. The stream of worldly greed flows like a rapid current within the rock of my body, with precipitate force and loud resounding waves. Our minds are driven by foul greed from one place to another, as dusty dry hay is carried away by winds, and as moisture loving chataka cuckoos are impelled by thirst to fly about.

It is greed that destroys all the good qualities and grace that we have learned in good faith, just like a mischievous mouse gnaws the strings of a musical instrument. We turn on the wheel of our cares, like withered leaves upon water, like dry grass blown by wind, and like autumn clouds in the sky. 10 Being over powered by greed, we are unable to reach the goal of perfection, like a bird entangled in a snare is kept from flight.

11 I am so greatly burnt by the flame of greed that I doubt whether this inflammation may be relieved even by administration of nectar. 12 Like a heated mare, greed takes me far and farther still from my place, and brings me back to it again and again. Thus it hurries me up and down and to and fro in all directions forever.

13 The rope of greed pulls us up and cast us down again like a bucket into a well. 14 Man’s greed leads him about like a bullock of burden. His avarice bends his heart as fast as the rope does the beast, and it is hard for him to break. 15 As the hunter spreads his net to catch birds, so does our affection for friends, wives and children stretch snares to entrap us every day. 16 Greed like a dark night terrifies even the wise, blindfolds the keen-sighted, and depresses the spirit of the happiest of men. 17 Our appetite is as heinous as a serpent, soft to feel, but full of deadly poison, and bites us as soon as it is felt. 18 It is also like a black sorceress who deludes men by her magic, then pierces him in his heart to expose him to danger afterwards.

19 This body of ours, shattered by our greed, is like a worn out lute, fastened by arteries resembling strings, but emitting no pleasing sound. 20 Our greed is like the long fibered, dark and juicy poisonous vine called kaduka that grows in mountain caves and maddens men by its flavor. 21 Greed is as vain, empty, fruitless, aspiring, unpleasant and perilous as a dry twig of a tree that bears no fruit or flower, but is hurtful with its prickly point.

22 Venality is like a mean old woman, who from the incontinence of her heart, courts the company of every man without gaining the object of her desire. 23 Greed is an old actress who plays her various parts in the vast theatre of world in order to please the different tastes of her audience. 24 Parsimony is like a poisonous plant growing in the wide wilderness of the world, bearing old age and infirmity as its flowers, and producing our troubles as its fruits. 25 Our churlishness resembles an aged actress who attempts a manly feat she has not the strength to perform, yet keeps up the dance without pleasing anybody.

26 Our fleeting thoughts are as fickle as peacocks soaring over inaccessible heights under the clouds (of ignorance), but ceasing to fly in the daylight (of reason). 27 Greed is like a river during the rains, rising for a time with its rolling waves, and afterwards lying low in its empty bed. 28 Greed is as inconstant as a female bird that changes her mates at times, and quits the tree that no longer bears fruit. 29 The greedy are as unsteady as a springing monkey that never rests at any place but moves to places impassable by others, and craves for fruit even when satisfied.

30 The acts of greed are as inconstant as those of chance, both of which are ever on the alert, but never attended with their sequence. 31 Our venality is like a black bee sitting on the lotus of our hearts where it buzzes above, below and all about.

32 Of all worldly evils, greed is the source of the longest sorrow. She exposes even the most secluded man to peril. 33 Greed, like a group of clouds, is filled with a thick mist of error obstructing the light of heaven and causing a dull insensitivity. 34 Penury, which seems to gird the breasts of worldly people with chains of gems and jewels, binds them like beasts with halters about their necks.

35 Covetousness stretches itself long and wide and presents to us a variety of colors like a rainbow. It is equally unsubstantial and without any property as the iris, resting in vapor and vacuum and being only a shadow itself. 36 It burns away our good qualities as fire does dry hay. It numbs our good sense as frost freezes the lotus. It grows our evils as autumn does the grass. It increases our ignorance as winter prolongs the night.

37 Greediness is as an actress on the stage of the world. She is like a bird flying out of the nest of our houses, like a deer running about in the desert of our hearts, and like a lute making us sing and dance at its tune.

38 Our desires like great waves toss us about in the ocean of our earthly cares. They bind us fast to delusion like chains bind an elephant. Like the banyan tree, they produce the roots of our regeneration, and like moonbeams they put our budding sorrows to bloom. 39 Greed is a jewel-encrusted box filled with misery, decrepitude, death, disorder and disasters like a mad drunken dance.

40 Our wishes are sometimes as pure as light and at other times as foul as darkness; now they are as clear as the milky way, and again as obscure as thickest mists. 41 All our bodily troubles are avoided by abstaining from greed, just as we are freed from fear of night demons at the dispersion of darkness. 42 As long as men remain in dumbness and mental delirium, they are subject to the poisonous colic of greed. 43 Men may get rid of their misery by freeing themselves from anxieties. The abandonment of cares is said to be the best remedy for greed.

44 As fish in a pond fondly grasp bait in expectation of a morsel, so the avaricious lay hold on anything, be it wood or stone or even a bit of straw. 45 Greed like an acute pain excites even the gravest of men to motion, just like the sunshine raises lotus blossoms above water. 46 It is comparable to bamboo in its length, hollowness, hard knots, and thorny prickles, and yet it is entertained with hopes that it might yield manna and pearls.

47 It is a wonder that high-minded men have been able to cut off this almost un-severable knot of greed by the glittering sword of reason, 48 because neither the edge of a sword, nor the fire of lightening, nor the sparks of a red-hot iron are sharp enough to sever the keen greed seated in our hearts. 49 It is like the flame of a lamp which is bright but blackening and acutely burning at its end. Fed by the oily wicks, it is vivid but never handled by anybody.

50 Penury has the power of demeaning, in a moment, the best of men to the baseness of straw in spite of their wisdom, heroism and gravity in other respects. 51 Greed is like the great valley of the Vindhya Hills, beset with deserts and impenetrable forests, terrible and full of traps laid by the hunters, filled with dust and mist. 52 One single greed has everything in the world for its object, and though seated in the breast, it is imperceptible to all. It is like the undulating Milky Ocean in this fluctuating world, sweeping all things yet regaling mankind with its odorous waves.