The container of wisdom

Myth Theory 23 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, Oct. 14, 2011

Unable to bear his poverty, a priest went to the temple and begged the deity there for a solution. That night the deity left a golden pot in the courtyard of the priest’s house. The priest found the golden pot with some water in it. He threw the water out and went to the market where he sold the pot to a merchant. With the money he received, he repaid all his debts and returned home a rich man laden with gifts for his family. Soon after, his family fought over the vast wealth, everyone from his wife to his children to his parents and his siblings demanding their share. Unable to bear the mental agony, the priest went back to the temple and complained to the deity. “You have added to my problem not solved it with the golden pot”. And the deity said, “Golden pot? What golden pot? I gave you the elixir of contentment, enough for you and your family. It happened to be contained in a golden pot. Did you not drink it?”

Every job is a golden container full of water. The pot is the salary that pays our bills and the designation that pleases our desire to feel significant. But in each job is potentially the opportunity to grow intellectually and emotionally. Each job contains the seed of learning that can germinate in our mind, if we allow it to. Unfortunately, jobs are seen more in economic terms (the pot) than in learning terms (the water).

When Jacob retired, he expected that the company would throw a farewell party. This did not happen. When Jacob retired, he expected that the company would miss him terribly and call him back. Even this did not happen. He felt unwanted and small. He did not matter, he realized. So when he went back to claim his final dues, he went with a heavy heart. As he waited outside the office, familiar faces passed him by. Some stopped and spoke to him, some smiled, some just ignored him. At that moment, Jacob had a Eureka moment. He realized he did not need his job to validate himself. That is what he was doing and that was his problem. The office like the forest outlives the resident beasts. The beasts find nourishment in the forest but eventually they die. The forest continues to be neither loving nor hating its resident beasts. Animals do not resent the forest when it is time for them to go, but humans do. Why?

Animals work for survival. Humans are the only animals who also work for meaning. Hence in Sanskrit, the same word, artha, is used to indicate economics, politics and meaning. Jobs can give us money and power (the pot) but they can also give us wisdom (the water). Do we drink the water?

As Jacob speculated, he drank the water. Suddenly wisdom dawned. He felt like Newton hit by an apple. He realized that he was expecting too much from the organization. It neither loved him nor hated him. It gave him value and he gave value to it. And now it was time to part ways, without rage or resentment. With that realization, Jacob found his final artha and quenched his thirst. He took his dues and left with a smile.

  • Rajiv Ranjan Singh

    Too difficult lesson to learn Devduttji…

  • Rajiv Ranjan Singh

    Too difficult lesson to learn Devduttji…:-)

  • NR

    Excellent ….but the only sad thing is that it took long time for Jacob to realize ….the realization should dawn within 2 or 3 years into a job !!!

  • KKM

    The pity is: Everybody nowadays wants the golden pot only. who cares for the water?

  • Wonderful post. ” unfortunately jobs are seen more in economic terms rather than learning terms”- so true. But the roots are further below. I would take this further & say education is viewed in economic terms(what job will x degree & y college get me) rather than learning terms.

  • Mohan

    Once again.


  • Deepankar Sinha

    Nope. Companies don’t create jobs so that you get your “Pot of contentment”. Companies hire and give jobs to people for their own profit making.

    I think you are goofing up entreprenuer in mythology with the real world ones. They have their value systems diametrically opposite to each other.

  • Manoj Deshmukh

    Such a small story with great message! I relied liked the way Sanskrit uses word “Artha”

  • Sid

    very nice article.I have written a post sometime back on the same topic. My idea was that if you think of only money in everything, its like only looking at the rear mirror while driving. we all know wht happens…the full article is here. http://sidsavenue.blogspot.com/2011/04/why-blog-because-i-look-at-rear-mirror.ht ml

  • Mo pakhare Bhasa nahin debaku prattuttara.(Have no words to comment ,just fond of it, love it n will die for it

  • KGMohan

    Great analogy Devdutt – forest and the workplace – both provide abundant opportunity of resources and learning. If only one derived this essence earlier in life – the personal gain would have been immense.

  • Rasik

    You explained it so well – what causes the rage and frustration is the clinginess, the expectation and of course the I that is ignored

    At all points we need to back off a little and view without attachment

  • subhashish basak

    Great article sirji…..

  • a

    Good one…a lesson worth learning…

  • Vibha

    True.. company neither loves employee nor hate them.

  • Manish Mali

    Dear devduttji…

    Beautiful Story on
    Living & Working
    with Detachement !!!

    Keep Posting such Stories…

    Lots of Love…

  • Shailesh

    Very good article. However sometimes we do know that where the ARTHA is however we the human beings get carried away with our nature and run after the POT.

    Thank you for beautiful narrate.


  • Shanmukha Rao

    Very important hard lesson and one should defintely learn this. Sometimes myself felt small when moving to other teams on project completion. As Lord Krishna said, do what you need to do and don’t expect the results.

  • Roma

    Awesome one.

  • Jasmine Suri

    awesome insight

  • Basanth Agarwal

    Well said devduttji…

  • Srini

    Very true…I fill it applies in every relations..we expects lots from our surroundings..

  • Subhasis Pujapanda

    As usual a lesson to learn and implement as well. Fine blend of golden pot and elixir. A fine example for people who ignore learning while associating them with a job.