In the book Something You Forgot... Along the Way, there is a story "How Much Is Enough? -- The Farmer Who Was Overcome by Greed." It depicts a farmer who is craving for a big land but ends up falling dead. First let us read it once and then I'd like to offer some food for thought. Feel free to add your own comments and insights.
There is a story by Leo Tolstoy about a land-hungry farmer who heard of a country so vast that land could be had for the asking. He traveled there and found it was true. The inhabitants and the chief all welcomed him, and the chief told him that he could help himself to any piece of land he wanted—as much as he could get around on foot in a single day. “There is one condition,” added the chief. “You must start at sunrise and return to the place where you started before the sun sets. Start anywhere you like and go around marking the corners. Go as far and as wide as you please, but come back on time or you will gain nothing.”
That night the farmer lay awake with excitement at the thought of the vast tract awaiting him. In the morning, he set off just as dawn was breaking and soon settled on a starting point for his land. Gradually his pace quickened to a trot. After going several miles he marked another corner. Eventually he broke into a run, driven by the knowledge that the faster he went, the more land would be his. He came to what would have been a reasonable turning place and passed it by, his greed spurring him on. Finally, surprised to see the sun already high overhead, he marked the last corner and began to run back to the starting point. He barely took time to eat lunch. By mid-afternoon he was worn out, but he threw off his coat and boots and kept running. The sky was red with sunset. His feet were hurt and bloody and his heart was at the bursting point, but if he collapsed now, all his effort would be for nothing. He ran for all he was worth, his eyes on the goal.
His effort was rewarded, for he made it back just in time—only to fall over stone dead. His servant dug him a grave and buried him in it. In the end, all the land he needed was a plot six feet by two. Tolstoy’s farmer is not alone. Greed kills us all.
The farmer in this story lost his life for what reason? For his greed. Everyone spends their life (the sum of all the hours they have in life) to satisfy their greed. So this farmer represents our image as human beings. Did the farmer have his desire fulfilled? Yes, just for a moment; right before he collapsed.Also each one of us is exchanging our life for LAND/OUR DESIRES. For example, out of desire for delicious foods, we eat unhealthy food and lose our health as a result. Out of our desire for money, we answer the cell phone while driving and end up losing our car or our leg in an accident. Out of our desire for lust, we cancel our plan with old friends and go on a date; in this way, we lose the trust of our old friends. Our of desire for sleep, we might be late to work and lose our job. Sometimes we have awareness of losing these precious things but many times we lose them without even being aware. What should the farmer have done? He needed a plan to make an assessment of how much land he really needed. What is the mindset required to turn at the first marking on the land? COURAGE. In Buddhism, courage is to tackle difficult tasks; in this case, fighting against our greed. Members of this Buddhist group receive Phrase-A-Day Calendar, whose phrase on the 23rd day of the month is: The most courageous act is to tackle the most difficult task. Because we are made of desires, it is hard to curb our desires and not wish to have as far and as wide of a land as we please to have. But to gather our courage at that moment and tackle this difficult task is what is necessary to avoid the fate of this farmer.