In Kaushambi there was a royal priest named Kashyap Shastri. He had a son who was named Kapil. Kapil grew up in luxury and did not care for studying. Consequently when his father died, the priesthood was passed on to another Brahmin. Kapil’s mother was sad to see this happen. She thought, “If only my son would have studied, he would have become the royal priest.” Tears rolled down her eyes. When Kapil saw that he asked, “Mother, why are you crying? What is wrong?”
The mother sighed and said, “My son, I regret that you did not become the royal priest. If you would have studied well, you would have succeeded your father’s position.” These words moved Kapil. He made up his mind to get a good education. He went to a friend of his father in the city of Shravasti. His name was Indradatta Upadhyaya.
Indradatta was known all over the country as a highly learned man and many students came to him to learn. He was glad that Kapil wanted to study, and he started teaching him. According to the practice of that time Kapil had to get his food by asking for alms. That took too much of his time and affected his studying. Indradatta therefore requested a wealthy man of the town to arrange his food. The man arranged for Kapil’s food at the place of a young Brahmin widow, named Manorama.
Kapil now started taking his food at Manorama’s place. Now he could devote enough time for his education. But the relationship of the two slowly developed into intimacy. With the passage of time Manorama became pregnant. She started worrying about how to meet the expenses of delivery and how to maintain the baby. Kapil knew that the king gave two gold coins to the person who first bestows benedictions on him every morning. He decided to go to the palace early in the morning to get the gold. The next day Kapil reached the palace in the morning, but some other Brahmin had already reached the palace. The next day too Kapil was late. He tried for eight days, but every time he was late.
Kapil became displeased with himself. He decided to sleep in the garden so that he could be the first at the palace. Soon he noticed the moon in the horizon. He mistakenly took it as sunrise and started running towards the palace. A policeman, who was patrolling the street, saw Kapil running towards the palace. He suspected him to be a thief and arrested him. Kapil tried to explain his position to the security guard but he simply said, “You may tell your story to his Majesty in the morning .”
In the morning Kapil was brought to the royal court. He was trembling, because he had never been in the court before. The king noticed the fear in his face and thought he could not be a thief. The king asked him, “Who are you? What were you doing at midnight?
Kapil humbly replied, “Your Majesty, I am a Brahmin and I was running to get to the palace to confer blessings upon you.”
The king asked, “why so early?”
Kapil said, “Your Majesty, I have been trying to confer my blessings upon you for the last eight days to earn two gold coins, and I was always late. So last night, I got up very early in order to be the first one. But that did not work, and here I am before you as a culprit.”
The king said, “You have suffered so much for just two gold coins. Oh Brahmin, I am pleased with your honesty and permit you to ask for anything that you want, and I shall grant it.”
Kapil asked for sometime to think. The king gave some time to think. He left to go to the garden to think.
Now Kapil started thinking, “I Should ask for ten golden coins
instead of two. But how long will that last? I should ask for fifty coins. But that won’t be enough for later expenses.” He continued to think of more and more amount until he reached to ten million coins. He thought even that would not be enough for maintaining prosperity for his whole life. He then thought of asking for half of the kingdom and ultimately the entire kingdom.
Suddenly he thought, “The king has been kind enough to give me whatever I want. Why should I make him miserable? That is not fair. If I ask for half of the kingdom, I will be his rival. Why should I annoy the person who wants to help me? Should I then ask for ten million golden coins? What is the use of that much money? Too much money brings troubles. I will ask for ten thousand coins.” But his conscience did not permit him to even ask for ten thousand. “Shall I ask for one thousand coins? A hundred? A fifty? A twenty-five?” He decided not to ask for anything more than what he had gone for that was only two gold coins.
But Kapil still kept on thinking, “It is desire that makes one unhappy. It also leads to greediness which is the root of all sins. In order to get rid of it, I should ask for anything. Look, where my desire had led me! Forgetting that I came here to become a learned man, I have been drawn into a situation losing morality and becoming a beggar.” Let me stay content. I will not ask for anything.”
Kapil went back to the palace. The king asked, “Oh Brahmin, what have you decided?”
Kapil replied, “Your Majesty, I do not want anything from you.”
The king got surprised. He asked, “What?”
Kapil replied, “Your Lordship, desire is the root of all evils. The more one gets, the more greedy he becomes.”
The king said, “Revered Brahmin, I do not understand what you mean.”
Kapil said, “Oh King, now I do not need anything. Contentment is the supreme wealth and I am happy with that.”
With these words Kapil left with the sense of complete detachment and he renounced worldly life.