Most of us might have read or heard about this interesting, intriguing Buddhist story of a man and his 4 wives. This story has been stated in Agama Sutras (Buddha’s early sermons), and conveys a deep meaning about our karma as well as the purpose of our lives.
Once upon a time, there was a man who had four wives. He used to love and care for each one of his wives, the way he thought they deserved.
He loved his second, third, and fourth wives very much, but ignored his first wife.
He took great care of his fourth wife, giving her the best of what he could afford. He was very proud of his third wife and always wanted to show her off to his friends. At the same time, he always felt insecure that she may run away with another man. He always enjoyed talking and sharing his thoughts with his second wife, who was a very solicitous person. She would help him through discussions, and with solutions, whenever, he faced difficult times. His first wife who was too loyal to him was deeply in love with him but he always ignored her and never showed interest in her.
At the end of his life, the man fell very ill, and realizing that he will die soon, he felt very sad and lonely. He decided to call his wives and ask them to accompany him after death. He was sure that whom he had loved so much will never wish to stay apart from him and will feel pleasure to join him in the journey which will begin after death.
First, he called his most beloved wife, the fourth wife.
He said, ‘Dear wife, I loved you throughout my life and now I feel so sick and lonely. Perhaps any moment, I have to depart this world. I want you to follow me and keep me company after death.’ Upon hearing his request, she straight away refused and walked away.
Shocked, dejected, and disappointed, he decided to call his third wife, and requested the same of her. The third wife also refused to go along with him, responding rather coldly, ‘No! Life is so good over here! I will marry someone else after you die!’.
Sad and depressed, he called his second wife. He looked into her eyes and asked her to come with him into death. She said, ‘My dear, I pity you and I feel very sad that you are dying. I will accompany you to the graveyard, but I am sorry, I can't follow you to the next world’. Politely, she had refused him as well.
Dispirited, the man realized that he was going to die alone. The three wives whom he loved all his life had refused to accompany him. He expected his first wife to say ‘no’ as well, since he had completely ignored her all his life. But he was too desperate now. He decided to call his first wife now. Just then, his first wife, suddenly appeared in front of him and insisted him to take her along in the other world. She said she always wanted to accompany him through life, death and beyond.
The man was shocked and regretted that throughout his life, he had ignored her and never fulfilled his responsibilities towards her, but she is so kind that she still accepted him and was ready to follow him. He regretted his behavior, but alas, it was too late.
This is the Buddhist story of ‘A Man and his Four Wives’. What do these four wives signify?
In this materialistic world, every person is married to four wives, which represent our (i) Body, (ii) Wealth & Possessions, (iii) Family & Friends, and (iv) Soul & Karma.
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