They say don’t fall into the snares of 99. What does that mean?

A man with his wife used to live very happily in their small hut. Very happy they were.

He used to work all day long and get a pittance to make the two ends meet. He had no other worldly ambition, no other desire, no feeling of envy or hatred, a good honest worker he was. He had a neighbour who was a very wealthy man. This wealthy man was always immersed in anxiety, he was never happy. A Vedantin monk once visited the houses of the rich man and his poor neighbour, and told the rich man that the cause of his worry and anxiety was his possessions. His possessions possessed him and kept him down; his mind was wandering from this object to that. The monk pointing to the poor neighbour said, “Look at him, he owns nothing, but on his face you find the bloom of happiness, and you find his muscles so strong and his arms so well built. He goes about in such a happy, cheerful, jolly mood, humming tunes of joy.”This happiness the rich man could never enjoy. He had his property fashioned and moulded in the way other people liked it. Then the rich man wanted to test the truth of the monk’s remarks. According to the advice of the monk, the rich man stealthily threw into the house of the poor man $ 99. The next day they saw that no fire was lit in the house of the poor man. In the house of the poor man there used to be a good fire and they used to cook certain things purchased with the money earned by dint of the poor man’s labour. That night they found no fire in the house, they did not cook anything, they starved that night. The next morning the monk taking the rich man with him went to the poor man mid enquired as to the cause of his not lighting fire in his house. The poor man could make no excuse in the presence of the monk, he had to tell the truth. He said that before that he used to earn a few cents and with those few cents they used to purchase some flour and vegetables, and cook and eat them, but on that day when they lit no fire they received a little box containing $ 99. When they saw the $ 99, the idea came into their minds that there was only one dollar wanting to make it full $ 100. Now in order to make up that $ 1, they found that they might forego food on alternate days, and thus they might scrape up some cents and in a week or so would save up $ 1 and thus they would have $ 100. Hence they were to starve. This is the secret of the niggardliness of the rich people. The more they get, the poorer they become. When they get $ 99, they want more, if they have $ 99,000, they want $ 100,000.


Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography relates an experience of his boyhood. When he was a boy he was going to school in Philadelphia and one day on his way to school he happened to see a blacksmith at work. In those days the machinery was not in such a high state of development as it is today. The blacksmith was working in his shop, just like a curious boy Benjamin stopped at the shop and was looking at the man at work. Children lose themselves to any thought that comes up before them. He had a satchel in his hand and he was just going to school, but he forgot all about his school to enjoy the sight of the working blacksmith. The blacksmith noticed the interest of the boy. He was sharpening his tools and knives. The assistant of the blacksmith having gone on an errand was absent. On seeing the little boy taking so much interest in the work he asked him to come up to him. Benjamin moved up and the blacksmith said, a What a nice boy, what a fine boy, how intelligent you are.”Benjamin was puffed up and felt flattered, and when he noticed the beaming smiles on the face of Benjamin, he asked him if he would take the trouble to help him in turning the grindstone. Benjamin immediately began to do that work. Children are naturally very active and they want to do something which will keep their muscles employed. You can send them to the other end of the world if you can tickle their humour.

While Benjamin was working at the grindstone, the blacksmith went on humouring and flattering him. The boy went on doing the work. In the meantime he whetted a number of knives and axes. By that time the little boy felt fatigued and he remembered his school time and recitation hours, and wanted to leave the shop. But there was that man upon him with his flattery and humouring spirit saying, “Oh good boy, I know you are never punished in school, you are so line, so smart. “What the other boys take three hours to accomplish, you can do in one hour. The school master never gets angry with you, you are so good.”One by one the swords were whetted and when one was half done, Benjamin wanted to leave, but he could not. The recitation hours commenced at 10 and he was released at 12. He went to school and was flogged for being late. He was tired and his arms were sore. For a week he had to suffer the consequences. He could not prepare his lessons. Ever afterwards when any one flattered him, the thought came to his mind, “He has an axe to grind.”After this event never was Benjamin Franklin entrapped in the snares of flattery.