Chapter 09: What to do When Someone Borrows Money and Does Not Return It
To loan out money is just like having all your knowledge secured in a book; when you need to use it, it is hard to get at it. No one likes to be caught in this situation. Some people may find themselves reluctantly trapped in such a situation and are sadly at a loss as to know how to deal with it.
If we come to practise meditation, we may be able to find a way out. Assume a posture, say standing, for example. Stand with absolute mindfulness, and direct your mindfulness from the end tip of your hair right down to the tip of your toes, and vice versa. Repeat this five times. When you see someone coming towards you (a potential borrower for example), look at them from their head to the tip of their toes. As they approach, your mind comes into contact with the visitors facial expression and physical movement. A potential borrower tends to smile as he or she crosses the threshold. Your sense of insight will tell you this: “I am the borrower’s friend at the time of lending the money and I become the borrower’s enemy at the time of asking for repayment.” Thus, you should conclude: Do not lend him or her the money.
By refusing the borrower once and for all, you might get upset only once; but if you were to lend him or her the money, you might get upset many times, for each time you demand the return of your money, you might get an excuse from the borrower when not being able to repay. You might get angry or upset and so might the borrower too.
Friends may say this to you, “How is it that you don’t have any money that you can ’t lend any to me?” Now, if you have money, just tell the truth, do not lie. There is no need for telling lies. Only let it be clearly understood that you need the money for your own personal use, say for example, to pay for your children’s education or to purchase a house for your children. Therefore, you cannot afford to give away or part with your money. If you lend out the money, your children will be deprived of what they are supposed to get from you. However, most people have a tendency to lie about money.
When they have money in their possession, they will openly declare that they have no money at all or that they are still very poor and are heavily in debt. Do not lie. If you lie, some day your money will slip through your fingers. Believe me ! It will flee away to some body else ! Let the borrower know the truth: that you have the money but simply cannot afford to lend it to them because you need it for your own private use. The borrower may feel angry but leave them alone with their anger. It you were to lend them the money, you were simply inviting trouble. When the borrower fails to pay you back the money, you will be very upset. Relations become strained and that is not good for both parties.
Should someone manage to “ squeeze ” some money out of you, then just say privately in your mind, “May he (or she) be rich some day so that he (or she) will pay me back my money.”
If the borrower happens to be an enemy, then you need to sit down and meditate deeply so that you may see the whole situation clearly for yourself and learn to be reconciled to the hard facts of life. Also, try to learn to forgive and cultivate compassionate feelings towards your enemy.
Now I am going to relate three episodes which may be of some interest to you.
The First Episode
About twenty years ago there was a rich man who lived in the Yaowaraj area (China Town) of Bangkok. This rich man had a friend of the same family name who happened to have come from China together with the rich man some years ago. One day this friend of his approached him to ask for a loan.
Thus, his friend went away with three million baht, which was later promptly invested in some business ventures. However, very unfortunately, this friend of the rich man did a losing business. He could not even afford to pay the rich man the agreed interest on the loan. The interest multiplied and after a lapse of fifteen years, it eventually reached the lump sum of ten million baht.
When his friend failed to repay him after such a long lapse of time, the rich man took the case to court and tried to prosecute his friend. This action resulted in agonizing hostility between the two former friends. The rich man went as far as consulting a fortune-teller who instructed him to make merit such as building an ordination hall or a pavillion, all to no avail. He still could not get back his money. Finally, someone brought him and his wife to this monastery. Both of them spoke Thai with a typical Chinese accent.
I said to them, “Surely you want to get your money back, don’t you? But in your previous life, did you ever take your friend’s money? You do not know, of course, do you? Now, I tell you, you should sit down to meditate, develop and radiate a general good will towards your friend. Some time later you should withdraw your accusation”. They practised meditation here for fifteen days, after which they began to feel more reconciled to their bitter grievance.
When I told them to meditate, someone said that they were Chinese and so they did not have the abitity to meditate. I said, “Nonsense, what has meditation to do with racial origin? They certainly can meditate if they try. Of course, don’t sit straight till you become as good as dead. Sit straight with mindfulness and try to develop kindly thoughts and good will towards the one who owes you the money. Withdraw your accusation. Do not attach your heart and soul to that amount of money. Just let him have it. Tell yourself you can still survive without that sum of money. ”
The rich man’s wife kept ejaculating, “No, we can’ t, we can ’t !” Then I said to them, “If you can not forgo that sum of money, you will not get it back either. Be reconciled to the fact. Let him have the money. Go back to withdraw your court claim. There may still be a way to get back what you have lost. The harder you try to have him punished, the lesser will be your chance of getting back the money.”
The rich man’s wife asked, “What do you want me to do?”
I said, “Simply be compassionate to the man who owes you the money.”
She exclaimed, “Oh, how can I be reconciled to such a bitter fact? If you were in my position, what would you do?”
“Oh, if the money were mine, I would simply have let him have it a long time ago. Can’t you do that?” I replied.
The Chinese woman groaned, “Oh! No, No!” Then I said, “If so, then you should come here to meditate for some time to cultivate the compassion needed for letting go of your attachment.”
The rich man meditated for three days, and he felt much better. He told me, “I have become reconciled with the reality now. I don’t want the money any more. After all, he has been a friend of mine from Sua Dao, China. He lived at a different village but we bear the same family name. It does not matter any more. I am prepared to forget about that sum of money.”
However, his wife took a longer time to get ‘enlightened’ and become reconciled. She recollected how hard it was for her to earn her money. It was all earned by toil and sweat; thus, it was particularly hard for her to forgo such a lot of money to someone who dared to borrow and yet failed to repay. I said to her, “Listen, money is not part of our body. It is an external object. As long as we are still alive, we can still earn it. Just let him have what you have already given to him, assuming that it is your own karma, and that in your past life you must have deprived him of some of his money, thus, you are repaying it in this present life. Of course, we do not know if you really did take his money in your previous life, but at present you already have a considerable amount of wealth. Think of those days when you were newly arrived from China. What did you bring along with you?”
The Chinese woman answered, “I had nothing but the clothes on my back and a mat and a pillow. I went to work as a labourer at Tha Tien pier and did other odd jobs in Bangkok till I managed to accumulate my wealth. Well, I feel reconciled now. May Ah Chong (the man who borrowed the money) have lots of money and be really rich some day. I used to curse him before. Now I withdraw all my curses. It does not matter that he cannot repay me what he owes me. You have blessed me, Luang Poh and I feel better now.”
She was Chinese and not a well-educated one, and yet she could understand my simple teaching and realised the futility of nourishing vengeful feelings while at the same time striving hard to get herselfre-adjusted to the hard facts of life. Obviously she had come to a wise decision.
In the end they all became friends again. A mutual, cordial feeling developed as a result of the rich man and his wife‘s meditation effort. Ah Chong established business dealings with Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. He became very rich and eventually managed to repay his debt (with interest) to the rich man of Yaowaraj. They came to this monastery to make offerings of material goods to the monks and talked about the past.
Thus I know about their story in detail. Ah Chong is a good man. He has three children, who have gone to study abroad. Now he is even richer than before. He still lives in Bangkok. He told me about his family in his Chinese-accented Thai. He has never meditated and has no interest in it.
He related to me thus, “Luang Poh, I had been an enemy of that rich friend of mine and had wasted about 4-5 years going to court without seeing an end to the case. He had one of my men shot dead and I repaid it with the life of one of his men. I was very puzzled when he withdrew his case from the court. Later I was even more puzzled when I was informed that he had come to spend time at Wat Ambavana. When he returned to Bangkok, he greeted me and spoke politely to me. When we both attended a feast held by the Chinese Association, he even sat with me at the same table, and he sort of served me to some dishes of delicious food. Throughout the feast he was cordial and friendly. I was very surprised.
From then on my business improved greatly. I exported goods to Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan and the profits were good. I am able, at last, to settle my debt and still have enough to make some charitable donation to Wat Ambavana”
Ah Chong’s rich friend was good enough not to demand interest. He only accepted the original amount of money Ah Chong borrowed from him. That is really good. I mean it is truly good on the part of the rich man from Yaowaraj not to want interest of several million baht. It was his meditation that “enlightened” him, making him see clearly the true nature of the whole situation.
Therefore, it is obvious that meditation can benefit you. It leads to a true understanding of all phenomena. It helps one to develop a sense of compassion, which is vital to the harmonious existence of human beings and all other living things on earth.
Bear this in mind: it is better for others to cheat us than for us to cheat others. It is good that we are here for others to cheat, for that will lead us, through meditation, to a deeper perception of what this worldly life truly is. I may sound like a fool or an idiot and you too may find it hard to swallow this piece of advice from me; but I tell you it holds truth, for I too, have at times been cheated, and that has made me wise.
The Second Episode
This is a real – life story which I experienced myself. When I was first ordained I lived at Wat Phromburi. There was a Chinese woman who did business selling sand and stones. I did not know anything about this woman except the fact that she was a businesswoman, but she used to donate lots of sand and stones for the construction of my viha‐ra.
One day her truck broke down. She came to me with a request. “Please lend me one thousand and five hundred baht; my truck has broken down and is in need of repair,” she said.
“Oh, I’m sorry, but I don’t have that amount of money.” That was my reply. Those days I was only a junior monk and had not much money in my possession, but this Chinese woman would not stop her demand for my help despite my declaration that I did not have much money. She said, “I hope you can borrow from someone else and lend the money to me.”
Thus, I went to borrow the money from someone I knew at Pak Bang market place and gave it to her. She took the money to pay for the repair of her truck. I did not even know where she lived exactly. Soon she came again to borrow another five thousand baht, saying that her truck had accidentally crashed into a coffee shop while backing up. I thought, “Oh, I still have not got back my one thousand and five hundred baht and now she wants another five thousand baht!” Again she demanded that I should borrow from someone else first. I went to borrow from the same previous lender who could not help saying, “You borrow so often. What do you do with the money, really?” However, I was given the money anyway. I gave it to that Chinese woman. From then on this Chinese woman kept quiet about the money. She was pregnant then and later she gave birth to a baby girl. The baby girl grew up and many years later she got married. Still the Chinese woman never mentioned about the money.
One day she came to see me at the monastery. She said, “Venerable brother, I am inviting you to my house for a meal.” I told myself, “Oh! I am sure to get the money back this time.” Thus I went for the meal (and for the money too!) She actually sent a car to fetch me. Her house was a very big one. It was at Nakhon Nayok. She had ten trucks and her husband was a big businessman. He was a building contractor. I asked a monk who was present at the meal if this woman ever cheated anybody. The monk replied that her reputation was rather good so far. She never cheated anyone as far as he knew, but I was saying quietly to myself: She took six thousand and five hundred baht from me and never bothered to repay!
After the meal she told me to remain behind while the other monks returned to their monastery. I thought she must have decided to make the repayment at this proper hour. I had brought with me a wallet in which to keep the money. However, I was very disappointed later because she still did not mention about the money. Actually, I had cleared my own debt a long time ago, but it took me 4-5 years to repay the money lender from whom I had borrowed.
Now this woman from Nakhon Nayok who had a house as big as a grand temple and whose husband was a big businessman was one who never cheated people, but why did she forget about the money. She would come to the monastery often to present lots of things to the monks, and yet she would remain silent about the money she owed me.
Her daughter was also a frequent visitor to my monastery. Those days I had not yet become an abbot and my meditation practice had not yet reached a satisfactory level. Since my meal at her house at Nakhon Nayok, I never went there a second time.
Meanwhile, I persevered to perfect my meditation in orderly stages. Then the Law of Karma “appeared” to enlighten me: “In your previous life you had taken from her a hundred thousand baht. Now you are repaying her with only the sum of six thousand and five hundred baht. That is enough.”
This was the reason behind her silence about the money! It had made her forget about the money she had borrowed from me once, or it could be that she might have mistakingly thought that she had already repaid me. Whatever the reason behind her silence, I learned to stop thinking about regaining the money. Instead, I developed compassionate thoughts towards her.
Now I have told you a story about the Law of Karma in action.
The Third Eposide
There was once an event which I personally witnessed for myself. Once I went to the Ministry of Education to deliver a discourse on Dhamma. There was a government civil servant of C7 level who was still single. She had come to this monastery sometimes.
This civil servant had a lot of money. Exactly how much she had was of course not a matter I was well-acquainted with, but what I did know was that her friends used to borrow money from her, and she also helped her friends to borrow money from the banks by offering herself as guarantor of the loan. It so happened that a friend for whom she helped to secure a bank loan invested the borrowed money in some money – making ventures offered by a woman swindler named Mae Cha-Moi. When all the money was lost, this civil servant found herself in serious trouble. Her friend who lost the money she helped to borrow from the bank ran away from his job and moved to live in Chiangmai, taking his wife along with him.
Being the guarantor of a bank loan amounting to eight million baht was not a matter to be taken lightly. She would be held responsible by the bank. What was she to do? Matter became worse for her because she seemed to have misused public funds of about 1.5 million baht which belonged to the Religious Affairs Department of the Ministry of Education.
This civil servant of C7 level went to spend some time in a monastery at Dhonburi, during which she observed the Buddhist moral precepts with acertain seriousness common to people who are in serious trouble; but oddly enough she was taught by the monk there to recite verses of evil cursing. She would curse her friend who had led her to ruin. She would murmur such curses as: “May one who ruins me be damned forever and ever; may their house catch fire and be burned to ashes!”
Things did not go the way she had wished. Instead, one day it was her own house that caught fire. She had to repair her house and it cost her two hundred and seventy thousand baht. So the vengeance in her heart had ironically been repaid with the burning of her house. She was even more upset than before and she began to curse more vehemently. I have been wondering all this time what sort of monk would teach someone to curse. And what monastery would have allowed the existence of such a monk?
This civil servant, who must have heard about me or my sermons, came to this monastery one day. She took a leave of absence for seven days and I told her to practise meditation. Meanwhile, her two friends who had escaped to Chiangmai were working as labourers in an orchard which belonged to a noble man. I will not mention this noble man by name, but it was said that this noble man was sometimes very surprised to see his two workers crying secretly.
Anyway, events took a new turn sometime later. The couple who worked in the orchard finally managed to sell their own land to some housing estate developers at a profit of 1.5 million baht. Later, they also managed to reap another additional profit of 15 million baht from another sale. The debt was settled and they came to Wat Ambavana to look for their civil-servant friend. When all debts were repaid, the civil servant was found to be guiltless by the government investigating committee and was given promotion to director.
This is the law of karma. Meditation practice can truly purify your karma. You can know your past life’s occurrences in practice, and you will be able to solve your life’s problems. There are so many cases that I have experienced, but I will conclude with only three eminent benefits of meditation practice. They are:
(1) You can recollect past-life occurrences. What you have done in the past, be good or bad, you can recollect them from your practice.
(2) You can experience and understand the law of karma.
(3) You can attain wisdom from the practice by which you can help solve life’ s problems.
Last but not least, please note:
Do not cling to the past. Wherever you go, do not speak without careful reflection and do not be credulous.
Do not speak of old, finished issues.
Do not mix into others’ personal affairs. D
o your own duty thoroughly. Be mindful of the very immediate moment.
Do not have expectations regarding the future; otherwise you will be disappointed and sorry your whole life.
Reflect on this, please.
Credit: eBooks. Wat Amphawan.