The following this an attempt by me to translate a chinese Buddhist story into english. Somehow, I feel strongly about the story and I want to share this story with you.
Once upon a time, a rich merchant had four wives. However, the rich merchant loved his fourth wife the most and paid the most attention to her. He often brought her to enjoy delicacies and went on many holiday tours with her. He also loved his third wife. Whenever he saw or thought about her, he would be delighted and contented. As for his second wife, he would only approach her whenever he was in trouble or when he needed help most and his second wife would always oblige. Lastly, as for his first wife, she worked whole day helping her husband in the running of his business. However, he never bothered her and allowed her to become physically weak day by day.
One day, the rich merchant had a terminal disease and requested his fourth wife to accompany in the netherland when he died. But, his fourth wife refused. Then, he asked his third wife. His third wife not only said that she would not die with him, she would also remarry once he died. Deeply saddened, he asked his second wife the same question. His second wife refused and reasoned that she needed to take care of his family when he was gone. However, she told him that she would still accompany him to the crematorium after he died. Then, his first wife walked up to him and said, "Take me with you. You are my husband and I will always accompany you and be by your side."
In this story, according to Buddhist theory, the fourth wife is akin to our body. Everyone loves his body, take good care of it, but when death comes, the body has to be left behind. The third wife who wanted to remarry in the story is wealth, power and status. No matter how enormous the wealth or power, when a person dies, it will be passed on to others. As for the second wife, it refers to our spouse, children and family. They can only send the dead person to the crematorium at most and will not follow him to the netherland. And, for the first wife, it refers to the soul. When a person dies, only his soul follows. However, the soul is often neglected in the pursuit of wealth and physical beauty.
This story reminds us that everything that we possess is impermanent. We came to this world emty-handed, then we had our family, friends, career, wealth, power, status etc. And, when we leave, we leave behind everything, including our body.
This is just like we are holidaying in another country. When we stay in a hotel, we know that this is not our permanent residence, and once time is up, we will leave without any grudges. The hotel facilities and services are all lent to us temporarily. And when we leave, the hotel facilities and services will be catered to other people who stay in the hotel.
We are just like tourists in this world, and the world is our hotel. Everything that is in this world is only lent to us temporarily and when we leave this world, we are unable to take away anything from the world with us except our souls and experiences. So, we should not place excessive emphasis on material wants, but instead focus on the cultivation of the soul.