Lǎoshī was a teacher. He was also an exceptionally talented artist. Before he started to work on any painting, however, he would always demanded payment in advance. And his charges were exorbitant. So he came to be known as the “Greedy Teacher.”
A rich woman once sent for him to have a painting done. Lǎoshī said, “How much will you pay me?” The woman happened to be attending a business party at that time. “Name your price,” she said. “But the painting must be done right now before me.”
Lǎoshī set to work at once and when the painting was completed he asked for the highest amount he had ever charged. As the woman was giving him his money, she said to her colleague, “This man is supposed to be a teacher, but all he thinks of is money. His talent is exceptional but he has a filthy, money-loving mind. How does one exhibit the canvas of a filthy-minded man like that? His work is good enough for my dog!”
With that she called for her dog, Russell, and asked Lǎoshī to paint a picture of it. He asked the usual question before he started the work: “How much will you pay me?” The woman replied, “Oh, any price you wish to charge.” Lǎoshī named his price, painted the picture, shamelessly pocketed the money and walked away.
It was by chance that many years later someone found out why Lǎoshī was so greedy for money. A devastating drought often struck his hometown. The government would do nothing to help the people. So Lǎoshī had secret pipes with an underground reservoir built in the area and had them filled with water for such emergencies. No one knew where the water came from or who the benefactor of the town was.
Another reason why Lǎoshī wanted money was the road leading to his village from the city was in such bad condition that ox-carts could not move on it; this caused much suffering to the aged and the infirm when they needed to get to the city. So Lǎoshī had the road repaired.
The final reason was a school which Lǎoshī’s teacher had always desired to build but could not, Lǎoshī built this school as a token of gratitude to his revered teacher.
After the Greedy Teacher had built the reservoir, the road, and the school, he threw away his paint and brushes, retired to the mountains to give himself to the contemplative life and never painted another canvas again.