This is a story from Narada Purana of a businessman who had spent all his life in operating his business and accumulating wealth. Now when he was old, his sons felt it was time to go on pilgrimage, perform charities and redeem himself. The sons approached a kind Sadhu and explained to him what they had in mind for their father: ”Do not bring the father back until he goes through a change of heart and he engages himself whole-heartedly in punyam-earning activities befitting his age.” Money was no object for ensuring their father’s well-being in his after-life
So the business man was taken to various holy places by the Sadhu, lecturing him from time to time by way of stories, anecdotes, etc. on higher values in life. But the man’s heart was hard set on his business wherever he went. He was concerned how his sons were coping up in his absence. He inquired about prices of goods in an effort to identify profitable buy-here-sell-there trading opportunities. He was least inclined to listen much less internalize the Sadhu’s words.
After a while the Sadhu realized it was not happening as desired by the sons. Pushed to giving up, he informed the sons: “Your father is an incorrigible businessman. I hate to admit, I’ve no success to report – he is difficult to change.”
The sons said: “No, no, please – you cannot give it up. Take more time if that’s what it takes. You must bring him around.”
So as a last resort, the Sadhu took him to the holy city of Varanasi. After all no human being returns unaffected after a visit to Varanasi.
They passed through several of the burning ghats (where corpses are burnt on stacks of wood) on the banks of Ganges. A somber mood hung in the air heavily. Words were out of place.
As they came to the end of the line of burning pyres, the man stopped, sighed heavily and suddenly broke into sobs. Tears welled up from up his eyes and streamed down his cheeks.
The Sadhu was not surprised – no one can remain unmoved witnessing the all-equalizing end of the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the tall and the short, the brave and the timid, the beautiful and the ugly …
And at the same time the Sadhu was happy to see his efforts yielding results at last.
He turned to the old man and placed his hand on his shoulders and said with all the solemnity he could muster: “What do you feel now? How do you feel about life now?”
The man between his sobs managed: “I really feel bad. I feel terrible…have wasted my life.”
The Sadhu further inquired encouragingly: “Really? Why do you feel terrible? Tell me.”
The businessman by now regained his composure and said: “I was a cloth merchant throughout my life. What a waste! Eking out measly margins. And here…if I knew that there is so much demand for wood…with no haggling over prices, I’m sure.”
Source: Adapted from bhagavatam-katha.com on how desires-to-detachment in life is not a smooth ride.