a selection of tales
from ancient India
D. L. Ashliman
About the Panchatantra.
One of India's most influential contributions to world literature, the Panchatantra (also spelled Pañcatantra or Pañca-tantra) consists of five books of animal fables and magic tales (some 87 stories in all) that were compiled, in their current form, between the third and fifth centuries AD. The German Sanskrit scholar Johannes Hertel (1872-1955) believed that the original collection was compiled in Kashmir about 200 BC, and that at this time many of the stories were already ancient. The work's self-proclaimed purpose is to educate the sons of royalty.
Although the original author's or compiler's name is unknown, an Arabic translation from about 750 AD attributes the Panchatantra to a wise man called Bidpai, which is probably a Sanskrit word meaning "court scholar."
The fables of the Panchatantra found their way to Europe through oral folklore channels and by way of Persian and Arabic translations. They substantially influenced medieval writers of fables.
In the city of Radschagriha there lived a Brahman by the name of Devasarman. His childless wife wept bitterly whenever she saw the neighbors' children. One day the Brahman said to her, "Dear one, stop your grieving. Behold, I was offering a sacrifice for the birth of a son when an invisible being said to me in the clearest words, 'Brahman, you shall be granted this son, and he shall surpass all men in beauty and virtue, and good fortune shall be his.'"
After hearing this, the Brahman's wife was overjoyed, and she said, "Such promises must come true." In the course of time she became pregnant and gave birth to a snake. When her attendants saw it, they all cried out, "Throw it away!" However, she paid no attention to them, but instead picked it up, had it bathed, and -- filled with a mother's love toward her son -- laid it in a large, clean container, fed it milk, fresh butter, and the like, so that within a few days it had reached its full growth.
Once when the Brahman's wife witnessed the wedding feast of a neighbor's son, her eyes clouded over with tears, and she said to her husband, "You treat me with contempt, because you are not making any effort at all to arrange a wedding for my dear child!"
When he heard this, the Brahman said, "Honored one! To achieve that I would have to go to the depths of hell and beseech Pasuki, the King of Snakes, for who else, you fool, would give his daughter in marriage to a snake?"
Having said this, he looked at his wife with her exceedingly sad face, and -- for the sake of her love and in order to pacify her -- he took some travel provisions and departed for a foreign land. After traveling about for several months he came to a place by the name of Kukutanagara. There, as evening fell, he was received by an acquaintance, a member of his caste. He was given a bath, food, and every necessity, and he spent the night there.
The next morning he took leave and was preparing to set forth once again, when his host said, "What brought you to this place, and where are you going now."
The Brahman answered, "I have come to seek an appropriate bride for my son."
After hearing this, the host said, "If that is the case, then I have a very appropriate daughter. I have only respect for you. Take her for your son!"
Acting upon these words, the Brahman took the girl, together with her servants, and returned to his home city. However, when the inhabitants of this region saw the girl, who was beautiful, gifted, and charming beyond comparison, they opened their eyes wide with love for her, and said to her attendants, "How could you deliver such a jewel of a girl to a snake?"
After hearing this, all of her companions were horrified, and they said, "She must be rescued from the murderer set up by this old Brahman."
Hearing this, the maiden said, "Spare me from such deception, for behold: Kings speak but once. The virtuous speak but once. A girl is promised in marriage but once. These three things happen but once. And further: Not even wise men and gods can change the decrees of fate. And moreover, my father shall not be reproached for his daughter's falseness."
Having said that, and with the permission of her attendants, she married the snake. She showed him proper respect, and served him milk and similar things.
One night the snake left his large basket, which was kept in the bedroom, and climbed into his wife's bed. She cried out, "Who is this creature, shaped like a man?"
Thinking it was a strange man, she jumped up.
Shaking all over, she tore open the door and wanted to rush away, when the snake said, "Dear one! Stay here! I am your husband!"
To convince her of this, he once again entered the body that he had left in the basket, then left it again. He was wearing a magnificent diadem, rings, bands, and bracelets on his upper and lower arms. His wife fell at his feet. Then together they partook of the joys of love.
His father, the Brahman, had arisen earlier than his son, and saw everything. He took the snake skin, which was lying in the basket, and burned it in the fire, saying, "He shall not enter it again." Later that morning, filled with joy, he presented his son to his family. Vitalized by unending love, he became an ideal son.
A king, while visiting his wives' apartments, took a monkey from a neighboring stable for a pet. He kept him constantly close at hand for his amusement, for as it is said, parrots, partridges, doves, rams, monkeys, and such creatures are a king's natural companions.
It goes without saying that the monkey, fed on the various dishes that the king gave him, grew large and was given respect by all who surrounded the king. Indeed, the king, due to his love and exceeding trust of the monkey, even gave him a sword to carry.
In the vicinity of the palace the king had a grove artfully planted with many trees of various sorts. Early in the springtime the king noticed how beautiful the grove was. Its blossoms exuded a magnificent fragrance, while swarms of bees sang praise to the god of love. Thus overcome by love, he entered the grove with his favorite wife. He ordered all his servants to wait for him at the entrance.
After having pleasantly strolling through and observing the grove, he grew tired and said to his monkey, "I want to sleep a little while in this arbor of flowers. Take care that nothing disturbs me!" Having said this, the king fell asleep.
Presently a bee, pursuing the aroma of the flowers, betel, and musk, flew up and lit on his head. Seeing this, the monkey thought angrily, "What is this? Am I to allow this common creature to bite the king before my very eyes?"
With that he proceeded to drive it away. However, in spite of the monkey's defense, the bee approached the king again and again. Finally, blinded by anger, the monkey drew his sword and struck down the bee with a single blow. However, the same blow also split the king's head.
The queen, who was sleeping next to the king jumped up in terror. Seeing the crime, she said, "Oh, oh, you foolish monkey! What have you done to the king who placed such trust in you?"
The monkey explained how it had happened, but thereafter he was shunned and scorned by everyone. Thus it is said, "Do not choose a fool for a friend, for the king was killed by a monkey."
And I say, "It is better to have a clever enemy than a foolish friend."
In a certain place there lived two friends, Dharmabuddhi, which means "having a just heart" and Pâpabuddhi, which means "having an unjust heart."
One day Pâpabuddhi thought to himself, "I am a simpleton, plagued with poverty. I am going to travel abroad with Dharmabuddhi, and earn money with his help. Then I will cheat him out of it and thus gain a good situation for myself."
One day he said to Dharmabuddhi, "Listen, friend! When you are old, which of your deeds will you be able to remember? You have never seen a foreign country, so what will you be able to tell the young people? After all, don't they say: His birth has borne no fruit, who knows not foreign lands, many languages, customs, and the like. And also: One never properly grasps knowledge, wealth, and art, until joyfully one has wandered from one land to another."
Pâpabuddhi, as soon as he had heard these words, took leave from his parents with a joyful heart, and one happy day set forth for foreign lands. Through their diligence and skill, Dharmabuddhi and Pâpabuddhi acquired great wealth on their travels. Happy, but also filled with longing, they turned homeward with their great treasure. For it is also said: For those who gain wisdom, art, and wealth in foreign lands, the absence of one hour has the length of hundreds.
As they approached their city, Pâpabuddhi said to Dharmabuddhi, "Friend, it is not prudent for us to return home with our entire treasure, for our families and relatives will want part of it. Therefore let us bury it somewhere here in the thick of the forest and take only a small part home with us. When the need arises, we can come back and get as much as we need from here. For they also say: A smart man does not show off his money, not even in small amounts, for the sight of gold will agitate even a good heart. And also: Like meat is devoured in the water by fish, on land by wild animals, and in the air by birds, he who owns money is everywhere at risk."
Upon hearing this, Dharmabuddhi said, "Yes, my friend, that is what we will do!"
After having thus buried their treasure, they both returned home and lived happily together.
However, one day at midnight Pâpabuddhi went back into the forest, took the entire treasure, refilled the hole, and returned home.
Then he went to Dharmabuddhi and said to him, "Friend, each of us has a large family, and we are suffering because we have no money. Therefore, let us go to that place and get some money."
Dharmabuddhi answered, "Yes, my friend, let us do it!"
They went there and dug up the container, but it was empty.
Then Pâpabuddhi struck himself on the head and cried out, "Aha! Dharmabuddhi! You and only you have taken the money, for the hole has been filled in again. Give me my half of what you have hidden, or I will bring action against you at the king's court."
Dharmabuddhi said, "Do not speak like that, you evildoer. I am in truth Dharmabuddhi, the one with a just heart! I would not commit such an act of thievery. After all, it is said: The person with a just heart treats another man's wife like his own mother, another man's property like a clod of earth, and all beings like himself."
Quarreling thus, they proceeded to the court where they told their stories and brought action against one another.
The top judges decreed that they submit to an Ordeal of God, but Pâpabuddhi said, "No! Such an ordeal is not just. After all, it is written: In a legal action one should seek documents. If there are no documents, then one should seek witnesses. If there are no witnesses, then wise men should prescribe an Ordeal of God. In this matter the goddess of the tree will serve as my witness. She will declare which one of us is a thief and which one an honest man."
To this they all replied, "What you say is right, for it is also written: An Ordeal of God is inappropriate where there is a witness, be he even a man of the lowest caste, to say nothing of the case where he is a god. We too are very curious about this case. Tomorrow morning we shall go with you to that place in the forest."
In the meanwhile, Pâpabuddhi returned home and said to his father, "Father! I have stolen this money from Dharmabuddhi, and one word from you will secure it for us. Without your word, we shall lose it, and I shall lose my life as well."
The father said, "Child, just tell what I have to say in order to secure it!"
Pâpabuddhi said, "Father, in thus and such a place there is a large mimosa tree. It has a hollow trunk. Go hide yourself in it. When I swear an oath there tomorrow morning, then you must reply that Dharmabuddhi is the thief."
Having made these arrangements, the next morning Pâpabuddhi bathed himself, put on a clean shirt, and went to the mimosa tree with Dharmabuddhi and the judges.
Once there, he spoke with a piercing voice, "Sun and moon, wind and fire, heaven and earth, heart and mind, day and night, sunrise and sunset, all of these, like dharma, know a man's deeds. Sublime goddess of the forest, reveal which of us is the thief!"
Then Pâpabuddhi's father, who was standing in the hollow trunk of the mimosa tree, said, "Listen! Listen! The money was taken away by Dharmabuddhi!"
Having heard this, the king's servants, their eyes opened wide with amazement, searched in their law books for an appropriate punishment for Dharmabuddhi's theft of the money.
While they were thus engaged, Dharmabuddhi himself surrounded the tree's opening with flammable material, and set it on fire. When it was well ablaze, Pâpabuddhi's father emerged from the hollow tree. His eyes streaming, he cried out bitterly.
"What is this?" they asked him.
He confessed everything, and then died. The king's servants forthwith hanged Pâpabuddhi from a branch of the mimosa tree, but they had only words of praise for Dharmabuddhi.
In his house there was a large set of heavy iron scales that had been acquired by his ancestors. He gave these to the guild-master Nanduka for safekeeping, and set forth for foreign lands.
After he had pursued his desires for a long time abroad, he returned to his homeland, and said to the guild-master Nanduka, "Guild-master, give me back the scales that I left here for safekeeping."
Nanduka replied, "Oh, your scales are no longer here. The mice ate them up."
When he heard this, Lakschmana said, "Well, Nanduka, if the mice ate them up, then it is through no fault of yours. That is the way of the world. Nothing in it is eternal. But now I would like to bathe myself in the river. Send your child with me, the boy named Dhanadeva, to carry my bathing things."
Nanduka, fearing Lakschama because of the theft he had committed against him, said to his son, "Child, your uncle Lakschmana wants to take a bath in the river. Go with him and carry his bathing things."
Yes, with truth they say: No one does a favor for another, unless driven by fear, greed, or some other purpose. And further: If someone shows you unusual courtesy, be cautious, lest it lead to a bad end.
Nanduka's son, carrying the bathing things, set forth happily with Lakschmana. After taking his bath, Lakschmana threw Nanduka's son Dhanadeva into a cave on the bank of the river, and sealed the opening with a large stone. Then he rushed back to Nanduka's house.
The merchant asked him, "Speak up, Lakschmana! Tell me, where is my child who went to the river with you?"
Lakschmana said, "He was taken away from the river's bank by a falcon."
The merchant cried, "You liar! How in the world can a falcon steal a boy? Give me back my son, or I will bring action against you at the king's court."
Lakschmana said, "Oh, you who always speak the truth! A falcon can carry away a boy, if mice can eat a large set of heavy iron scales. If you want your son back, then give me my scales!"
Thus quarreling one with another, they went to the king's gate, where Nanduka cried out loudly, "A dastardly crime has happened here! This thief has robbed me of my child!"
Hearing this, the judges said to Lakschmana, "Return the guild-master's son to him!"
Lakschmana answered, "What can I do? Before my very eyes a falcon carried him away from the bank of the river."
Hearing this, they said, "You do not tell the truth. How could a falcon be capable of carrying off a fifteen-year-old boy?"
Lakschmana answered, laughing, "Ha! Listen to this proverb: When mice can eat a thousand pounds of iron, then a falcon can carry away an elephant, to say nothing of a little boy."
The judges said, "What do you mean by that?"
Then Lakschmana told the whole story about the scales. After hearing this, they laughed at what Nanduka and Lakschmana had done, reconciled the two with each other, and made them respectively return the scales and the boy.
In a certain place there lived a large bullock by the name of Tîkschnabrischana, which means "having substantial balls." Because of his excessive pride, he left his herd and wandered about in the forest, tearing up the banks as he pleased and devouring the emerald-colored grass.
In this same forest there lived a jackal by the name of Pralobhaka, which means "the greedy one." One day he was sitting pleasantly with his wife on an island in the river. Tîkschnabrischana came up to this island to have a drink of water. When the jackal's wife saw the balls, she said to her husband, "Master, just look! This bullock has two pieces of meat hanging down. They will be falling off immediately, at the least in a few hours. Take heed of this, and follow him."
The jackal answered, "Loved one, there is nothing certain about their falling off. Why do you ask me to set forth on such a futile task? Let me stay here with you, and together we can eat the mice that come here to drink. This is their pathway. If I leave you to follow the bullock, then someone else will come here and take over this spot. It is not a good idea, for it is said: He who gives up a sure thing for an uncertainty will lose the sure thing, and the uncertainty will remain just that."
The jackal's wife said, "Oh, you are a low-spirited creature. You are satisfied with the worst things that you can find. They also say: It is easy to fill a little brook and also the paws of a little mouse. Ordinary people are easily satisfied. They are pleased with the smallest things. For this reason a good man must always be active. They also say: With every beginning there is a will to act. Avoid idleness, and join the community of the intelligent and the powerful. Think not that fate alone rules. Cease not to work. Without effort the sesame seed will not give up its oil. And further: A foolish man is happy with little. His heart is satisfied just thinking of wealth. It is thus not appropriate for you to say, 'It is uncertain, whether or not they will fall off.' It is also said: Active people deserve praise. Those with pride will be praised. What sort of scoundrel will wait until Indra brings him water? Furthermore, I am mightily tired of eating mouse meat. These two pieces of meat look as though they will soon fall off. You must follow him. Nothing else will do!"
After hearing all this, the jackal left his mouse catching, and followed after Tîkschnabrischana. They rightly say: A man is master in all things, until he lets his will be turned by a woman's words. And further: The impossible seems possible, the unachievable easily achieved, and the inedible edible to the man who is spurred on by a woman's words.
Thus, together with his wife, he followed the bullock a long time, but the two balls did not fall off.
In the fifteenth year, the jackal finally said wearily to his wife, "Fifteen years, my love, I have kept my eyes on those hanging things to see whether or not they are going to fall off, but they still hold fast. Nor will they fall off in the future. Let us return to catching mice!"
In a certain place there lived a Brahman by the name of Haridatta. He tilled the soil, but his time in the field brought him no harvest. Then one day, as the hottest hours were just over, tormented by the heat, he lay down in the shade of a tree in the middle of his field for a sleep. He saw a frightful snake, decorated with a large hood, crawl from an anthill a little way off, and thought to himself, "This is surely the goddess of the field, and I have not once paid her homage. That is why the field remains barren. I must bring her an offering." After thus thinking it over, he got some milk, poured it into a basin, then went to the anthill, and said, "Oh, protector of this field, for a long time I did not know that you live here. For this reason I have not yet brought you an offering. Please forgive me!"
Having said this, he set forth the milk, and went home. The next day he returned to see what had happened, and he found a dinar in the basin. And thus it continued day by day. He brought the snake milk, and always found a dinar there the next morning.
One day the Brahman asked his son to take the milk to the anthill, and he himself went into the village. The son brought the milk, set it there, and returned home. When he came back the next day and found a dinar, he said to himself, "This anthill must be full of gold dinars. I will kill the snake and take them all at once!"
Having decided this, the Brahman's son returned the next day with the milk and a club. As he gave the milk to the snake, he struck her on the head with the club. The snake, as fate willed it, escaped with her life. Filled with rage, she bit the boy with her sharp, poisoned teeth, and the boy fell dead at once. His people built a funeral pyre not far from the field and cremated him.
Two days later his father returned. When he discovered under what circumstances his son had died, he said that justice had prevailed. The next morning, he once again took milk, went to the anthill, and praised the snake with a loud voice. A good while later the snake appeared in the entrance to the anthill, and said, "You come here from greed, letting even your grief for your son pass by. From now on friendship between you and me will no longer be possible. Your son, in his youthful lack of understanding, struck me. I bit him. How can I forget the club's blow? How can you forget the pain and sorrow for your son?" After saying this she gave him a costly pearl for a pearl chain, said, "Do not come back," and disappeared into her cave.
The Brahman took the pearl, cursed his son's lack of understanding, and returned home.
She, however, was overcome by sorrow, and did not even want to look at the old man. For is it not right, that: The white field of hair on an old man's head attracts the greatest contempt. To avoid it, a girl will take the widest detour, like someone crossing a graveyard strewn with bones. And further: The body is bent. The gait is broken. Teeth are lost. Vision is weak. Beauty is destroyed. The mouth is always filled with spit. Relatives do not follow his advice. His wife does not obey him. Alas! Alas! Even the son despises a man struck down by age!
One night they were lying in bed together, her face turned away from him, when a thief broke into their house. When she saw the thief, she was overcome by fear, and, in spite of his age, she clasped her husband tightly in her arms. The surprise embrace caused every hair on his body to stand on end.
He said to himself, "Why is she holding me?"
Then looking around, he too discovered the thief crouched in the corner, and he realized, "She is embracing me, because she is afraid of him," and said aloud, "The woman who has always despised me is embracing me tightly tonight. Praise be to you, you granter of desire! Take whatever of mine that you want!"
The thief answered, "I see nothing here that I would want to take. If in the future there is something worth taking, then I will return, but only when she is not embracing you so."
In a certain place there once lived a dog by the name of Tschitranga, which means "having a spotted body." A lengthy famine set in. Because they had no food, the dogs and other animals began to leave their families. Tschitranga, whose throat was emaciated with hunger, was driven by fear to another country. There in a certain city he went to a certain house day after day where, due to the carelessness of the housekeeper, many good things to eat were left lying about, and he ate his fill. However, upon leaving the house, other vicious dogs surrounded him on all sides and tore into him on all parts of his body with their teeth. Then he reconsidered his situation, and said, "It is better at home. Even during a famine you can live there in peace, and no one bites you to pieces. I will return to my own city."
Having thus thought it through, set forth to his own city. When he arrived there, all of his relatives asked him, "Tschitranga, tell us about where you have been. What is the country like? How do the people behave? What do they eat? What do they do?"
He answered, "How can I explain to you the essence of a foreign place? There are good things to eat in great variety, and housekeepers who do not keep watch! There is only one evil in a foreign country: You will be hated there because of who you are!"
In a certain city there lived a Brahman by the name of Devasarman. His wife gave birth to a son, and then to a mongoose. Full of love for her children, she cared for the mongoose like a son, nursing him at her breast, rubbing him with salve, and so forth. However, she did not trust him, thinking that in keeping with the evil nature of his species he might harm her son.
As is rightly said: A son will bring joy to his parents' heart, even if he is uneducated, bad, malformed, foolish, and sinful. And as also is said: Sandalwood salve cools and soothes, but a son's embrace far excels sandalwood salve. The relationship with one's son is more important than that with a best friend, a good father, or any other person.
One day, after nicely tucking the boy into his bed, she took the water pitcher and said to her husband, "Listen, master, I am going to the pond to fetch water. You must protect our son from the mongoose."
After she departed, the Brahman went off somewhere to collect alms, leaving the house empty. In the meantime a black snake crept out of its hole and -- as fate would have it -- approached the boy's bed. However, the mongoose confronted this, his natural enemy, and fearing that it might kill his brother, the mongoose attacked the wicked snake, tore it to bits, and threw the pieces far and wide.
Proud of his valor and his face covered with blood, the mongoose approached the mother to tell her what had happened.
However, the mother, seeing his blood-spattered face and sensing his excitement, feared, "without doubt this evildoer has devoured our son." Driven by anger and without further investigation she threw the water-filled pitcher at the mongoose, killing the him instantly.
Paying no further attention to the mongoose, she rushed into the house where she found the boy still asleep. Near the bed she saw a large black snake, torn to bits. Then her heart was overcome with sorrow because of the thoughtless murder of her praiseworthy son, the mongoose, and she beat herself on the head, the breast, and her other body parts.
While this was happening the Brahman returned home with alms from wherever he had been begging.
"See there!" she cried, overcome with grief for her son, the mongoose. "Oh, you greedy one! Because you let greed rule you instead of doing what I told you to, you now must taste the fruit of your own tree of sin, the pain of your son's death."
Two fish lived in a pond. Their names were Satabuddhi (having the understanding of a hundred) and Sahasrabuddhi (having the understanding of a thousand). The two of them had a frog for a friend, whose name was Ekabuddhi (having the understanding of one).
For a time they would enjoy friendly conversation on the bank, and then they would return to the water. One day when they had gathered for conversation, some fishermen came by just as the sun was setting. They were carrying nets in their hands and many dead fish on their heads.
When the fishermen saw the pond, they said to one another, "There seem to be a lot of fish in this pond, and the water is very low. Let us come back here tomorrow morning!" After saying this, they went home.
These words struck the three friends like a thunderbolt, and they took counsel with one another.
The frog said, "Oh, my dear Satabuddhi and Sahasrabuddhi, what shall we do? Should we flee, or stay here?"
Hearing this, Sahasrabuddhi laughed and said, "Oh, my friend, don't be afraid of words alone! They probably will not come back. But even if they do come back, I will be able to protect myself and you as well, through the power of my understanding, for I know many pathways through the water."
After hearing this, Satabuddhi said, "Yes, what Sahasrabuddhi says is correct, for one rightly says: Where neither the wind nor the sun's rays have found a way, intelligent understanding will quickly make a path. And also: Everything on earth is subject to the understanding of those with intelligence. Why should one abandon the place of one's birth that has been passed down from generation to generation, just because of words? We must not retreat a single step! I will protect you through the power of my understanding."
The frog said, "I have but one wit, and it is advising me to flee. This very day I shall go with my wife to another pond."
After saying this, as soon as it was night, the frog went to another pond.
Early the next day the fishermen came like servants of the god of death and spread their nets over the pond. All the fish, turtles, frogs, crabs, and other water creatures were caught in the nets and captured, also Satabuddhi and Sahasrabuddhi, although they fled, and through their knowledge of the various paths escaped for a while by swimming to and fro. But they too, together with their wives, fell into a net and were killed.
That afternoon the fishermen happily set forth toward home. Because of his weight, one of them carried Satabuddhi on his head. They tied Sahasrabuddhi onto a string and dragged him along behind.
The frog Ekabuddhi, who had climbed onto the bank of his pond, said to his wife, "Look, dear! Mr. Hundred-Wit lies on someone's head, and Mr. Thousand-Wit is hanging from a string. But Mr. Single-Wit, my dear, is playing here in the clear water."
In a certain place there lived a weaver by the name of Mantharaka, which means "the simpleton." One day, while weaving cloth, the wooden pieces on his loom broke. He took an ax, and set forth to find some wood. He found a large sissoo tree at the ocean's shore, and said aloud, "Now this is a large tree. If I fell it, I will have wood enough for all my weaving tools."
Having thus thought it through, he raised his ax to begin cutting. However, a spirit lived in this tree, and he said, "Listen! This tree is my home, and it must be spared in any event, because I like it here where my body can be stroked by the cool breezes that blow in from the ocean's waves."
The weaver said, "Then what am I to do? If I don't find a good tree, then my family will starve. You will have to go somewhere else. I am going to cut it down."
The spirit answered, "Listen, I am at your service. Ask whatever you would like, but spare this tree!"
The weaver said, "If that is what you want then I will go home and ask my friend and my wife, and when I return, you must give me what I ask for."
The spirit promised, and the weaver, beside himself with joy, returned home. Upon his arrival in his city he saw his friend, the barber, and said, "Friend, I have gained control over a spirit. Tell me what I should demand from him!"
The barber said, "My dear friend, if that is so then you should demand a kingdom. You could be king, and I would be your prime minister, and we two would first enjoy the pleasures of this world and then those of the next one. For they say: A prince who piously gives to others, achieves fame in this world, and through these good deeds, he will arrive in heaven, equal to the gods themselves."
The weaver spoke, "Friend, so be it! But let us also ask my wife."
The barber said, "One should never ask women for advice. They also say: A wise man gives women food, clothing, jewelry, and above all the duties of marriage, but he never asks for their advice. And further: That house must perish where a woman, a gambler, or a child is listened to. And: A man will advance and be loved by worthy people as long as he does not secretly listen to women. Women think only of their own advantage, of their own desires. Even if they love only their own son, still, he will serve their wishes."
The weaver spoke, "Even though this is true, she nonetheless must be asked, because she is subservient to her husband."
Having said this, he went quickly to his wife and said to her, "Dear one, today I have gained control over a spirit who will grant me one wish. Hence I have come to ask for your advice. Tell me, what should I ask for? My friend the barber thinks that I should request a kingdom."
She answered, "Oh, son of your excellence, what do barbers understand? You should never do what they say. After all, it is stated: A reasonable person will no sooner take advice from dancers, singers, the low born, barbers, or children, than from beggars. Furthermore, a king's life is an unending procession of annoyances. He must constantly worry about friendships, animosities, wars, servants, defense alliances, and duplicity. He never gets a moment's rest, because: Anyone who wants to rule must prepare his spirit for misfortune. The same container that is used for salve can also be used to pour out bad luck. Never envy the life of a king."
The weaver said, "You are right. But what should I ask for?"
She answered, "You can now work on only one piece of cloth at a time. That is barely enough to pay for the necessities. You should ask for another pair of arms and a second head so that you can work on two pieces of cloth at once, one in front of you, and one behind you. We can sell the one for household necessities, and you can use the money from the second one for other things. You will thus gain the praise of your relatives, and you will make gains in both worlds."
After hearing this he spoke with joy, "Good, you faithful wife! You have spoken well, and I will do what you say. That is my decision."
With that he went to the spirit and let his will be known, "Listen, if you want to fulfill my wish, then give me another pair of arms and another head."
He had barely spoken before he was two-headed and four-armed. Rejoicing, he returned home, but the people there thought that he was a demon and beat him with sticks and stones, until he fell over dead.
And that is why I say: He who cannot think for himself and will not follow the advice of friends, he will push himself into misfortune, just like the weaver Mantharaka.
In a certain place there lived a Brahman by the name of Svabhâvakripana, which means "luckless by his very nature." By begging he acquired a quantity of rice gruel, and after he had eaten what he wanted, there was still a potful left. He hung this pot on a nail in the wall above his bed. As night progressed, he could not take his eyes from the pot. All the while he was thinking:
This pot is filled to overflowing with rice gruel. If a famine should come to the land, then I could sell it for a hundred pieces of silver. Then I could buy a pair of goats. They have kids every six months, so I would soon have an entire herd of goats. Then I would trade the goats for cattle. As soon as the cows had calved, I would sell the calves. Then I would trade the cattle for buffalo. And the buffalo for horses. And when the horses foaled, I would own many horses. From their sale I would gain a large amount of gold. With this gold I would buy a house with four buildings in a rectangle.
Then a Brahman would enter my house and give me a very beautiful girl with a large dowry for my wife. She will give birth to a son, and I will give him the name Somasarman. When he is old enough to be bounced on my knee, I will take a book, sit in the horse stall, and read. In the meantime, Somasarman will see me and want to be bounced on my knee. He will climb down from his mother's lap and walk toward me, coming close to the horses hooves. Then, filled with anger, I will shout at my wife, "Take the child! Take the child!"
But she, busy with her housework, will not hear me. So I will jump up and give her a kick!
And, buried in his thoughts, he struck out with his foot, breaking the pot, and painting himself white with the rice gruel that had been in it. Therefore I say:
He who dreams about unrealistic projects for the future will have the same fate as Somasarman's father: He will find himself lying there painted white with rice gruel.