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Book 1. The Loss of Friends

The Duel between Elephant and Sparrow

In a dense bit of jungle lived a sparrow and his wife, who had built their nest on the branch of a tamal tree, and in course of time a family appeared.

Now one day a jungle elephant with the spring fever was distressed by the heat, and came beneath that tamal tree in search of shade. Blinded by his fever, he pulled with the tip of his trunk at the branch where the sparrows had their nest, and broke it. In the process the sparrows' eggs were crushed, though [154} the parent-birds - further life being predestined - barely escaped death.

Then the hen-sparrow lamented, desolate with grief at the death of her chicks. And presently, hearing her lamentation, a woodpecker bird, a great friend of hers, came grieved at her grief, and said: "My dear friend, why lament in vain? For the Scripture says:

For lost and dead and past

The wise have no laments:

Between the wise and fools

Is just this difference.

And again:

No life deserves lament;

Fools borrow trouble,

Add sadness to the sad,

So make it double.

And yet again:

Since kinsmen's sticky tears

Clog the departed,

Bury them decently,

Tearless, whole-hearted."

"That is good doctrine," said the hen-sparrow, "but what of it? This elephant curse - his spring fever! - killed my babies. So if you are my friend, think of some plan to kill this big elephant. If that were done, I should feel less grief at the death of my children. You know the saying:

While one brings comfort in distress,

Another jeers at pain;

By paying both as they deserve,

A man is born again." [155}

"Madam," said the woodpecker, "your remark is very true. For the proverb says:

A friend in need is a friend indeed,

Although of different caste;

The whole world is your eager friend

So long as riches last.

And again:

A friend in need is a friend indeed;

Fathers indeed are those who feed;

True comrades they, and wives indeed,

Whence trust and sweet content proceed.

"Now see what my wit can devise. But you must know that I, too, have a friend, a gnat called Lute-Buzz. I will return with her, so that this villainous beast of an elephant may be killed."

So he went with the hen-sparrow, found the gnat, and said: "Dear madam, this is my friend the hen-sparrow. She is mourning because a villainous elephant smashed her eggs. So you must lend your assistance while I work out a plan for killing him."

"My good friend," said the gnat, "there is only one possible answer. But I also have a very intimate friend, a frog named Cloud-Messenger. Let us do the right thing by calling him into consultation. For the proverb says:

A wise companion find,

Shrewd, learnèd, righteous, kind;

For plans by him designed

Are never undermined." [156}

So all three went together and told Cloud-Messenger the entire story. And the frog said: "How feeble a thing is that wretched elephant when pitted against a great throng enraged! Gnat, you must go and buzz in his fevered ear, so that he may shut his eyes in delight at hearing your music. Then the woodpecker's bill will peck out his eyes. After that I will sit on the edge of a pit and croak. And he, being thirsty, will hear me, and will approach expecting to find a body of water. When he comes to the pit, he will fall in and perish."

When they carried out the plan, the fevered elephant shut his eyes in delight at the song of the gnat, was blinded by the woodpecker, wandered thirst-smitten at noonday, followed the croak of a frog, came to a great pit, fell in, and died.

"And that is why I say:

Woodpecker and sparrow, . . . .

and the rest of it."

"Very well," said the plover. "I will assemble my friends and dry up the ocean." With this in mind, he summoned all the birds and related his grief at the rape of his chicks. And they started to beat the ocean with their wings, as a means of bringing relief to his sorrow.

But one bird said: "Our desires will not be accomplished in this manner. Let us rather fill up the ocean with clods and dust." So they all brought what clods [157} and dust they could carry in the hollow of their bills and started to fill up the ocean.

Then another bird said: "It is plain that we are not equal to a contest with mighty ocean. So I will tell you what is now timely. There is an old gander who lives beside a banyan tree, who will give us sound and practical advice. Let us go and ask him. For there is a saying:

Take old folks' counsel (those are old

Who have experience)

The captive wild-goose flock was freed

By one old gander's sense."

"How was that?" asked the birds. And the speaker told the story of

The Shrewd Old Gander

In a part of a forest was a fig tree with massive branches. In it lived a flock of wild geese. At the root of this tree appeared a creeping vine of the species called koshambi. Thereupon the old gander said: "This vine that is climbing our fig tree bodes ill to us. By means of it, someone might perhaps climb up here some day and kill us. Take it away while it is still slender and readily cut." But the geese despised his counsel and did not cut the vine, so that in course of time it wound its way up the tree.

Now one day when the geese were out foraging, a hunter climbed the fig tree by following the spiral vine, laid a snare among the nests, and went home. [158} When the geese, after food and recreation, returned at nightfall, they were caught to the last one. Whereupon the old gander said: "Well, the disaster has taken place. You are caught, having brought it on yourselves by not heeding my advice. We are all lost now."

Then the geese said to him: "Sir, the thing having come to pass, what ought we to do now?" And the old fellow replied: "If you will take my advice, play dead when that hateful hunter comes. And when the hunter, inferring that we are dead, throws the last one to the ground, we then must all rise simultaneously, flying over his head."

At early dawn the hunter arrived, and when he looked them over, everyone seemed as good as dead. He therefore freed them from the snare with perfect assurance, and threw them all to the ground, one after the other. But when they saw him preparing to descend, they all followed the shrewd plan of the old gander and flew up simultaneously.

"And that is why I say:

Take old folks' counsel, . . .

and the rest of it."

When the story had been told, all the birds visited the old gander and related their grief at the rape of the chicks. Then the old gander said: "The king of us all is Garuda. Therefore, the timely course of action is this. You must all stir the feelings of Garuda [159} by a chorus of wailing lamentation. In consequence, he will remove our sorrow." With this purpose they sought Garuda.

Now Garuda had just been summoned by bless&d Vishnu to take part in an impending battle between gods and demons. At just this moment the birds reported to their master, the king of the birds, what sorrow in the separation of loved ones had been wrought by the ocean when he seized the chicks. "O bird divine," they said, "while you gleam in royal radiance, we must live on what little is won by the labour of our bills. Because of our weak necessity of eating, the ocean has, in overbearing manner, carried away our young. Now there is a saying:

The poor are in peculiar need

Of being secret when they feed:

The lion killed the ram who could

Not check his appetite for food."

"How was that?" asked Garuda. And an old bird told the story of

The Lion and the Ram

In a part of a forest was a ram, separated from his flock. In the armour of his great fleece and horns, he roamed the wood, a tough customer. Now one day a lion in that forest, who had a retinue of all kinds of animals, encountered him. At this unprecedented sight, since the wool so bristled in every direction as to conceal the body, the lion's [160} heart was troubled and invaded by fear. "Surely, he is more powerful than I am," thought he. "That is why he wanders here so fearlessly."

And the lion edged away. But on a later day the lion saw the same ram cropping grass on the forest floor, and he thought: "What! The fellow nibbles grass! His strength must be in relation to his diet."

So he made a quick spring and killed the ram.

"And that is why I say:

The poor are in peculiar need

Of being secret when they feed,

and the rest of it."

While they were thus conferring, Vishnu's messenger returned and said: "Garuda, Lord Vishnu sends orders that you repair at once to the celestial city." On hearing this, Garuda proudly said to him: "Messenger, what will the master do with so poor a servant as I am?"

"Garuda," said the messenger, "it may be that the blessèd one has spoken to you harshly. But why should you display pride toward the blessèd one?" And Garuda replied: "The ocean, the resting-place of the blessèd one, has stolen the eggs of the plover, who is my servant. If I do not chastise him, then I am not the servant of the blessèd one. Make this report to the master."

Now when Vishnu learned from the messenger's [161} lips that Garuda was feigning anger, he thought: "Ah, he is dreadfully angry. I will therefore go in person, will address him, and bring him back with all honour. For the proverb says:

Shame no servant showing worth,

Loyalty, and noble birth;

Pet him ever like a son,

If you wish your business done.

And again:

Masters, fully satisfied,

Pay by gratifying pride;

Servants, for such honour's pay,

Gladly throw their lives away."

Having reached this conclusion, he hastened to Garuda, who, beholding his master a visitor in his own house, modestly gazed on the ground, bowed low, and said: "O blessèd one, the ocean, made insolent by his service as your resting-place, has stolen - behold! has stolen the eggs of my servant, and thus brought shame upon me. From reverence for the blessèd one, I have delayed. But if nothing is done, I myself will this day reduce him to dry land. For the proverb says:

A loyal servant dies, but shrinks

From doing deeds of such a kind

As bring contempt from common men

And lower him in his master's mind."

To this the blessèd one replied: "O son of Vinata, your speech is justified. Because

For servants' crimes the master should

Be made to suffer, say the good, [162}

So long as he does not erase

From service, cruel folk and base.

"Come, then, so that we may recover the eggs from ocean, may satisfy the plover, and then proceed to the celestial city on the gods' business."

To this Garuda agreed, and the blessèd one reproached the ocean, then fitted the fire-arrow to his bow and said: "Villain, give the plover his eggs. Else, I will reduce you to dry land."

On hearing this, the ocean, while all his train shook with fright, tremblingly took the eggs and restored them to the plover, as the blessèd one directed.

"And that is why I say:

He loses fights who fights before

His foeman's power is reckoned,

and the rest of it."

Now when Lively understood the matter, he asked Victor: "Tell me, comrade. What is his fighting technique?"

And Victor answered: "Formerly he would lie carelessly on a slab of stone, with limbs relaxed. If today his tail is drawn in at the very first, if his four paws are bunched and his ears pricked up, and if he is watching for you while you are still far off, then you may understand that he has treachery in mind."

Hereupon Victor visited Cheek, who asked: "What have you accomplished?"

And he replied: "I have already set them at odds with each other." [163}

"Have you really done it?" said Cheek.

And Victor answered: "The outcome will show you."

"Indeed," said Cheek, "it is not surprising. For the proverb says:

A well-devised estranging scheme

The firmest prudence shocks,

As constant floods of water split

The mountains' close-piled rocks."

Then Victor continued: "Having wrought an estrangement, a man should not fail to seek his own advantage in it. As the verse puts it:

The man who studies every book

And understands, yet does not look

To his advantage, learns in vain;

His books are merely mental strain."

"But in the final analysis," said Cheek, "there is no such thing as personal advantage. For

Since worms and filth and ashes cling,

The body is a loathsome thing;

What statecraft therefore may there be

In hurting it vicariously?"

"Ah," replied Victor, "you have no comprehension of the devious ways of statesmanship, the basic support of the profession of counsellor. On this point there is a verse:

Let your speech like sugar be,

Steel your heart remorselessly;

Never draw a doubtful breath:

Pay for suffered wrongs with death.

And another thing. This Lively, even when killed, will provide us with nourishment. For you know, [164}

The wise who wrongs another,

Pursuing selfish good,

Should keep his plans a secret,

As Smart did in the wood."

"How was that?" asked Cheek. And Victor told the story of

Smart, the Jackal

In a part of a forest lived a lion named Thunder-Fang, in company with three counsellors, a wolf, a jackal, and a camel, whose names were Meat-Face, Smart, and Spike-Ear. One day he fought with a furious elephant whose sharp-pointed tusk so tore his body that he withdrew from the world.

Then, suffering from a seven-day fast, his body lean with hunger, he said to his famished advisers: "Round up some creature in the forest, so that, even in my present condition, I may provide needed nourishment for you." The moment he issued his orders, they roamed the wood, but found nothing.

Thereupon Smart reflected: "If Spike-Ear here were killed, then we should all be nourished for a few days. However, the master is kept from killing him by friendly feeling. In spite of that, my wit will put the master in a frame of mind to kill him. For, indeed,

All understanding may be won,

All things be slain, and all be done,

If mortals have sufficient wit;

For me, I make good use of it."

After these reflections, he said to Spike-Ear: "Friend Spike-Ear, the master lacks wholesome food, [165} and is starving. If the master goes, our death is also a certain thing. So I have a suggestion for your benefit and the master's. Please pay attention."

"My good fellow," said Spike-Ear, "make haste to inform me, so that I may unhesitatingly do as you say. Besides, one earns credit for a hundred good deeds by

Smart said: "My good fellow, give your own body at 100 per cent interest, so that you may receive a double body, and the master may prolong his life."

On hearing this proposal, Spike-Ear said: "If that is possible, my friend, my body shall be so devoted. Tell the master that this thing should be done. I stipulate only that the Death-God be requested to guarantee the bargain."

Having made their decision, they all went to visit the lion, and Smart said: "O King, we did not find a thing today, and the blessèd sun is already near his setting."

On hearing this, the lion fell into deep despondency. Then Smart continued: "O King, our friend Spike-Ear makes this proposal: 'If you call upon the Death-God to guarantee the bargain, and if you render it back with 100 per cent of interest, then I will give my body."

"My good fellow," answered the lion, "yours is a beautiful act. Let it be as you say."

On the basis of this pact, Spike-Ear was struck down by the lion's paw, his body was torn by the wolf and the jackal, and he died.

Then Smart reflected: "How can I get him all to [166} myself to eat?" With this thought in his mind, he noticed that the lion's body was smeared with blood, and he said: "Master, you must go to the river to bathe and worship the gods, while I stay here with Meat-Face to guard the food-supply."

On hearing this, the lion went to the river. When the lion was gone, Smart said to Meat-Face: "Friend Meat-Face, you are starving. You might eat some of this camel before the old master returns. I will make your apologies to the master."

So Meat-Face took the hint, but had only taken a taste when Smart cried: "Drop it, Meat-Face. The master is coming."

Presently the lion returned, saw that the camel was minus a heart, and wrathfully roared: "Look here! Who turned this camel into leavings? I wish to kill him, too."

Then Meat-Face peered into Smart's visage, as much as to say: "Come, now! Say something, so that he may calm down."

But Smart laughed and said: "Come, come! You ate the camel's heart all by yourself. Why do you look at me?"

And Meat-Face, hearing this, fled for his life, making for another country. But when the lion had pursued him a short distance, he turned back, thinking: "He, too, is unguipugnacious. I must not kill him."

At this moment, as fate would have it, there came that way a great camel caravan, heavily laden, making a tremendous jingling with the bells tied to the camels' necks. And when the lion heard the jingle of [167} the bells, loud even in the distance, he said to the jackal: "My good fellow, find out what this horrible noise may be."

On receiving this commission, Smart advanced a little in the forest, then darted back, and cried in great excitement: "Run, master! Run, if you can run!"

"My good fellow," said the lion, "why terrify me so? Tell me what it is."

And Smart cried: "Master, the Death-God is coming, and he is in a rage against you because you brought untimely death upon his camel, and had him guarantee the bargain. He intends to make you pay a thousand fold for his camel. He has immense pride in his camels. He also plans to make inquiries about the father and grandfathers of that one. He is coming. He is near at hand."

When the lion heard this, he, too, abandoned the dead camel and scampered for dear life. Whereupon Smart ate the camel bit by bit, so that the meat lasted a long time.

"And that is why I say:

The wise who wrongs another,

Pursuing selfish good, . . .

and the rest of it."

Now when Victor was gone, Lively reflected: "What am I to do? Suppose I go elsewhere, then some other merciless creature will kill me, for this is a wild wood. Indeed, when the master is furious, it is not possible even to depart. For the proverb says: [168}

Impunity comes not

By fleeing far away:

The long arms of the shrewd

Make careless sinners pay.

"My best course is to approach the lion. He might regard me as a suppliant, might even spare my life."

Having thus set his mind in order, he started very slowly, with troubled spirit, and when he perceived the lion in the posture foretold by Victor, he sank down at some little distance, thinking: "Ah, the unfathomable character of kings! As the proverb says:

It's a house with serpents crawling,

Wood with beasts of prey appalling,

Lotus-pond where blossoms smile

Over the lurking crocodile,

Spot that sneaking rogues deface

With repeated slanders base -

Timid servant never learns

Whither kingly purpose turns."

Rusty for his part, perceiving the bull in the attitude predicted by Victor, made a sudden spring at him. And Lively, though his body was torn by sharp claws as formidable as thunderbolts, also scored the lion's belly with his horns, contrived to break away from him, and stood in fighting posture, ready to gore again.

At this point Cheek perceived that both of them, red as dhak trees in blossom, were intent on killing each other, and he said reproachfully to Victor: "You [169} dunderhead! In setting these two at enmity, you have done a wicked deed. You have brought trouble and confusion into this entire forest, thus proving your ignorance of the true nature of statecraft. For the saying runs:

Those are counsellors indeed,

Wise in statecraft, who succeed

In composing reckless strife

That, unhindered, threatens life:

Those on petty purpose bent,

Keen to visit punishment,

Quick in wrong and folly, bring

Risk to kingdom and to king.

Ah, poor fool!

Men of true discernment, first

Try conciliation;

For the victories of peace

Suffer no frustration.

Ah, poor simpleton! You seek the post of counsellor, and are ignorant of the very name of conciliation. Your ambition is vain, since you love harsh measures. As the proverb puts it:

Lord Brahma bids the statesman try

Conciliation first,

Postpone or shun (it can be done)

Harsh deeds, of all deeds worst.

'It's neither sun nor flashing gem

Nor fiery spark,

'It's peace, from bitter foemen's hearts

That routs the dark. [170}

And again:

Try peaceful means, not harsh, to make

Your quarrel flit:

Take sugar, not cucumber, for

A bilious fit.

And once again:

The doors that wit unlocks are three -

Peace, shrewd intrigue, and bribery;

The fourth device that brings success

In struggle, is plain manliness.

It's womanish, no doubt, to show

Small strength, abundant sense;

But power is merely bestial, if

Without intelligence.

Snake, lion, elephant, and fire,

With water, wind, and sun,

Have power. From undirected power

Is little profit won.

"Now if it was overweening pride in being the son of a counsellor that has led you to outrage decency, the result will be merely your own ruin. As the proverb says:

What is learning whose attaining

Sees no passion wane, no reigning

Love and self-control?

Does not make the mind a menial,

Finds in virtue no congenial

Path and final goal?

Whose attaining is but straining

For a name, and never gaining

Fame or peace of soul? [171}

"Now in the treatises on the subject statesmanship is subsumed under five heads, to wit: proper inception; resources, human and material; determination of place and time; countermeasures for mischance; and successful accomplishment. At the present moment, the master finds himself in serious peril. So, if you have any such capacity, devise countermeasures for his mischance. For the wisdom of a counsellor finds its test in the patching of friendship. Ah, you fool! That you cannot do, because you have a perverted mind. As the saying goes:

No scamp can further others' work,

But can deprave it:

The mole uproots the mulberry,

But cannot save it.

"After all, the fault is not yours, but rather the master's, who trusts your words, dull-witted as you are. And the proverb says:

Educating sluggish wit

Kills no pride but fosters it:

In the sunlight others find

Aid to vision; owls go blind.

Education thrusts aside

Man's fatuity and pride;

If it foster them, who can

Cure the educated man?

Remedies are useless when

Heaven's nectar poisons men."

And Cheek, beholding his master in pitiful plight, sank into deep dejection. "Dreadful," he cried, [172} "dreadful is the penalty the master pays for taking evil counsel! Indeed, there is wisdom in the verse:

Monarchs who adopt a plan

From the mean and vicious man,

Who refuse to tread the way

That the prudent counsel - they

Enter misadventure's cage

Where the adversaries rage;

Thence deliverance's gate

Crowns an issue rugged, strait.

"Fool! Fool! All the world seeks the service of a master whose retinue is righteous. How, then, can such an evil counsellor as you, who, like a beast, understand nothing but destruction - how can such a one enrich the master with righteous companions? For the proverb says:

Monarchs, ill-advised, repel,

Even though they purpose well:

Sweet and placid waters smile,

But beware the crocodile.

"Yet you, I suppose, seeking your own advantage, desire to have the king quite solitary. Ah, fool! Are you ignorant of the verse?

Kings shine as social beings, not

As solitaries;

Whoever wish them lonely are

Their adversaries.

And again:

Draw benefit from comments harsh;

No poison, this:

In flattery see treason, not

True nectar's bliss. [173}

"And if you are grieved at seeing others happy and prosperous, that, too, is wicked. It is wrong to proceed thus when friends have fulfilled their nature. For

Those who seek, through treason, friends;

Seek, through humbug, righteous ends;

Property by wronging neighbours;

Learning's wealth by easy labours;

Woman's love by cruel pride -

These are fools, self-stultified.


The happiness of subjects makes

The monarch gay and brave:

Nay, what would be the dancing sea

With no gem-flashing wave?

"Furthermore, for one who has enjoyed the master's favour, modesty is peculiarly proper. As the verse puts it:

According to his favoured state,

A servant's modest, humble gait

Is notably appropriate.

"Your character, however, is marked by levity. And the proverb says:

The great are firm, though battered, as before;

Great ocean is not fouled by caving shore:

For petty cause the fickle change and pass;

The gentlest breezes ruffle pliant grass.

"When all is said, it is the master's fault. For in pursuit of virtue, money, and love, he recklessly takes counsel with one like you one who lives by the mere pretence of administrative competence, in total [174} ignorance of the six expedients and the four devices for attaining success. Yes, there is wisdom in this:

If kings are satisfied

With servants at their side

Who ply a wheedling tongue,

Whose bows are never strung,

Then kingly glory goes

Embracing manlier foes.

"Indeed, there is much sense in the story which is summed up in the familiar verse:

The counsellor whose name was Strong

Attained his dearest heart's desire:

He won the favour of his king;

He burned the naked monk with fire."

"How was that?" asked Victor. And Cheek told the story of

The Monk Who Left His Body Behind

In the Koshala country is a city called Unassailable. In it ruled a king named Fine-Chariot, over whose footstool rippled rays of light from the diadems of uncounted vassal princes.

One day a forest ranger came with this report: "Master, all the forest kings have become turbulent, and in their middle is the forest chief named Vindhyaka. It is the king's affair to teach him modest manners." On hearing this report, the king summoned Counsellor Strong, and despatched him with orders to chastise the forest chieftains. [175}

Now in the absence of the counsellor, a naked monk arrived in the city at the end of the hot season* He was master of the astronomical specialties, such as problems and etymologies, rising of the zodiacal signs, augury, ecliptic intersection, and the decanate; also stellar mansions divided into nine parts, twelve parts, thirty parts; the shadow of the gnomon, eclipses, and numerous other mysteries. With these the fellow in a few days won the entire population, as if he had bought and paid for them.

Finally, as the matter went from mouth to mouth, the king heard a report of its character, and had the curiosity to summon the monk to his palace. There he offered him a seat and asked: "Is it true, Professor, as they say, that you read the thoughts of others?"

"That will be demonstrated in the sequel," replied the monk, and by discourses adapted to the occasion he brought the poor king to the extreme pitch of curiosity.

One day he failed to appear at the regular hour, but the following day, on entering the palace, he announced: "O King, I bring you the best of good tidings. At dawn today I flung this body aside within my cell, assumed a body fit for the world of the gods, and, inspired with the knowledge that all the immortals thought of me with longing, I went to heaven and have just returned. While there, I was requested by the gods to inquire in their name after the king's welfare." [176}

When he heard this, the king said, his extreme curiosity begetting a feeling of amazement: "What, Professor! You go to heaven?"

"O mighty King," replied the fellow, "I go to heaven every day." This the king believed poor dullard! so that he grew negligent of all royal business and all duties toward the ladies, concentrating his attention on the monk.

While matters were in this state, Strong entered the king's presence, after settling all disturbances in the forest domain. He found the master wholly indifferent to every one of his counsellors, withdrawn in private conference with that naked monk, discussing what seemed to be some miraculous occurrence, his lotus-face a-blossom. And on learning the facts, Strong bowed low and said: "Victory, O King! May the gods give you wit!"

Thereupon the king inquired concerning the counsellor's health, and said: "Sir, do you know this professor?" To which the counsellor replied: "How could there be ignorance of one who is lord and creator of a whole school of professors? Moreover, I have heard that this professor goes to heaven. Is it a fact?"

"Everything that you have heard," answered the king, "is beyond the shadow of doubt."

Thereupon the monk said: "If this counsellor feels any curiosity, he may see for himself." With this he entered his cell, barred the door from within, and waited there.

After the lapse of a mere moment, the counsellor spoke: "O King," he said, "how soon will [177} he return?" And the king replied: "Why this impatience? You must know that he leaves his lifeless body within this cell, and returns with another, a heavenly body."

"If this is indeed the case," said Strong, "then bring a great quantity of firewood, so that I may set fire to this cell."

"For what purpose?" asked the king. And the counsellor continued: "So that, when this lifeless body has been burned, the gentleman may stand before the king in that other body which visits heaven. In this connection I will tell you the story of the girl who married a snake (next page).


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