Read the previous part here…
And so, frightened at the turn of events, I decided to take my followers on a path different from my usual route, and away from my fortress. I had just set out when…
I had just set out when I saw a big cat standing ahead in our path. We didn’t have a chance. He pounced on us, and a few of my followers died instantly. The rest, who had seen me leading them on a different route today, blamed me for this mishap and rushed back to the fortress, bleeding along the way from their deep wounds. What can I say…it was a massacre. And I was blamed for it.
It has been said that he cut the ropes that bound him, escaped the hidden snares and broke out of the trap, avoided the blaze of fire that engulfed him in the forest, dodged the hunter’s arrows as he rushed through the bushes – the deer managed to avoid all this…but then fell into an open well in his path and died…करोतु विधुरे किं वा विधौ पौरुषम् – what else could he do when fate itself was against him?
I was left alone, and I kept running. The others were foolish – they entered the fortress and remained there, tending to their wounds. In the meanwhile, Brihatsphinga followed the trail of the drops of blood, and managed to reach the fortress. He lifted the spade high in the air…and struck the fortress hard. It broke. Again and again, he struck it, and I felt every blow in my heart. In a few minutes, a large part of my fortress lay broken, and Brihatsphinga found the treasure.
“The treasure?”, asked Mantharaka and LaghuPatanaka in unison. “What treasure?”
“The treasure…some gold that a moneylender had buried a long time ago, and died before he could retrieve it. I had built the fortress on that gold, and it was the gold that gave me the energy and the vigour to jump higher. ऊष्मापि वित्तजो वृद्धिं तेजो नयति देहिनाम् – When a man is wealthy, he feels energetic, and vigourous. Brihatsphinga was right.
And he knew he was right. He spotted the gold, and I saw the happiness reflecting on his face when he bent down to take it in his hands. He looked at TaamraChooda and told him triumphantly “See! Didn’t I tell you this? It was this gold that made that wicked mouse so energetic. Here, put this in your bag, and let’s go back to the ashram.” TaamraChooda put the gold in his bag, and they walked away, leaving a large part of my fortress in ruins.
When they were gone, I returned to what was once my fortress. There was a big gaping hole at the spot where the treasure had been…the place had lost all it’s beauty and was looking desolate. “What do I do now”, I thought to myself. “Where do I go? Will I ever get back my peace of mind?” I spent the whole day thinking this way. And when the sun set, I decided to go back to the ashram, along with my followers, whose numbers had now dwindled. I had to try to retrieve the treasure, and if not, at least see it one last time.
As we stepped into his room, TaamraChooda heard our footsteps, and by force of habit, began to hit the begging bowl with his stick.
“My friend, are you still not able to sleep peacefully?” asked Brihatsphinga.
“I just heard that mouse coming into the room”, replied TaamraChooda. “And I am sure that he has not come alone. He will try to steal food again, and that is why I am hitting the bowl with the stick.”
Brihatsphinga laughed. “Don’t worry”, he said between chuckles. “His wealth is gone, and with it his power of jumping high. He would have lost all his enthusiasm. This is true for us human beings as well! It is said…
यद् उत्साही सदा मर्त्यः पराभवति यज् जनान् ।
यद् उद्धतं वदेद् वाक्यं तत् सर्वं वित्तजं बलम् ॥ ८८ ॥
yad utsāhī sadā martyaḥ parābhavati yaj janān |
yad uddhataṃ vaded vākyaṃ tat sarvaṃ vittajaṃ balam || 88 ||
A man is overenthusiastic, he looks down upon others and behaves with arrogance, he speaks rudely… all this is due to the wealth he owns.
Hearing his speak about me this way, I got angry, and to prove him wrong, jumped towards the begging bowl with all my might…I didn’t even reach halfway, before I fell to the ground. My arch enemy Brihatsphinga must have heard me fall, because he turned to TaamraChooda, doubling up with laughter, and said “Did you hear it? This is so funny!
अर्थेन बलवान् सर्वो ऽप्य् अर्थ-युक्तः स पण्डितः ।
पश्यैनं मूषकं व्यर्थं सजातेः समतां मतम् ॥ ८९ ॥
arthena balavān sarvo ‘py artha-yuktaḥ sa paṇḍitaḥ |
paśyainaṃ mūṣakaṃ vyarthaṃ sajāteḥ samatāṃ matam || 89 ||
It is because of wealth that one is considered strong, and a wealthy man is also acclaimed as being very learned. But look at this mouse! With all his wealth gone, he has now become an ordinary mouse!
“You can sleep without any anxiety, or fear. What made him jump high, is with us now. He is now of no danger to your food.
दंष्ट्रा-विरहितः सर्पो मद-हीनो यथा गजः ।
तथार्थेन विहीनो ऽत्र पुरुषो नाम-धारकः ॥ ९० ॥
daṃṣṭrā-virahitaḥ sarpo mada-hīno yathā gajaḥ |
tathārthena vihīno ‘tra puruṣo nāma-dhārakaḥ || 90 ||
A serpent without fangs, an elephant without its temporin, and a man without wealth exist only in name – they are powerless.
I heard him, and thought to myself “My arch-enemy has spoken the truth. I don’t have the power to jump even a little now – it’s gone. A man without wealth is truly powerless. अर्थेन च विहीनस्य पुरुषस्याल्प-मेधसः व्युच्छिद्यन्ते क्रियाः सर्वा ग्रीष्मे कुसरितो यथा – a man without wealth loses his mind, and anything he does yields very little result, much like small streams that dry up in summer.
सन्तो ऽपि न हि राजन्ते दरिद्रस्येतरे गुणाः ।
आदित्य इव भूतानां श्रीर् गुणानां प्रकाशिनी ॥ ९३ ॥
santo ‘pi na hi rājante daridrasyetare guṇāḥ |
āditya iva bhūtānāṃ śrīr guṇānāṃ prakāśinī || 93 ||
The many virtues of a good man are not noticed, if he is poor. Like the sun lights up the world, the Goddess of wealth Laxmi alone reveals the virtues of men.
न तथा बाध्यते लोके प्रकृत्या निर्धनो जनः ।
यथा द्रव्याणि सम्प्राप्य तैर् विहीनो ऽसुखे स्थितः ॥ ९४ ॥
na tathā bādhyate loke prakṛtyā nirdhano janaḥ |
yathā dravyāṇi samprāpya tair vihīno ‘sukhe sthitaḥ || 94 ||
A man who has been poor since birth does not suffer as much as the man who has enjoyed wealth earlier, but has then lost it and become poor.
“And so my thoughts turned to despair, even more so since I noticed that they had tied up my treasure next to their pillows, and the begging bowl was also now out of reach. Dejected, I slowly walked back home, and reached early in the morning. As I was entering what was left of my fortress, I overheard my servants talking to each other. They were saying…
to be continued…