The Panchatantra is such a huge treasure trove of information, not just for kids, but for adults as well. There are so many life lessons in it, all encapsulated in entertaining stories that make them more relatable, and digestible. It’s a shame that the Panchatantra is not part of formal education, and is relegated to comics that still entertain but leave out the best bits.
Here is a sample:)
If the king is like a vulture, but is surrounded by swan-like courtiers, he should be served well. But, if a swan-like king is surrounded by people who act like vultures, then he should be discarded.
Sanjeevaka continued ” It seems like some wicked-hearted person has poisoned Pingalaka’s mind, and that is why he is angry with me. It is said…
मृदुना सलिलेन खन्यमा नान्यवद् धृष्यन्ति गिरेर् अपि स्थलानि ।
उपजापविदां च कर्ण-जापैः किम् उ चेतांसि मृदूनि मानवानाम् ॥ ३२६ ॥
mṛdunā salilena khanyamā nānyavad dhṛṣyanti girer api sthalāni |
upajāpavidāṃ ca karṇa-jāpaiḥ kim u cetāṃsi mṛdūni mānavānām || 326 ||
When even the hardest mountains are cut by the soft waters that flow from a height, why will not the tender hearts of men change by the continuous backbiting of the wicked?
“It is rightly said…”
पादाहतो ऽपि दृढ-दण्ड-समाहतो ऽपि यं दंष्ट्रया स्पृशति तं किल हन्ति सर्पः ।
को ऽप्य् एष एव पिशुनोग्र-मनुष्य-धर्मः कर्णे परं स्पृशति हन्ति परं समूलम् ॥ ३२८ ॥
pādāhato ‘pi dṛḍha-daṇḍa-samāhato ‘pi yaṃ daṃṣṭrayā spṛśati taṃ kila hanti sarpaḥ |
ko ‘py eṣa eva piśunogra-manuṣya-dharmaḥ karṇe paraṃ spṛśati hanti paraṃ samūlam || 328 ||
Whether kicked by the feet, or beaten by a rod, a snake kills only that person whom it bites. But deceit is something else altogether – it reaches one person’s ears, and destroys another, along with his family.
“And that is why”, said Sanjeevaka. “I don’t know what to do now. I ask you as a friend Damanaka, please advise me.”
Damanaka replied “It is better for you to go far away from here, than to serve such a master. It is better to let go of even a guru who is arrogant, corrupt and who does not know the difference between right and wrong, so say the wise.”
Sanjeevaka said “If Master is angry with me, then I cannot go anywhere. Wherever I go, I will not be peaceful. One cannot escape wise people after offending them; those who are intelligent will find a way to reach you and kill you. And so there is no recourse for me, except to fight. For it is said…”
मृतैः सम्प्राप्यते स्वर्गो जीवद्भिः कीर्तिर् उत्तमा ।
तद् उभाव् अपि शूराणां गुणाव् एतौ सुदुर्लभौ ॥ ३३३ ॥
mṛtaiḥ samprāpyate svargo jīvadbhiḥ kīrtir uttamā |
tad ubhāv api śūrāṇāṃ guṇāv etau sudurlabhau || 333 ||
If then die, they attain liberation, if they live, they get immense fame. These two characteristics of courageous men are seldom found in others.
Hearing Sanjeevaka speak this way, Damanaka thought “Sanjeevaka is ready to fight. If he hurts Pingalaka with his sharp horns, it would be a greater tragedy. Let me influence him in such a way that he gets ready to go far away from here…”
And so he said “My dear friend! You are right in a way. But, how can a servant and a master fight? It is said…”
शत्रोर् विक्रमम् अज्ञात्वा वैरम् आरभते हि यः ।
स पराभवम् आप्नोति समुद्रष् टिट्टिभाद् यथा ॥ ३३७ ॥
śatror vikramam ajñātvā vairam ārabhate hi yaḥ |
sa parābhavam āpnoti samudraṣ ṭiṭṭibhād yathā || 337 ||
If one starts a fight, without knowing the strength of his enemy, he will surely be defeated. like the mighty ocean was insulted by a small Tittibha bird.
“How did that happen?” questioned Sanjeevaka.
Damanaka replied…Damanaka replied…
The story of the Tittibha bird and the mighty Ocean
On the banks of an ocean not very far away from here, lived a couple of Tittibha birds. In the course of time, the female got pregnant. When she was nearing the time of delivery, she called her husband close and said “My dear! The time of delivering our eggs is approaching. Please search a quiet place where I can lay my eggs in peace.”
Her husband replied “My dearest! The ocean looks beautiful from here, and so this is the right place to lay your eggs.”
She replied “But on a full-moon day, the waves are so high that even elephants can drown in them. So please, search a place a bit further from here.”
Hearing this, her husband laughed loudly and said “Oh my dear! You are wrong…what power does the ocean have to carry off my babies? Haven’t you heard the wise say – Which fool will invite the terrifying fire of destruction by obstructing the way of high-flying birds like us?”
“And also, which fool wants to invite death himself, by trying to wake up a sleeping lion?”
“And also, who dares visit the palace of the Lord of Death, call out to Yama and dare him to take his lives away?
“And so, lay your eggs here, they will be safe. A mother who gives birth to a coward who runs away because of the fear of losing or insult, is not respected in all the three worlds.”
Hearing him speak this way, the ocean thought “Aha! This tiny bird is so arrogant! It is said…
उत्क्षिप्य टिट्टिभः पादाव् आस्ते भ गभयाद् दिवः ।
स्व-चित्त-कल्पितो गर्वः कस्य नात्रापि विद्यते ॥ ३४३ ॥
utkṣipya ṭiṭṭibhaḥ pādāv āste bha gabhayād divaḥ |
sva-citta-kalpito garvaḥ kasya nātrāpi vidyate || 343 ||
The Tittibha flies with it’s feet spread out, thinking that it will hold back the falling sky with its feet! And like this, who does not feel proud of his own imagined superiority?
“I am also curious to know what he would do to save his eggs and prove himself, if I dare take them away”, though the ocean, as he lay back and waited…