Of lice and bugs…


The Story of the slow-moving louse and the bug

In a palace not so far away from here, was a beautiful bedroom, where the king used to sleep. On that bed, in between a pair of white sheets, lived a louse named Manda-Visarpinee (the one who crawls slowly). She sucked on the king’s blood when he was asleep, and passed her days living happily this way.

One day, a Matkuna (bug) named Agni-Mukha (the one with a fiery mouth) arrived at the palace, and happened to come to the bedroom. Seeing him, the louse felt anxious and said “Hey! Why have you come here? Go away, before someone sees you.” The bug replied – ” It is improper to speak to a guest this way, even if he is a bad person. It is said…”

एह्य् आगच्छ समाविशासनम् इदं कस्माच् चिराद् दृश्यसे का वार्तेति सुदुर्बलो ऽसि कुशलं प्रीतो ऽस्मि ते दर्शनात् ।
एवं ये समुपागतान् प्रणयिनः प्रत्यालपन्त्य् आदरात् तेषां युक्तम् अशङ्कितेन मनसा हर्म्याणि गन्तुं सदा ॥ २७६ ॥

ehy āgaccha samāviśāsanam idaṃ kasmāc cirād dṛśyase kā vārteti sudurbalo ‘si kuśalaṃ prīto ‘smi te darśanāt |
evaṃ ye samupāgatān praṇayinaḥ pratyālapanty ādarāt teṣāṃ yuktam aśaṅkitena manasā harmyāṇi gantuṃ sadā || 276 ||

Even when an unworthy person arrives as a guest, it is the duty of a good person to welcome them and speak sweetly to them, to enquire about their health and well-being. This is right conduct, one that leads to liberation.

“Also, I have tasted the blood of a lot of human beings. Because of their varying food habits, I have tasted only pungent, bitter and sour blood – I haven’t had the chance to taste sweet blood till now. If you allow me, I will get a chance to taste the sweet blood of the king – since it would contain the essence of all the sweets and delicious desserts that he has daily. This will make me very happy. It is said…”

रंकस्य अंड़्पतॆर् वापि जिह्वा-सौख्यम्समम् स्म्ड़्तम्। 
तन्-मात्रम्च स्म्ड़्तम् सारम् तद्-अर्थम् यततॆ जनः॥
२७७ ||

Bankasya angpater vāpi jihva-saukhyamsamam smantam |
tan-mātramcha smantam saaram tad-artham yatate janah || 277 ||

Taste is the same in both the rich and the poor. Both have the same desires. Taste alone is the essence of this world, and man works hard just to satisfy his taste.

यद् असत्यम्वदॆन् मर्त्यॊ यद् वासॆव्यम्च सॆवतॆ। 
यद् गच्छति विदॆशम्च तत् सर्वम् उदरार्थतः॥
२७९ ||

yad asatyamvadena matyor yad vāsevyamcha sevate |
yad gacchati videshamcha tat sarvam udararthah
 || 279||

A man speaks a lie, or serves an idiot, or goes abroad to work, only for the sake of his stomach.

“And so I am begging you – I have come to your door, I am very hungry, and I need food from you. Enjoying the king’s blood alone will not be right for you in this situation. “

Hearing this, Manda-visarpinee said ” Dear Matkuna! I always suck the blood of the king only when he is asleep. You are an Agni-mukha, and very greedy. If you listen to me, and only drink his blood when I do, you can stay here and suck as much blood as you want.”

Agni-Mukha replied “My dear friend! I will do as you say. I promise you, in the name of all the Gods and my Gurus, that unless you taste his blood first, I will not dare touch it.”

As they were conversing, the king came to his bed and lay down on it. Matkuna, forced by his greedy tongue, was not able to contain his excitement and bit the king, although he was awake. It is righty said…

स्वभावॊ नॊपदॆशॆन शक्यतॆ कर्तुम् अंयथा। 
सुतप्तम् अपि पानीयम्पुनर् गच्छति शीतताम्॥२८० ||

svabhavo nopadeshena shakyate kartum anyatha |
sutaptam api pāniamupnar gacchati shētatam 
|| 280 ||

You cannot change the nature of a person merely by advising him. No matter how much you boil water, it becomes cold again, once removed from the flame.

The king jumped out of the bed, scratched his hand and shouted out to his maids “Come here! There is a bug or a louse inside this bed-spread – I have been bitten!”

His maids quickly entered the room, removed the bedspread and checked it. In the meantime, the restless bug had entered the small crack in the wooden bed. The maids saw the louse instead, and killed him.

“And that is why”, concluded Damanaka,

न ह्य् अविज्ञात-शीलस्य प्रदातव्यः प्रतिश्रयः ।
मत्-कुणस्य च दोषेण हता मन्द-विसर्पिणी ॥ २७५ ॥

na hy avijñāta-śīlasya pradātavyaḥ pratiśrayaḥ |
mat-kuṇasya ca doṣeṇa hatā manda-visarpiṇī || 275 ||

One should not offer shelter to a person,whose character is not known. It was due to the Matkuna’s fault, that Manda-Visarpinee got killed.”