The story of the Brahmin thief
In a city not so far away, lived a highly-learned Brahmin. Unfortunately, due to his past karma, he lived as a thief.
One day he saw four Brahmins who had recently come to his city, selling some wares….
The thief thought to himself “It looks like they have made a lot of money by now. Let me think of a way to rob them.”
And so he approached them, made an acquaintance and engaged them in conversation. He spoke about the scriptures, moral stories and a lot of devotional aspects of philosophy. It is said…
असती भवति सलज्जा क्षारं नीरं च शीतलं भवति ।
दम्भी भवति विवेकी प्रियवक्ता भवति धूर्तजनः ॥ ४५१ ॥
asatī bhavati salajjā kṣāraṃ nīraṃ ca śītalaṃ bhavati |
dambhī bhavati vivekī priyavaktā bhavati dhūrtajanaḥ || 451 ||
An unchaste person acts very shy; saline water is always cooler; a hypocrite always pretends to have high ideals, and a cheat always talks pleasingly.
And so he spent time in their company, while they sold all their wares, and earned a lot of money. The Brahmins then bought some valuable gems with this money, put them in very small pouches, and swallowed them. They then started to set out to their native village, which was a couple of days journey away.
The thief had observed them, and thought to himself “If they go now, I will lose the opportunity to rob them, and those gems are very valuable. Let me go along with them, and on the way, as we pass through the dense forest, I will poison them and get hold of the gems.”
And thinking this way, he spoke “Oh my dear friends! Are you setting out already? We have become so close in these past few days that I am very attached to all of you. I don’t think I would be able to live without your pleasant company. Please do me a favour and take me along with you, as your helper, your servant.”
The four Brahmins were so moved by his affection that they decided to take the thief along with them. They performed the morning puja, and then set out on their journey.
The five walked through the forest all day, and as it was nearing sunset, they passed a small settlement of hunters who lived in that forest. As they walked through, a herd of crows perched on a nearby tree started shouting loudly. “Oh hunters! Look, here pass by five men who have a large amount of money with them! Chase them down, kill them and take all their money!”
The hunters heard the crows and surrounded the Brahmins. They beat them up, searched their belongings and their clothes, but could not find anything. Frustrated, they said “Travellers! The crows have never lied – tell us where the money is else we will kill each of you, skin you and ensure that we find the money.”
The Brahmin thief thought to himself “If these hunters kill the other Brahmins and search their bodies, they will find the gems. But they will kill me as well, thinking that I have hidden gems too. Instead of committing these good souls to a ghastly end, let me step forward and ask these hunters to kill me first. When they search all my organs, they will find no gems, and hence it will be provided that we do not have anything on us. After all, it is said…”
मृत्योर् बिभेषि किं बाल न स भीतं विमुञ्चति ।
अद्य वाब्द-शतान्ते वा मृत्युर् वै प्राणिनां ध्रुवः ॥ ४५२ ॥
mṛtyor bibheṣi kiṃ bāla na sa bhītaṃ vimuñcati |
adya vābda-śatānte vā mṛtyur vai prāṇināṃ dhruvaḥ || 452 ||
Why are you scared of dying, my child? Death does not even spare those who are frightened. Be it today, or after one hundred years, death is certain for every human being.
Having decided this, he stepped forward and said “If you want to kill us to search our bodies, then kill me first.” The hunters killed him instantly, searched his body, and found no gems. Not wanting unnecessary blood on their hands, they let the other four Brahmins go unharmed.
“And that is why I say”, concluded Karataka, an enemy who is learned is better than a well-wishing idiot. The king was killed by the monkey; the Brahmins were saved by the thief.”
As they were speaking, the fight between Pingalaka and Sanjeevaka took a decisive turn. Pingalaka jumped high in the air, and his sharp nails sunk into the neck of the bull and tore it – Sanjeevaka fell to the ground, lifeless.
Pingalaka looked at his friend’s dead body, and the good days that he had spent with Sanjeevaka flashed by in an instant. Overcome by remorse, he fell to the ground beside him, and lamented “Oh! What have I done! I broke your trust, and breaking one’s trust is the worse sin that anyone can commit. I have now lost you forever, my friend, my servant, my well-wisher!” And Pingalaka cried hard.
Seeing Pingalaka cry this way, Damanaka approached him and said “My Lord! It is cowardly of you to behave this way. You did the right thing by killing this grass-eater. No king should lament a right decision.
पिता वा यदि वा भ्राता पुत्रो भार्याथवा सुहृत् ।
प्राण-द्रोहं यदा गच्छेद् धन्तव्यो नास्ति पातकम् ॥ ४५७ ॥
pitā vā yadi vā bhrātā putro bhāryāthavā suhṛt |
prāṇa-drohaṃ yadā gacched dhantavyo nāsti pātakam || 457 ||
Be it your father, or brother, or son, or wife or friend; if they endanger your life on purpose, there is no sin in killing them.
राजा घृणी ब्राह्मणः सर्व-भक्षी स्त्री चात्रपा दुष्टमतिः सहायः ।
प्रेष्यः प्रतीपो ऽधिकृतः प्रसादी त्याज्या अमी यश् च कृतं न वेत्ति ॥ ४५८ ॥
rājā ghṛṇī brāhmaṇaḥ sarva-bhakṣī strī cātrapā duṣṭamatiḥ sahāyaḥ |
preṣyaḥ pratīpo ‘dhikṛtaḥ prasādī tyājyā amī yaś ca kṛtaṃ na vetti || 458 ||
A king who is overly compassionate, a gluttonous Brahmin, a shameless lady, a wicked helper, a messenger who doesn’t comply, a person in a position of authority who constantly makes mistakes, and one who forgets the good done to him – such people should be rejected by society.
अकृतोपद्रवः कश्चिन् महान् अपि न पूज्यते ।
पूजयन्ति नरा नागान् न तार्क्ष्यं नाग-घातिनम् ॥ ४६० ॥
akṛtopadravaḥ kaścin mahān api na pūjyate |
pūjayanti narā nāgān na tārkṣyaṃ nāga-ghātinam || 460 ||
A person, who in spite of being great, is still straightforward and calm, is not worshipped by anyone. People do not think much of him. On the other hand, if he acts violent and wrecks havoc, people worship him and build temples in his name. Remember, the snake is worshipped, but not Garuda (the killer of snakes).
अशोच्यान् अन्वशोचस् त्वं प्रज्ञा-वादांश् च भाषसे ।
गतासून् अगतासूंश् च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिताः ॥ ४६१ ॥
aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṃ prajñā-vādāṃś ca bhāṣase |
gatāsūn agatāsūṃś ca nānuśocanti paṇḍitāḥ || 461 ||
Bhagwan Sri Krishna has said this in the Gita – Hey Arjun! Who are worrying about things that you dont have to worry about, and yet you speak like a man of wisdom. Hey Dhananjaya! If you want to speak like a man of wisdom, then act like the wise as well. A wise man never grieves for those who are dead, or alive.
Hearing Damanaka speak this way, Pingalaka stopped worrying about Sanjeevaka. After all, he wanted to act like the wise. Raising his paw, he once again appointed Damanaka as his minister and continued to rule his kingdom.
We reach the end of “Mitra-Bheda”, the first book of the Panchatantra. Absorb the story today, we will discuss about what we learnt, in tomorrows’s post!