“Sounds interesting. Why don’t you tell me what happened to the monkey,” pleaded Damanaka. “Now, listen,” said Karataka and began narrating the story of the monkey…
The story of the monkey who removed the wedge
A merchant once started building a temple in the middle of his garden. Many masons and carpenters were employed to work for the merchant. They took time off every day to go to the town for their lunch. One day, when the workers left for lunch a batch of monkeys landed at the temple site and began playing with whatever caught their fancy. One of the monkeys saw a partly sawed log of wood and a wedge fixed in it to prevent it from closing up.
Curious to know what it was, the monkey began furiously tugging at the wedge. At last the wedge came off, not before trapping the legs of the monkey into the rift of the log. Very soon, not able to get his legs out of the closed wood, the monkey died.
“That is why I say – अव्यापारेषु (in things not of your concern). It is not wise to poke our nose into affairs that are not our concern”, said Karataka to Damanaka.
“We have enough food left over to eat after the king finishes his meals, so why bother about other things?”
Damanaka retorted. “Food is not the centre of our lives. It is said…”
सुहृदाम् उपकारणाद् द्विषताम् अप्य् अपकारणात् ।
नृप-संश्रय इष्यते बुधैर् जठरं को न बिभर्ति केवलम् ॥ २२ ॥
suhṛdām upakāraṇād dviṣatām apy apakāraṇāt |
nṛpa-saṃśraya iṣyate budhair jaṭharaṃ ko na bibharti kevalam || 22 ||
The wise men seek shelter with the powerful because it is conducive to the welfare of their own close ones, and harmful to their enemies. Who does not simply fill his belly?
यज् जीव्यते क्षणम् अपि प्रथितं मनुष्यैर् विज्ञान-शौर्य-विभवार्य-गुणैः समेतम् ।
तन् नाम जीवितम् इह प्रवदन्ति तज्-ज्ञाः काको ऽपि जीवति चिराय बलिं च भुङ्क्ते ॥ २४ ॥
yaj jīvyate kṣaṇam api prathitaṃ manuṣyair vijñāna-śaurya-vibhavārya-guṇaiḥ sametam |
tan nāma jīvitam iha pravadanti taj-jñāḥ kāko ‘pi jīvati cirāya baliṃ ca bhuṅkte || 24 ||
If man lives for a very short time, but is praised for his achievement in arts, valor, wealth and nobility of character, that alone is said to be a life worth lived for-so say the wise. For even a crow lives long by eating the crumbs thrown at it.
यो नात्मना न च परेण च बन्धु-वर्गे दीने दयां न कुरुते न च मर्त्य-वर्गे ।
किं तस्य जीवित-फलं हि मनुष्य-लोके काको ऽपि जीवति चिराय बलिं च भुङ्क्ते ॥ २५ ॥
yo nātmanā na ca pareṇa ca bandhu-varge dīne dayāṃ na kurute na ca martya-varge |
kiṃ tasya jīvita-phalaṃ hi manuṣya-loke kāko ‘pi jīvati cirāya baliṃ ca bhuṅkte || 25 ||
He who does not act kindly towards his close ones, or the needy, what is the use of his life on this earth? Even a crow lives for long, eating the crumbs thrown at it.
सुपूरा स्यात् कुनदिका सुपूरो मूषिकाञ्जलिः ।
सुसंतुष्टः कापुरुषः स्वल्पकेनापि तुष्यति ॥ २६ ॥
supūrā syāt kunadikā supūro mūṣikāñjaliḥ |
susaṃtuṣṭaḥ kāpuruṣaḥ svalpakenāpi tuṣyati || 26 ||
A tiny stream becomes full with just a little water; the hands of the mouse get full with just tiny bits of food, and a wretched man is satisfied and feels happy with just a little gain.
स्तिमितोन्नत-सञ्चारा जन-सन्ताप-हारिणः ।
जायन्ते विरला लोके जलदा इव सज्जनाः ॥ ३० ॥
stimitonnata-sañcārā jana-santāpa-hāriṇaḥ |
jāyante viralā loke jaladā iva sajjanāḥ || 30 ||
Rain-bearing clouds float steady and stable in the higher regions of the sky, removing the difficulties of people; but they are rare. Likewise, those good men who possess a higher state of mind, and are steady in character always help people in distress; they too are rare to find.
अप्रकटीकृत-शक्तिः शक्तो ऽपि जनस् तिरस्क्रियां लभते ।
निवसन्न् अन्तर्-दारुणि लङ्घ्यो वह्निर् न तु ज्वलितः ॥ ३२ ॥
aprakaṭīkṛta-śaktiḥ śakto ‘pi janas tiraskriyāṃ labhate |
nivasann antar-dāruṇi laṅghyo vahnir na tu jvalitaḥ || 32 ||
A person who is powerful is despised if his power does not get expressed. Everybody steps on a wooden log easily, but not when the fire inside it is blazing outside.”
Karataka listen to Damanaka, and said- “But both do not hold official posts anymore, so why should we bother about all this? It is said…”
अपृष्टो ऽत्राप्रधानो यो ब्रूते राज्ञः पुरः कुधीः ।
न केवलम् असंमानं लभते च विडम्बनम् ॥ ३३ ॥
apṛṣṭo ‘trāpradhāno yo brūte rājñaḥ puraḥ kudhīḥ |
na kevalam asaṃmānaṃ labhate ca viḍambanam || 33 ||
A stupid person who offers uncalled-for advice, invites not only disrespect and insult, but also ridicule.
वचस् तत्र प्रयोक्तव्यं यत्रोक्तं लभते फलम् ।
स्थायी भवति चात्यन्तं रागः शुक्ल-पटे यथा ॥ ३४ ॥
vacas tatra prayoktavyaṃ yatroktaṃ labhate phalam |
sthāyī bhavati cātyantaṃ rāgaḥ śukla-paṭe yathā || 34 ||
One should only speak when it is beneficial, and when there is a tangible effect as a result of speaking. Just as only a coloured spot on a white cloth is noticed, and effective in drawing attention, so is only speaking at the right moment effective.
Damanaka disagreed. “Don’t say that”, he told Karataka. “It is said…”
अप्रधानः प्रधानः स्यात् सेवते यदि पार्थिवम् ।
प्रधानो ऽप्य् अप्रधानः स्याद् यदि सेवा-विवर्जितः ॥ ३५ ॥
apradhānaḥ pradhānaḥ syāt sevate yadi pārthivam |
pradhāno ‘py apradhānaḥ syād yadi sevā-vivarjitaḥ || 35 ||
If a man serves the powerful well, then even one who has lost his prominent position, will regain it. If a man does not serve the powerful well, even the one holding a position of prominence may lose it.
आसन्नम् एव नृपतिर् भजते मनुष्यं विद्या-विहीनम् अकुलीनम् असंस्कृतं वा ।
प्रायेण भूमि-पतयः प्रमदा लताश् च यत् पार्श्वतो भवति तत् परिवेष्टयन्ति ॥ ३६ ॥
āsannam eva nṛpatir bhajate manuṣyaṃ vidyā-vihīnam akulīnam asaṃskṛtaṃ vā |
prāyeṇa bhūmi-patayaḥ pramadā latāś ca yat pārśvato bhavati tat pariveṣṭayanti || 36 ||
The powerful only favor those in their proximity, whether they are illiterate, or from an unworthy family or uncultured. Usually, powerful men, damsels and creepers embrace anything that is next to them.
कोप-प्रसाद-वस्तूनि ये विचिन्वन्ति सेवकाः ।
आरोहन्ति शनैः पश्चाद् धुन्वन्तम् अपि पार्थिवम् ॥ ३७ ॥
kopa-prasāda-vastūni ye vicinvanti sevakāḥ |
ārohanti śanaiḥ paścād dhunvantam api pārthivam || 37 ||
Those who know what please or irritate the powerful, and act accordingly, will slowly get the powerful to favor them, when the right situation arises.
“Okay, what do you want to do now?” asked Karataka.
to be continued…