The frog and the serpent…

Read the previous part here

MeghaVarna said “What you say is true, oh Sthirajeevin. Also, staying with the enemy would have been very hard for you…”

Sthirajeevin replied “Yes, my king. It was hard, but I haven’t seen a greater assembly of fools! And likewise, I haven’t seen a man as intelligent, well-versed in politics, and wise as Raktāksha. Only he understood my true intentions, and he did so the moment he laid his eyes on me.”

“The other ministers however, were all fools. They were ministers only in name.”

“They didn’t know that a messenger from the enemy is not to be trusted, since he only cares for his own people. An enemy can attack anytime, and so one has to be alert. After all, the body is fragile, and the slightest mistake can have grave consequences.”

Sthirajeevin continued. “Living in the enemy camp is dangerous, but one has to understand…it is said…

अपमानं पुरस्कृत्य मानं कृत्वा तु पृष्ठतः ।
स्वार्थम् अभ्युद्धरेत् प्राज्ञः कार्य-ध्वंसो हि मूर्खता ॥ २३७ ॥

apamānaṃ puraskṛtya mānaṃ kṛtvā tu pṛṣṭhataḥ |
svārtham abhyuddharet prājñaḥ kārya-dhvaṃso hi mūrkhatā || 237 ||

A wise man should swallow his pride, hide his self respect behind his back, and face insults, if he wants to save himself. Doing the opposite is foolish and dangerous.

स्कन्धेनापि वहेच् छत्रुं कालम् आसाद्य बुद्धिमान् ।
महता कृष्ण-सर्पेण मण्डूका बहवो हताः ॥ २३८ ॥

skandhenāpi vahec chatruṃ kālam āsādya buddhimān |
mahatā kṛṣṇa-sarpeṇa maṇḍūkā bahavo hatāḥ || 238 ||

The wise should make use of the opportunity and even carry the enemy on their shoulders if needed. The frogs were destroyed when they were carried by the black serpent.

MeghaVarna said “How did that happen?

Sthirajeevin replied…


The story of the frog and the serpent

In a forest not so far away from here, lived a serpent named MandaVisha (The one who poisons slowly). As time passed and he grew older, he wondered how he could make life easier for himself. One day, he went near a lake filled with a lot of frogs, and started to pace around as if worried and in deep thought.

A frog who observed him from within the pond enquired “Uncle! Why are you not hunting for food today?”

MandaVisha replied “My dear, what can an unfortunate person like me do? I was searching for food yesterday when I came across a frog. Just as I was getting ready to catch him, he spotted me, and in fear, jumped into the midst of some Brahmins who were studying the scriptures. I tried looking for him, but was unsuccessful. I started to make my way back, when a Brahmin’s child accidentally touched me. I bit him out of instinct, and he died on the spot. His father cursed me and said “You wicked snake! You bit my son, who was innocent. All for a mere frog! I curse you. From now onwards, you will spend your life carrying frogs from one place to another, and your existence will depend on them!”

“This is why I have come here, o good one”, concluded MandaVisha. “To serve you all and carry you around.”

The frog went and told all the other frogs what he had heard. They were delighted, and reported this development to their king Jalapāda (The one who treads on water). He was even more happy. Jalapāda came to visit the serpent, his followers in tow. Jumping out of the waters of the lake, he sat on MandaVisha’s hood, and his followers also climbed onto the serpent’s back, one behind the other. Those who could not find a place to sit on the snake, ran behind him as he slithered through the bushes. MandaVisha was an excellent vehicle – what’s more, he entertained the frogs with stories and spoke of beautiful places, as he carried the frogs around on his back.

Jalapāda for one loved the touch of the smooth skin of the snake…न तथा करिणा यानं तुरगेन रथेन वानरयानेन नावा वा यथा मन्दविषेण मे – I haven’t felt so good riding an elephant, or a horse or a chariot, or a man, or a boat, as I feel now riding on the back of MandaVisha, he said.

One day, MandaVisha seems a bit sick. He wasn’t his normal self – he crawled slowly, and shivered all along the way. Jalapāda observed this and said “My dear MandaVisha, are you ok? Why are you not carrying me as before?”

MandaVisha replied “My lord, I have not had any food for days now. I don’t have the strength to carry you all today. Please forgive me…”

“Oh, why didn’t you tell me before?”, said Jalapāda in a concerned tone. “There are some lowly frogs on the other side of the lake, you can have one of them.”

MandaVIsha felt a tinge of excitement. “Oh thank you my Lord! The Brahmin had cursed me about this as well! Thank you for making his words come true. I am very happy!”

And so MandaVisha started eating those frogs everyday, and became strong again. Feeling pleased, he thought to himself “Through deceit, I have made a nice arrangement for myself. There are enough frogs here to last me many months. I will not have to move from here…”. And Jalapāda, having being deceived in this manner, had no clue as to the real intent of the serpent.

One day, another big snake was passing by that lake, when he saw MandaVisha carrying the frogs on his back. He was surprised, but waited until MandaVisha was alone. He then approached him and said “I am surprised! Frogs are our food, then why are you carrying them on your back? This is not the right thing to do.”

MandaVisha replied…

सर्वम् एतद् विजानामि यथा वाह्यो ऽस्मि दर्दुरैः ।
किञ्चित् कालं प्रतीक्षेऽहं घृतान्धो ब्राह्मणो यथा ॥ २४१ ॥

sarvam etad vijānāmi yathā vāhyo ‘smi darduraiḥ |
kiñcit kālaṃ pratīkṣe’haṃ ghṛtāndho brāhmaṇo yathā || 241 ||

I know very well that I have become a vehicle of these frogs. But I will wait for some more time, like the Brahmin who became blind by eating ghee.

The other serpent asked “How did that happen?”

MandaVisha replied…

to be continued…