The iron balance and the merchant’s son

Read the previous part here…

Where rats can eat a huge and heavy balance made of iron , O king, the hawk can easily carry off a child; there is no doubt about it.

Damanaka said “How did that happen?”

Karataka replied…


The story of the iron balance and the merchant’s son

In a city not so far away from here, lived a merchant’s son named Jeerna-Dhana (one who lost all his wealth). He had invested heavily in business, and lost all of it in a few years. Disappointed, he decided to start again, in a different city. After all, it is said…

येनाहंकारयुक्तेन चिरं विलसितं पुरा ।
दीनं वदति तत्रैव यः परेषां स निन्दितः ॥ ४४४ ॥

yenāhaṃkārayuktena ciraṃ vilasitaṃ purā |
dīnaṃ vadati tatraiva yaḥ pareṣāṃ sa ninditaḥ || 444 ||

If one loses everything and becomes poor, yet continues to stay at the same place where he has once lived arrogantly with an extravagant lifestyle, he will be ridiculed by everyone, having lost all respect.

And so he set his affairs in order, and began to make preparations to travel to a city far away. The day before he was due to leave, he found a huge balance in his attic – this was made of iron, and an antique handed down by his great-grandfather. Thinking that it would not be safe keeping an antique in an unguarded house, Jeerna-Dhana took the balance down to the neighbouring merchant’s shop and asked him to look after it while he was gone. The merchant agreed, and asked his servants to keep the balance inside the storeroom. Jeerna-Dhana thanked the merchant, and set out on his journey.

Jeerna-Dhana travelled for many years, visited many cities and managed to earn some good money. He then decided to go back to his city, and after a long journey, reached back home.

The next day, he went to the shop of the neighbouring merchant and said “Greetings! I have been traveling a lot, but now I am back home. I would like to have that iron balance back, so that I can take care of it.”

The merchant replied “Welcome back! I am sorry, but you were gone for long, and the balance has since been eaten by rats. There is nothing left of it, except a bit of dust.”

Jerna-Dhana replied “Oh, that’s a shame. But then, it is not your fault if the rats ate the balance. Life is after all, impermanent. Nothing lasts for ever. Anyway, I was setting out to the river to have a bath. If you don’t mind, please send your son DhanaDeva (the god of wealth) to the river bank, with a toothbrush, some paste, and fresh towel and a new bar of soap.

The merchant was relived. He had expected Jeerna-Dhana to fight back and question him about the stolen balance. Now that Jeerna-Dhana had took it lightly, he decided to appease him in any small way that he could. Calling out to his son, the merchant said “DhanaDeva, your uncle is going to the river to bathe – you collect the soap, towel and other things that he has asked for, and then set out for the river bank. “

After all, it is said…

न भक्त्या कस्यचित् को ऽपि प्रियं प्रकुरुते नरः ।
मुक्त्वा भयं प्रलोभं वा कार्य-कारणम् एव वा ॥ ४४५ ॥

na bhaktyā kasyacit ko ‘pi priyaṃ prakurute naraḥ |
muktvā bhayaṃ pralobhaṃ vā kārya-kāraṇam eva vā || 445 ||

No one helps anyone because of mere compassion; there is always an element of fear, greed or furthering of one’s own agenda involved.

अत्यादरो भवेद् यत्र कार्य-कारण-वर्जितः ।
तत्र शङ्का प्रकर्तव्या परिणामेऽसुखावहा ॥ ४४६ ॥

atyādaro bhaved yatra kārya-kāraṇa-varjitaḥ |
tatra śaṅkā prakartavyā pariṇāme’sukhāvahā || 446 ||

You should be very careful when a person showers excessive attention and respect, without any particular reason. Being cautious in this situation will help avoid trouble.

DhanaDeva merrily accompanied Jeerna-Dhana to the river. When he reached there, Jeerna-Dhana caught DhanaDeva, tied him up, and hid him in a cave nearby. He then had bath and made his way home.

As he passed the merchant’s shop, the merchant called out to him”Jeerna-Dhana, where is DhanaDeva?”

Jeerna-Dhana replied – “Oh! He was carried away by a hawk, when I was having a bath,”

The merchant got furious. “You liar! How can a hawk take away a kid? give me back my son. Else, I will have to complain to the king.”

Jeerna-Dhana replied “I know you always speak the truth. Just as a hawk cannot carry away a child, mice cannot eat away a balance made of iron. And so, if you want you r child back, you will have to return my balance. “

Arguing this way, they went to the authorities for justice. The merchant complained to the judge, and said “Oh merciful one! This wicked man has kidnapped my son. Please give me justice!”

The judge looked at Jeerna-Dhana sternly, and said “Is that so? Return his son to him immediately!”

Jeerna-Dhana said “What can I do, my lord? I was having a bath, and a hawk swooped down, and carried DhanaDeva away.”

The judge replied “What nonsense! How can a hawk carry away a human child?”

Jeerna-Dhana joined his hands together, and said “Where rats can eat a huge and heavy balance made of iron , O king, the hawk can easily carry off a child; there is no doubt about it.

The judge asked ” How is that so?”

Jeerna-Dhana then narrated the whole incident to him. The judge laughed aloud, and then ordered the merchant to return the iron balance to Jeerna-Dhana, and also asked Jeerna-Dhana to return the child to his father.

“And that is why” said Karataka,

to be continued