Hearing this, Āshādabhooti held Devaśharman’s feet tightly and begged him” Oh great saint! Please accept me as your humble disciple!”
“I will gladly accept you as my disciple; however, it is late in the evening, and you should not enter the monastery at this time, since ascetics are not allowed to keep company. It is said..
दुर्मन्त्रान् नृपतिर् विनश्यति यतिः सङ्गात् सुतो लालसाद् विप्रो ऽनध्ययनात् कुलं कुतनयाच् छीलं खलोपासनात् ।
मैत्री चाप्रणयात् समृद्धिर् अनयात् स्नेहः प्रवासाश्रयात् स्त्री गर्वाद् अनवेक्षणाद् अपि कृषिस् त्यागात् प्रमादाद् धनम् ॥ १८० ॥
durmantrān nṛpatir vinaśyati yatiḥ saṅgāt suto lālasād vipro ‘nadhyayanāt kulaṃ kutanayāc chīlaṃ khalopāsanāt |
maitrī cāpraṇayāt samṛddhir anayāt snehaḥ pravāsāśrayāt strī garvād anavekṣaṇād api kṛṣis tyāgāt pramādād dhanam || 180 ||
A king by heeding bad advice, an ascetic by keeping company, a Brahmin by not studying, a family by having a bad son, character by keeping bad company, friendship by lack of affection, prosperity by bad behaviour, love by moving away, woman by arrogance, cultivation by lack of interest, and wealth by not being vigilant – they are all destroyed this way.
“And so, after accepting the vows of asceticism, you are to sleep outside the monastery, in a small hut made of grass.”
Āshādabhooti replied “Teacher! Your wish is my command. I will do the needful.”
After making Āshādabhooti promise this, Devaśharman initiated him into the ascetic ways, and formally accepted Āshādabhooti as his disciple. Days passed, and Āshādabhooti served Devaśharman well – he even massaged the tired feet of his ‘master’ at night. However, the situation remained the same. Devaśharman carried his money in his dhoti, didn’t leave it elsewhere for even a moment.
Months passed. Āshādabhooti became restless, and one day thought to himself…”This monk doesn’t trust me even after so many days…what should I do? Should I kill him with a knife, or poison him, or strangle him?”
Just as he was thinking this, the son of one of Devaśharman’s students came to the monastery, to invite the monk to a religious ceremony. He prostrated before Devaśharman and said ” Oh learned one! We would like to conduct the thread ceremony at home today – please come with us and honour us with your presence”.
Devaśharman was pleased, and consented immediately. Accompanied by Āshādabhooti, he set out to the village for the ceremony. A few hours into their journey, they came across a river. Devaśharman turned to the other side, took out the pouch containing the money, and hid it in his bag. He then had a quick bath in the river, and after a short puja, addressed his new student – “Dear Āshādabhooti, I have to go to the toilet urgently. This bag contains a small statue of Shiva. Please look after it carefully until I return.” Āshādabhooti agreed and Devaśharman quickly went behind the bushes.
Āshādabhooti waited till he was out of sight, then quickly grabbed the pouch and ran away.
Devaśharman who, on the other hand, had developed immense trust in his disciple, was not in a hurry. As he squatted behind the bushes, he noticed a group of rams in the distance, where two rams were fighting angrily. They would step back repeatedly, and then charge at each other, banging their foreheads and bleeding profusely. A jackal named Jambuka was also at the scene – he would wait till the rams backed up, then go in between them to lick the spilt blood, and then wait for them to back up again.
Devaśharman thought to himself…”This fox is so stupid! If he keeps going in between these rams, he will surely be crushed to death.” Within moments, the fox walked in at the wrong time, and was crushed in between the two fighting rams.
Devaśharman finished his business, and then slowly walked back, thinking of the stupidity of the fox. As he reached, he found Āshādabhooti missing. Panicking, he opened his bag and checked…the money pouch was missing! He screamed out loud in agony, and fell to the ground. ” Oh Āshādabhooti! Where have you gone after cheating me like this? Answer me!” he lamented.
After a few minutes, he wiped his tears, and started walking back, trying to trace Āshādabhooti’s footsteps….
He walked and walked, and by evening, reached a village. He saw a weaver there, who was starting to set out to the neighbouring town, with his wife, to drink some liquor. Seeing him, Devaśharman called out to him and said…
सम्प्राप्तो यो ऽतिथिः सायं सूर्योढे गृह-मेधिनाम् ।
पूजया तस्य देवत्वं प्रयान्ति गृह-मेधिनः ॥ १८१ ॥
samprāpto yo ‘tithiḥ sāyaṃ sūryoḍhe gṛha-medhinām |
pūjayā tasya devatvaṃ prayānti gṛha-medhinaḥ || 181 ||
A person who arrives at the doorstep of a married couple, during sunset, is a guest, and by honouring him, the couple feel blessed by the divine.
तृणानि भूमिर् उदकं वाक्-चतुर्थी च सूनृता ।
सताम् एतानि हर्म्येषु नोच्छिद्यन्ते कदाचन ॥ १८२ ॥
tṛṇāni bhūmir udakaṃ vāk-caturthī ca sūnṛtā |
satām etāni harmyeṣu nocchidyante kadācana || 182 ||
Houses of good men never lack these four things – A grass mat and soft ground to rest on, water to quench thirst, and pleasant words to speak.
On hearing this, the weaver turned to his wife and said “My dear! You return home with our honoured guest. Wash his feet, feed him some food and give him some place to rest…I will be back soon, and will also bring you lots of liquor.” He then greeted Devaśharman, and continued to the town.
The wife started walking towards her house along with Devaśharman. She was very pleased, and as she walked, her thoughts turned to her lover Devadutta…
It is rightly said…
to be continued…