The story of the rabbit and Kapinjala (the sparrow)
I once lived on a tree not so far away from here. In the hollow of the tree trunk, lived a sparrow named Kapinjalaka. We used to meet every evening and have engaging discussions. Sometimes we spoke about philosophy and the scriptures, other times we spoke about the sayings of the sages and sanyasins of Kashi. We discussed matters of life and love, and of what we had seen and encountered during our many excursions in the forest. And so we passed our days and years.
One day, Kapinjalaka and some other sparrows went in search of food, and didn’t return till late. It was nighttime, and I was worried. I wondered “Why has he not returned yet? Did he get trapped somewhere? Is he still alive?”
Many days passed and I assumed that he was not coming back again. I cried for a few days and then reconciled with the fact that he was gone forever.
In three weeks, a rabbit named Sheeghraga (the one who runs fast) came near the tree. He saw the hollow and decided to live there. I didn’t have any hope of Kapinjalaka returning, and so I didn’t stop him.
The very next day, Kapinjalaka arrived. He was much fatter than when he had set out – apparently he had found a very bountiful field. In spite of having more than enough to eat, he had still come back. After all…
न तादृग् जायते सौख्यम् अपि स्वर्गे शरीरिणाम् ।
दारिद्र्येऽपि हि यादृक् स्यात् स्व-देशे स्व-पुरे गृहे ॥ ९२ ॥
na tādṛg jāyate saukhyam api svarge śarīriṇām |
dāridrye’pi hi yādṛk syāt sva-deśe sva-pure gṛhe || 92 ||
The pleasure of living in heaven does not come close to the the joy you feel when living in your own home, in your own city…even if you have to live in utter poverty.
Kapinjalaka saw the rabbit sitting in his house and was enraged. “How dare you!” he shouted at the rabbit. “This is my house. Get out of here right now!”
Sheeghraga looked surprised. “This is not your house, rude sparrow. This is mine. Why are you falsely accusing me? It is said…
वापी-कूप-तडागानां देवालय-कुजन्मनाम् ।
उत्सर्गात् परतः स्वाम्यम् अपि कर्तुं न शक्यते ॥ ९३ ॥
vāpī-kūpa-taḍāgānāṃ devālaya-kujanmanām |
utsargāt parataḥ svāmyam api kartuṃ na śakyate || 93 ||
Those who live in lakes, wells and temples only have possession till they stay there. They cannot claim any ownership of these places, once they leave.
प्रत्यक्षं यस्य यद् भुक्तं क्षेत्राद्यं दश वत्सरान् ।
तत्र भुक्तिः प्रमाणं स्याद् न साक्षी नाक्षराणि वा ॥ ९४ ॥
pratyakṣaṃ yasya yad bhuktaṃ kṣetrādyaṃ daśa vatsarān |
tatra bhuktiḥ pramāṇaṃ syād na sākṣī nākṣarāṇi vā || 94 ||
If a person spends ten years on a field, in public, enjoying it’s yield, this itself is proof of ownership. There are no other documents or witnesses required.
“These rules were written for men. तिरश्चां च विहङ्गानां यावद् एव समाश्रयः – for animals and birds though, one can only claim ownership if he is in possession of the property. And I am in possession today, hence this is my house, not yours!”
Kapinjalaka replied “Aha! So you quote scripture too! If you have so much faith in the words of the scriptures, then come, let us question a person who is well-versed in scriptures. He can decide who the actual owner of this house is, and we will have to abide by his decision. Agree?”
Sheeghraga agreed, and they set out together. I was curious to know what the judgement would be, and so I followed them.
In the meantime, a wild cat named TeekshnaDamshtra (the one with the sharp teeth) overheard their conversation. As they set out, TeekshnaDamshtra took an alternate route and rushed to a river bank that fell in the path of the rabbit and the sparrow. He found some Darbha grass and quickly grabbed it in his hand, lifted his arms in the air, with one foot on the ground, his face towards the sun. As soon as he spied on them coming, he closed his eyes and started to speak philosophy…
“Om! This world has no essence. Life is momentary and gone in a second. Family, friends, acquaintances – these are all illusions. There is no other way except the way of Dharma. It is said…
अनित्यानि शरीराणि विभवो नैव शाश्वतः ।
नित्यं संनिहितो मृत्युः कर्तव्यो धर्म-संग्रहः ॥ ९६ ॥
anityāni śarīrāṇi vibhavo naiva śāśvataḥ |
nityaṃ saṃnihito mṛtyuḥ kartavyo dharma-saṃgrahaḥ || 96 ||
This body does not last forever. Wealth is temporary. Death is always close. And so one should always walk the path of Dharma.
यस्य धर्म-विहीनानि दिनान्य् आयान्ति यान्ति च ।
स लोहकार-भस्त्रेव श्वसन्न् अपि न जीवति ॥ ९७ ॥
yasya dharma-vihīnāni dināny āyānti yānti ca |
sa lohakāra-bhastreva śvasann api na jīvati || 97 ||
He who wastes his life without performing any good deeds, is similar to the bellows used by a blacksmith. He breathes, but has no life.
नाच्छादयति कौपीनं न दंश-मशकापहम् ।
शुनः-पुच्छम् इव व्यर्थं पाण्डित्यं धर्म-वर्जितम् ॥ ९८ ॥
nācchādayati kaupīnaṃ na daṃśa-maśakāpaham |
śunaḥ-puccham iva vyarthaṃ pāṇḍityaṃ dharma-varjitam || 98 ||
Being a scholar, but not engaging in the practice of goodness, is worthless – much like the tail of a dog, that does not cover his privates, nor does it drive away mosquitoes.
स्थैर्यं सर्वेषु कृत्येषु शंसन्ति नय-पण्डिताः ।
बह्व्-अन्तराय-युक्तस्य धर्मस्य त्वरिता गतिः ॥ १०२ ॥
sthairyaṃ sarveṣu kṛtyeṣu śaṃsanti naya-paṇḍitāḥ |
bahv-antarāya-yuktasya dharmasya tvaritā gatiḥ || 102 ||
The wise say that one should be stable and slow in all actions – one has to think carefully and then act. But righteous deeds are to be performed fast, without much thought. Too much thinking can lead to impediments.
सङ्क्षेपात् कथ्यते धर्मो जनाः किं विस्तरेण वः ।
परोपकारः पुण्याय पापाय पर-पीडनम् ॥ १०३ ॥
saṅkṣepāt kathyate dharmo janāḥ kiṃ vistareṇa vaḥ |
paropakāraḥ puṇyāya pāpāya para-pīḍanam || 103 ||
Oh, what is the use of giving you all a detailed sermon? Just a few words that I have to say – helping others is good, and righteous. Those who harass others and are rude accumulate sins!
श्रूयतां धर्म-सर्वस्वं श्रुत्वा चैवावधार्यताम् ।
आत्मनः प्रतिकूलानि परेषां न समाचरेत् ॥ १०४ ॥
śrūyatāṃ dharma-sarvasvaṃ śrutvā caivāvadhāryatām |
ātmanaḥ pratikūlāni pareṣāṃ na samācaret || 104 ||
This is the essence of all the scriptures – Do not do anything to others that you would not want done to you.
The rabbit and the sparrow had stopped in their tracks and listened to the profound knowledge that was being spoken. Sheeghraga turned to Kapinjalaka and said “Oh Kapinjalaka! Here is a saint who knows dharma and performs such austere penance. Let us question him about our situation.”
Kapinjalaka replied ” This cat is a natural enemy of ours. Let us step back two paces, and then question him. He may be a saint now, but what if he decides to revert to his old ways?”
They stepped back two paces, and questioned the ‘sage’.
“Oh saintly being”, said Kapinjalaka. “You know Dharma. We both here have a small dispute. Can you give us a solution based on what the scriptures say? He who is at fault, can be eaten by you.”
Read the next part here!