In last week’s episode, Laghupatnaka, the crow told his friend that he wanted to move out of the forest. In today’s episode we get to hear why Hiranyaka, the mouse king, lived in a forest.
Hiranyaka, the Mouse King’s Story
Laghupatnaka said, “I’m thinking of visiting my friend, Manthara, the tortoise. He lives in a lake in the forest of Karpurgaur. There’ll be plenty of food there, and I know without any doubts that he’ll share his with me.”
Hiranyaka looked at his friend. “What about me? I got used to having a friend here. What am I going to do here on my own? I’ll go with you too.”
So the two friends left in search of Karpurgaur.
Manthara saw them approaching from afar. As soon as the tortoise recognized his friend, he went over to greet the crow. After all the introductions, the tortoise turned to the king of mice. “Your Highness, you are welcome in our forest. If you don’t mind me asking… why are you living in a forest? Is there a reason for that?”
When someone asks you a direct question, you can’t avoid spilling the beans, eh? Hiranyaka knew that dodging the tortoise would look suspicious. So he took a deep breath and shared how he came to be living in a forest in the first place.
Hiranyaka, the Mouse King’s story
Have you heard of the town of Champaka? I’m from Champaka. In that town, there’s a kind of ashram where many hermits come to shelter at night. A young man called Chudakarna used to stay the night in this ashram. You know these hermits and their habits…they spend their time praying and studying the scriptures. Since they don’t own anything, the families in the town give them food. Every night, when Chudakarna came to the ashram to rest, he set his begging bowl aside and lounged about before he fell asleep. I’d wait for him to fall asleep. The minute I heard the first snore, I’d jump onto the shelf and finish all the food from his bowl. It was the best setup for me.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. One evening, Chudakarna’s friend Vinakarna came to visit. I was so used to my routine and didn’t care that they were awake. Chudakarna saw me trying to get at his food and tapped the floor with a cane whenever I neared his bowl.
But this irritated his friend. “Arre! I didn’t realise that I was such a boring person! You’re so busy with this strange drumming practice that you can’t pay attention to what I’m saying.” His lips set into a thin line in annoyance.
Oh, do you ever do that? You go to play or chat with your friends, but they ignore you because they’re preoccupied with something else. Sometimes, you go away in a huff, asking them to visit you if they still want to be your friend!
Chudakrna waved his friend back to his seat. “Na, na. You are not boring at all. It’s the opposite, really! Your stories are hilarious and engaging. It’s this dratted mouse. See how it tries to steal my food? I’m tapping the floor just to scare it away from my bowl.”
Vinakarna peered around and frowned. “But your bowl is so high up! How can this tiny mouse leap all the way there? There must be some other reason he’s hanging around only here. Let me look.” Then he grabbed a shovel and scanned the wall. When he found the gap in the wall that led to my home, he made a bigger hole and lay open the treasures I’d been hoarding. That was it! He took away all my things.
Losing my life’s savings snapped something in me, and my life changed after that. I not only lost all my belongings, but I also lost my confidence. Nothing interested me, not even food. Soon I was so weak that I no longer found the energy to go looking for food.
After this, whenever I saw Chudakarna, I skulked into a corner, not wishing to be seen. I was no longer the mouse who persisted in taking away his food. He pointed to me, eyeing me scornfully. “Look at that pitiful creature. Now that it has lost all its wealth, the mouse has no sense of pride or self-respect. The world will ignore it because who pays attention to the poor? Huh? The poor must get used to being invisible, for only the rich are celebrated and honoured. Even if the mouse wants to do something, it is a waste of time and effort. Why bother?”
Chudakrana’s words hit me like a lightning bolt. I knew that he spoke the truth. That is the way of the world, isn’t it? Because when you are rich, everyone flocks to you. Your family, friends, and others respect you and stand by you. But there is none lonelier than the person who has lost all his money. I couldn’t bear to stay there. There was nothing for me there. So, I decided to leave that place. I didn’t want to tell anyone about my misery or have people feel sorry for me. What was the point? Don’t they say not to share too much information about your health, family troubles, and whatever money you have or lost? Some folks will be happy to learn of your problems; others will tire of listening to you. It is better to live quietly with self-respect than to tell your life story to anyone who listens.
I’d been independent all my life. I didn’t want to start depending on others now. Have you noticed that the poor don’t get to make many choices in their lives? But that’s not all! They also lose their dignity. I had changed a lot, yes, but I didn’t want to lose my self-respect as well.
Even though I had so many thoughts racing in my mind, I tried to get some food from Chudakarna’s bowl one last time. That’s when his friend threw a stick at me. I nearly died then.
The trouble with wanting things is that you are never satisfied with what you have. You keep wanting more. I had had it with all this “I want this, I want that!” It never stops.
That is when I decided to go to the forest and live a simple life meditating on God. After all, having faith in God means we must be kind to others. To be truly happy, our mind and our body must be healthy. And for that, we must recognize the right thing to do and act on it. I realized that constantly looking to accumulate things were not good for me. I had to leave everything behind for my well-being.
That’s how I ended up in the forest when I met your friend the crow. And now, you, my dear tortoise, are my friend too. My life is rich indeed with such good friends.” Hiranyaka smiled at Manthara.
The tortoise had been listening quietly. Lifting his head, he looked at the mouse. “Sir, I think the problem was you gathered a lot and kept it all for yourself. It is true what they say. When we give to others, we get more for ourselves and stay safe. If we release water from the tank, it won’t overflow and destroy us. A rich man who hoards his wealth and doesn’t share it with others isn’t exactly enjoying life, is he? He is so obsessed with collecting more money that he becomes a slave to his wealth. What fun is such a life?
Yes, saving money for a rainy day is important, but money doesn’t have any value by itself. But if you spend it wisely or share it with those in need, it can bring you great joy. Otherwise, it’ll be like the story of the Jackal who saved a lot but got no pleasure from amassing all that money. What did he get for it? The silly fool ended up dead by the tip of an arrow!!!”
“What? What happened? Who is this Jackal, and what is his story?” T he mouse and the crow were eager to hear the tale.
To be continued…
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