Hitopadesha – Separating Friends

Separating Friends

Separating friends is easy when you are as sly as Dhamanaka, the jackal. He approaches Pingalaka, and cunningly poisons the lion’s mind against his friend. Will the jackal succeed?

Separating Friends

Dhamanaka put on a thoughtful expression and approached King Pingalaka. He bowed low in a show of great deference. The jackal greeted the king in a husky voice, his face serious. “Your Highness! I am here because something very sensitive has come to my attention. I don’t know if I’m right to share this with you. But if I don’t tell you, something dreadful may happen. I will be doing you an injustice.”

Now, that is what I call a master stroke! Imagine someone comes up to you and says, “Oh, I don’t really know if what I heard is the truth or if I should even tell you. My problem is that if it turns out to be real and I say anything now, it’ll be so, so bad for you.” Are you going to tell them to get away? Be mad at them or disbelieve them? No! You want to know who said what because they have sown the seed of suspicion. So, Pingalaka was all ears as Dhamanaka continued.

“I have your wellbeing at heart. I must speak up when something you do may bring you danger or if you forget to act at the right time.

As a king, you are entitled to lead your life as you wish, but that’s not the case for us ministers. We must work all the time to keep our ruler safe, even if it means that we may lose our heads. That is why I have taken the risk of coming here to speak to you after you banished us all from your court.”

Ooof! That was a lot of buttering up, wasn’t it? You’ll be pleased to know it worked! Separating friends is easy when the people involved are gullible!

Pingalaka invited Dahamanaka in and asked him politely, “What did you hear? Tell me whatever it is. You don’t have to be afraid.”

“Sir, I don’t know how to say this, but please, remember that I’m only the messenger. Out there in the jungle, there is talk about how Sanjeevaka is taking advantage of you. They say that he wants to overthrow you and become the king himself.” The jackal stole a glance at the lion, who looked like he’d turned into stone.

“Your Highness,” he continues. “You removed all your advisors and chose Sanjeevaka as your lone confidant. You raised him above all and made him your equal. But the goddess of royalty cannot serve two masters. She stands steadfast on only one. She ends up having to choose between the two of you!

What happens to a minister who is put on a pedestal, like you did with this Sanjeevaka? Such a person begins to think he is the most important person and is better than all the others. It doesn’t take long before he thinks he is more valuable than you, the king. What does he do, then? Slowly he distances himself from you, you who made him what he is! Having come so far, he wants it all. He wants absolute power, to be a monarch, and decides to do away with you. That’s what’s happening here.

My dear sir, there is a reason why our elders say that we must get rid of poisoned food, a decayed tooth, and a traitorous minister. Keeping these with us can only lead to disaster and pain.

And when you put all your trust in one man only, what will you do if disaster strikes Sanjeevaka? You’ll stumble around blindly.

My lord, surely, you must be aware that Sanjeevaka does as he pleases. I have done my duty and told you what others say about your court. What happens now is in your hands, for you are the almighty ruler.”

Pingalaka mulled over Dhamanaka’s warning. Then he said, “Oh, I’m so disappointed! Dhamanaka, I know you tell me this from the goodness of your heart. Sanjeevaka and I…, we are such good friends. And even…if he is saying things behind my back, I can’t break up with him. How can I? We had such good times together. I suppose I must overlook this. We don’t give up on our body when it starts to give us trouble, do we? There are times when those we love behave unpleasantly. We must learn to forgive them. We don’t stop respecting or using fire just because it can burn down a house, do we?”

Dhamanaka gulped! He hadn’t been prepared to hear this! “Oh, your majesty! That is the problem. You see, the goddess of wealth blesses whoever the king likes, whether it is his son, a minister, or an outsider. I know this is not what you want to hear, but you must hear me out for your safety and prosperity.

You got rid of your established servants, master. To make matters worse, you brought a total stranger into their place and gave him all the power. How can you not expect trouble after this, your majesty?”

Pingalaka was reflecting on what he had heard. “You know something? It’s so hard to digest all this! How could Sanjeevaka become so selfish and betray me? I even promised him that he’d be safe, that I’d never attack him. And yet…look what he’s done!” Dhamanaka let out a silent sigh. Thank goodness his plan was working. He had no qualms about separating friends!

He consoled the king. “What to do, royal master? evil-natured men can’t change, no matter how much we try to treat them nicely or give them all the advantages. Their basic nature will always win in the end. Have you ever tried to straighten a dog’s tail? You try rubbing it down with oil and creams or tying it with a splint for a dozen years. Do you think it straightens in the end? No way!

You must accept that some people will not be happy even if you give them the world or treat them like your family. Even if you water a poisoned tree with nectar, it isn’t going to provide you with sweet fruits, is it?

You see, sir, if you don’t want to see someone fail in life, you must open your mouth and tell the unpleasant truths they need to hear. That’s what good people do. Only the wicked pretend otherwise.

Those who care for you will tell you the truth and protect you from ruin without worrying about what you think or do to them. That’s why I have come to warn you. After listening to all this, if you don’t protect yourself from Sanjeevaka, then it is not on me. I know I was true to myself and warned you even though you may get angry. Why would I lie to you? I get no pleasure in separating friends.

A king who ignores advice from his court and acts as he pleases will bring his own downfall. Then he starts blaming all the people around him.” Dhamanaka paused to give his words a greater effect.

Pingalika brooded over Dhamanaka’s words. His mane trembled as he breathed deeply. “I must find out Sanjeevaka’s side of the story before I do anything. It wouldn’t be fair to him if I punished him just because of Dhamanaka’s words. What would happen to the kingdom if I began to punish people without finding the truth? It will collapse on such poor policy, that’s what! It’s as dangerous as putting my hand down a snake’s mouth!”

He turned to the jackal and said, “Shall we warn Sanjeevaka not to go about backstabbing me like this?”

Ooooh, Dhamanaka didn’t want that happening, did he? So he rushed to discourage the lion from doing any such thing.

“OH NO!  That’s not a good idea. Then Sanjeevaka will know what we want to ask him and be ready with an answer or explanation. If you leave a seed lying around in the open, it won’t grow into a plant and bear fruit. At the same time, you are right. It would be best if you acted on this quickly. If we try to keep it a secret for too long, somehow or the other, it will leak out. Once the surprise is lost, the plan won’t be effective. 

Now that you know what he has done, it would be a big mistake to talk it out with him and become friends again. You must never trust someone who has betrayed you like this. That’s asking for trouble. You never know what he may do to you—even cause your death.” Dhamanaka rubbed his words in to make sure the lion didn’t approach Sanjeevaka.

But the lion wouldn’t budge either. “What can he do to me?”

Pat came the answer. “Oh, we don’t know what he can do to you because we don’t know who is stronger. Don’t you know that even the small lapwing bird was able to corner  the  mighty ocean and bend it to its will?”

Pingalika snapped out of his confusion. “How did the lapwing win over the ocean?” He asked.

Dhamanaka narrated the story of the lapwings and the ocean.

To be continued …

Click here to listen to the previous episode of the Hitopadesha:

Episode 12: The Trouble Between the Friends

Hitopadesha – Separating Friends

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