The Jackal, the Deer and the Crow.

The story of the jackal

Hiranyaka, the King of Mice, is taken aback when Laghupatnaka, the crow, wants to befriend him. How can a predator and prey be friends? To make his point, the mouse narrates the story of the Jackal, Deer and Crow.

The Jackal, the Deer, and the Crow.

In the forest of Champakavati, in the kingdom of Magadha, lived two good friends, a deer and a crow. It was such a lush forest that there was plenty to eat. The deer grew plump and rounded as it roamed around and ate to its heart’s content. In the same forest lived a Jackal. He happened to catch sight of the deer when it was out and about, looking for food. “Ooooh! What a delicious morsel of food!” his mouth salivated at the thought of eating the deer. He took a step forward and then paused. “Hmmm! I must think this through. I don’t want to frighten him away. He’ll probably scamper off before I catch him. Let’s see! Perhaps I should pretend to befriend him.” That seemed like a good idea. The jackal nodded to himself, “Yes, that’s the way to a good dinner.”

The jackal stepped out from behind the bushes and walked toward the deer. But all the while, the cunning animal pretended not to notice the deer until he was at arm’s length. “Oh, Hello, friend! How are you?” he greeted the unsuspecting deer.

The deer stepped back, readying to leap to his freedom. But the jackal’s tone of voice was not a roar! He seemed to be talking, almost as if he wanted to make a conversation. So the deer returned the greeting and said, “Who are you?”

“Me? I’m Kshuddrabuddhi, the Jackal. I live in these forests, all alone and friendless. It is providence that brought the two of us together; for now, you and I can be friends. How wonderful is that? I promise I will be your friend forever and do all you ask.”

The deer didn’t think there was anything unusual about the jackal wanting to be friends with him. Some people would call that ‘being innocent,’ and others would say he was ‘clueless.’ I think there’s some truth to both. So what did the deer do? He let the jackal walk with him to his home.

As they neared the deer’s house, a crow named Subuddhi saw the two walking side by side. Subuddhi was the deer’s friend. He couldn’t believe his eyes. What on earth was the deer doing, letting the jackal accompany him home? So he called out right then and there, “Oy! Who is this with you?”

“Aaah, this is my new friend, the jackal. He is lonely and would like to be friends with us.”

“Don’t tell me! It didn’t strike you to wonder why he wants to befriend you! Arre! Don’t you know not to become friends with total strangers? You’ve no idea who he is or why he wants to be friends with you. Why would you invite an unknown person to your house? Ha? You are like the vulture who invited a cat to his house. Thanks to that decision, he lost his life for no fault of his!”

The deer and the jackal were curious. “A vulture died? Who vulture? What vulture? How did he die? What happened?” they chorused.

“Well, it’s like this…” the crow began his story.

The story of the Vulture, the Cat, and the Birds.

The banks of the river Ganga was home to many forests. In one such forest, a fig tree towered over all the other trees around it. This fig tree had a hollow that was large enough to be the home of a vulture. But he was not alone, for many other birds built their nests on the same tree.

This vulture was so old that he had lost his vision and his talons, which meant that he couldn’t go out and scavenge for food. The other birds on the tree took pity on him and fed him some scraps and leftovers from their hunts. Things would have been fine if the vulture had been a bit aware.

One day, a cat wandered in and spotted the number of nests on the fig tree. “WOW! That’s a lot of meals on a single tree,” his whiskers twitched. He waited until the parents flew away to gather food for the young. Then the cat hopped on a branch. The baby birds sensed danger. They may never have seen a cat at close quarters before this, but they knew enough to realize that this creature did not mean them well. They let off a series of panicky chirps like a switch turned on. The cries reached the vulture’s hollow.

The vulture poked his head and bellowed, “Who’s there?” The cat paused. Goodness! He hadn’t been expecting this! Knees trembling, he thought quickly. He just might have enough time to leap down the branches and make his way out of here. Then he changed his mind. “No! Now that I’m face to face with danger, I must deal with it. Let me see if I can sweet-talk him a bit,” he told himself.

The cat bowed low in front of the vulture, “My lord, please accept my humble greetings. It is an honour to present myself to you!”

The vulture was not used to such flowery language. With some irritation, the big scavenger asked again, “Who are you?”

“I am a cat.”

“Well, cat. I suggest you beat it before I come for you!” the vulture hissed through his beak.

“Sir, I’m not afraid of death, but please, can I not speak first? Shouldn’t you hear what I have to say? After that, if you still want to do away with me, then so be it.” The cat sounded unruffled.

This turn in the conversation is a bit unexpected, isn’t it? What on earth is the cat up to? The vulture must have had the same thought too, because he said, “You…want to say something? Is that it? Okay, What? Come on, come on, out with it!”

“Sir, I may be a cat, but I live the life of a hermit on the banks of the holy river Ganga. For I bathe in the river, have given up meat, and pray and fast for the well-being of my soul. But I still have a lot to earn. The other birds on this tree praise you as the most honest and moral being. Ever since I heard about you, I’ve wanted to meet you. It would be a great honour if you were my teacher and guide. Sir, I came here to plead with you to be my guru, and here, you talk of killing me. What strange talk is this? Would you really kill your guest?”

“Shouldn’t a good person treat even his enemy with kindness if he is a guest in his house? It’s not as if I want you to give me anything fancy. If people think you are a good person, they don’t care if you are rich or poor. They’ll be happy with a place to rest, some cool water from the well, and a few polite words of welcome…that shouldn’t be hard at all, should it?”

“Does it matter who your guest is, rich or poor, young or old? Don’t they all have to be treated with respect?”

“Do you really want to be responsible for someone feeling bad because you turned them away? Wouldn’t that mean that he earns Punya, or merit, while you earn paap, or sin? Why would you want to tease your karma like that?”

“Isn’t the guest supposed to be treated like a god?”

The vulture had had an earful, but he was direct. “What do you expect, eh? You are a cat, and cats like to eat birds. There are a lot of birds on this tree. So, of course, I’m going to shoo you away.”

The cat touched the ground and then his ears in a show of virtue. “Sir, I have spent my life reading the holy books. Everywhere they talk about the importance of ahimsa, not harming another living being. I, too, value life and wouldn’t consider harming others…” he went on.

Maybe it was because the vulture was old and lonely or because he had never had to listen to such a talkative cat before, the scavenging bird allowed the cat to stay in the hollow.

To be Continued…

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Episode 3: Unity is Strength

The Jackal, the Deer and the Crow.

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