King Sudarshana’s sons sat around, reflecting on the stories they’d heard so far. This was so much more fun than doing boring schoolwork. What about the other tales? Will their Guru tell them now, or will he put them off for another day? Oh, we hope not! So they pleaded with him. “Sir, sir! It is true we must be careful when we make friends; once we have friends, we must keep them by our side. We learned so much from the stories. Can you please tell us more? Why don’t you tell those that teach us about losing friends? Pleeeease?”
The Guru also had to prove to the king that he’d done his job, right? So, he replied willingly to the princes.
“Certainly! Certainly! I’ll start with the tale of the lion, the jackals, and the bull to show how we lose friends. In this story, the cunning jackal separates two friends, the lion and the bull.“
“What! A lion and a bull were friends? This is the first time we’ve heard of such a friendship. How did that happen? What did the jackal do?” the princes asked question after question.
Having roused their curiosity, Vishnusharman said, “Well, then listen to the story of the lion, the jackals and the bull.”
The lion, the Jackals and the Bull
The merchant Vardhamana lived in a town called swarnavati that lay on the road to the south. Vardhamana was quite rich, but he wasn’t satisfied with what he had. He wanted more. Why? Because the other family members and many of his friends were more prosperous than him. That thought nagged at him. He felt a bit inferior because he didn’t have the same riches.
It’s often like that. We, humans, compare ourselves with others all the time. If the other person has less than us, aah, that’s fine. We feel reassured. Oh, but if they have more, that’s it! We are eaten up by feelings of failure.
Vardhamana was no different. He kept thinking about his lot in life. “If I sit at home doing nothing, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, will ignore me. But if I am resourceful and work hard, she is bound to reward me with greater wealth. So let me see what I can do to improve my life.” If you listen to the pep talk Vardhamana gave himself, you’ll see that he did have a lot of good ideas.
“It’s a good thing to make more money. I can save some, spend some and, of course, give away some for the benefit of others. That’s not a bad thing at all! It doesn’t have to be a windfall. I can build a fortune by saving a little at a time. Isn’t that how we fill a pot with water? A drop at a time until it reaches the brim! It’s the same for money, knowledge, and devotion to God.”
So the merchant loaded his goods onto his cart, harnessed his two bullocks, Nadaka and Sanjeevaka, and set off on the path towards Kashmir. He hadn’t gone far when the mishap happened. The cart was on a winding trail rising up the Sudurga mountains when one of the bulls, Sanjeevaka, buckled, fell and broke his knee!
But Vardhamana was not fazed. It wasn’t going to stop him. “There are bound to be obstacles whenever we start new ventures. I cannot stop for Sanjeevaka to get better. I must keep trying my best, and success will surely come my way!” He went to a nearby town and bought himself another bull. He tied it to his cart in Sanjeevaka’s place and rode off to trade. The injured bullock, managed to pull himself up on his three legs. For someone who was injured, Sanjeevaka was left in the best place for his recovery. It looked like he was all alone in that part of the lush green jungle. He ate whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and didn’t have to do any work. Naturally, his leg healed, and he grew plump and strong. The accident turned out to be a good thing, and Sanjeevaka wandered about the forest bellowing with pleasure.
As I said earlier, it seemed like Sanjeevaka was alone in this haven of food. But he wasn’t! In the same jungle lived the lion, Pingalaka. The other animals in the forest acknowledged him as their king and showed him respect due to a king. For he was a mighty beast, and no one dared challenge him.
One day, Pingalaka made his way to the banks of the river Yamuna, wanting a drink of water. It wasn’t far from where Sanjeevaka was loitering. The bull had no clue that a lion was nearby and let out a loud bellow of contentment. Don’t you think he would’ve been as quiet as a mouse if he’d known a lion was nearby?
But something unusual happened. Pingalaka froze. His heart beat fast, and his knees felt wobbly. He couldn’t understand what made that strange noise. You and I may sit here and wonder why the bullock’s bellow scared the lion, but it was such an unusual sound to hear in the forest. It’s not as if the lion knew this was just a regular bullock. Pingalaka turned back to his lair without taking a sip. Over there, he stood staring into space, puzzled and slightly alarmed. The king of the forest didn’t realise that he was being observed—by the sons of one of his ministers!
“Did you see that?” Dhamanaka, the jackal, nudged his brother Karataka. “Something is troubling our Rajah. He went to get a drink of water but didn’t even wet his lips! And now he sits here brooding!”
“Listen, Dhamanaka! Why do you care? It’s not as if he listens to our advice. To tell you the truth, it’s high time we stopped advising him. This Rajah doesn’t understand or recognize how much we do for him. He only insults us. When we stick around to serve him, we’re really belittling ourselves. It is insulting to work like this for someone, running around obeying their orders! We lose our independence and self-respect. Don’t you feel it too?
Can people like us who serve others ever please their masters? Think about it! If a servant is quiet, it must be because he is stupid. If he talks, then he is a blabbermouth. If he is patient, it must be because he is shy and withdrawn. If he objects to what the master says, he is rude and not from a good family. If he stands too close to his master, he is too forward and doesn’t know his place. If he stands too far away, he lacks courage…. Goodness! No matter what we do, they’ll find fault with it. There is no clear set of rules for how a servant should behave. Why sacrifice ourselves for another? I say, let’s stop bothering ourselves with this king.”
“OOOOH KARATAKA! What are you saying? Of course, it is good to work for a powerful master. There is some benefit for us too, you know. If we do our jobs well, he will quickly give us what we desire. If we don’t serve someone powerful, how on earth will we experience the benefits of power? How will we participate in grand celebrations or look important in the processions and gatherings?“
Karataka was not convinced. “I still say the Rajah’s worries are none of our business. If we get involved, there are bound to be unpleasant consequences. Who knows, it may even be like the monkey that died while pulling out a wedge!”
“Here I am talking about something, and you talk about something else! Where did you bring this monkey from? What happened to it? Why did it die?” Dhamanaka’s eyes widened in surprise.
To be continued…
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