Hitopadesha – The Trouble Between the Friends

Trouble between the friends

The two Jackals, Dhamanaka and Karataka, introduced the bull to the lion, Pingalaka. With time, the bull and the lion became great friends. The jackals were also happy at the way things turned out because the lion thought that it was because of them that the bull didn’t attack him. But trouble was brewing in this pleasant corner of the forest. That’s because big changes happen whenever a new person enters a community, whether it is a family or a group of friends. Here, there was trouble between the friends.

The Trouble Between the Friends

As time passed, the friendship between Sanjeevaka, the bull, and Pingalaka, the lion, grew deeper. One day, Pingalaka’s brother, a lion named Stabdhakarna, came to visit him. Pingalaka was happy and welcomed him warmly. He wanted to give his brother a grand feast, so he got ready to hunt.

Life would have continued pleasantly if only the bull had not stopped Pingalaka with a question. But things can change at any moment, as happened here. That question laid the seed for the trouble between the friends.

“My lord,” Sanjeevaka asked. “What happened to the deer you killed earlier today? Why don’t we give that to your brother?”

The lion shrugged and said, “I don’t think there’s anything left of the deer. Dhamanaka and Karataka would have taken care of it.”

Sanjeevika’s jaw dropped. “Pardon me for asking more questions, my lord. Do you mean that those two would’ve finished the whole animal?”

The lion didn’t think it was such a big deal. “They may have eaten it all, given some to others, or just thrown away to rot. Does it matter? All I know is that not much food is left, and I must hunt for my brother’s meal. I’m okay with it. This is what we do every day.”

But, sir,” Sanjeevika shook his head. “How can they do something like this without informing you?”

“Yeah, they do this all the time. They don’t tell me every detail,” Pingalaka replied.

Now, Sanjeevaka would not let it go. “Sir, I am concerned about their behaviour. Unless there is an emergency, servants must always consult with their masters. They can’t do whatever they want. You should be the one deciding how to act and who should do what. I notice that these two jackals are your ministers. Shouldn’t they be like a water jug?”

“What do you mean?” the lion asked doubtfully.

“Well, a water jug has a wide bottom to hold a lot in but a narrow spout so that only a thin stream can escape when you pour the water out. If they were responsible ministers, they would find a way to keep your resources safe and use only a little. A fool doesn’t understand the value of time and wastes it. If a man thinks a paisa is too small to save, he will always be poor.

What you need is a minister who saves every little bit because a king’s authority is in his treasury, in how much wealth he possesses. People who think power will earn you respect are wrong! What matters is money! Wealth! Your ministers should be helping you save the hunt and find a way to make it add to your wealth. They should not be eating it all up or giving it away freely.

As a king, you must be aware that a well-run kingdom is all about how you manage your treasury. Spending too much recklessly, being disinterested in collecting money, stealing other people’s wealth unfairly, and not supervising the administrators who manage your treasury—these four are costly mistakes. They cost you!!!”

The king’s brother was roused to speak at this moment. “I feel Sanjeevaka has a point, brother. These two jackals have been taking advantage of you because of their positions as ministers in your court. You can use them during a fight, yes, but do you really want them overseeing the treasury. How can you be sure to trust them like this?

I’ve heard that three kinds of people should never be trusted with the key to your wealth:

1. the learned man because he will hesitate to give you the key

2. the warrior because he may fight you for your wealth and

3. the relative because he will steal your wealth quietly.

If the officer has been on the job for a long time, he becomes used to the power and won’t be afraid even when he commits a crime. If you confront him with his mistakes, he will oppose you.

If you give the job to someone who helped you in the past, the person will constantly bring up how he did this or did that for you, all the while stealing from you.

If you give the job to a long-time friend, that person will act like the king and demand everybody do as they say.

If you give the job to someone who seems pleasant but is really a cunning schemer like Shakuni, they will take away all your wealth without you knowing.

You know what the Siddhas say? Too much wealth corrupts the mind!

Don’t forget! Ministers are ordinary folk. They may use your treasury money to buy things for themselves and their families, take bribes, waste it on unnecessary items to show off, forget to collect what others owe you, or even steal from you.

It’s your job as the king to supervise them and take back what is yours. I’m warning you, though, it won’t be an easy job to find any money they’ve taken! You can do one thing. Fine them large sums of money…at different times. You can’t get all the water out of a wet towel if you twist it just once. You must wring it many times to get all the water out before you put it to dry.” The brother pursed his lips and nodded.

Oh! Looks like neither Sanjeevaka nor Stabdhkarna gave much thought to the jackals or their feelings about this advice. Would you like it if someone discussed your role with your friends or relatives behind your back? I know I wouldn’t! I’m not surprised that this caused the trouble between the friends!

“I agree with all you say, brother,” Pingalaka said. “But I don’t think those two will listen to me.”

Stabdhkarna was astounded! “What are you saying, Pingalaka? How can that be? A king must never let even his sons get away with not obeying him! Otherwise, what is the difference between a real king and a paper drawing? Ha?

Remember, brother! To be a strong king, you must have honest and efficient ministers to govern your kingdom. Maybe you like the Jackals a lot. But as a king, you must be prepared to protect your subjects not only from robbers and your officers but also from those you like and even from your greed.

Here’s what I think you must do. Take this bull here—he is a grain eater. Put him in charge of managing your food supplies. You won’t have to worry about him taking advantage of or stealing from you.”

Wow! That’s what I call a masterstroke, hey? The bull will certainly not eat any meat! Who better to guard the king’s kill?

“Hmmm! My brother is right!” thought Pingalaka. He immediately sent all the others in his court packing, including the jackals. So now, only the bull had any sway over the lion. The lion consulted him for every decision, and the jackals were left out of everything.

Many days passed. As expected, the jackals were disturbed by all these changes. They didn’t like losing the benefits of being in the inner circle. But what rubbed them most was that they had brought the bull to the lion’s notice in the first place. And, they had introduced the bull in good faith, promising him that he’ll be safe from the lion. They had made it all happen!

Dhamanaka slapped his head with his paws and complained to his brother, “You know what? We brought it on ourselves. We brought the bull to the lion’s attention and encouraged them to be friends. And on top of it, we ignored their friendship. The bull turned on us and kicked us out of the king’s presence. But I won’t let that ungrateful wretch get away with it. I brought them together. I will split them up too!”

Karataka shook his head. “I don’t think it’ll be as easy as you think. Look at them. Their friendship is strong!”

Dhamanaka scoffed. “Oh, I have a solution for that. When you can’t fight an enemy through open warfare, you must use your brains. A good bit of plotting will do the trick just as easily. Haven’t you heard of the crow who schemed and got rid of the black serpent using a gold chain?”

Karataka shook his head slowly. “No, I haven’t! How and why did the crow get rid of the snake?”

Oooooh, yes! Remember that Dhamanaka was the wily one who brought the  bull to the lion? I’m not surprised he is the one who causes trouble between the friends too!

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

Episode 11: The Cat who Served the Lion

Hitopadesha – The Trouble Between the Friends

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