The Panchatantra Book V
Category: Children
Level 3.75 1:09 h
The Panchatantra is a collection of fables that mostly center around animals. The tales are interwoven and contain morals beneath the entertaining stories. In Panchatantra Book V, the final book in the series, consequences become the theme of the stories. The fables offer valuable lessons for the reader to ponder and use in real life. Book V is unique to the series in the characters are humans rather than animals.

The Panchatantra

Vishnu Sharma

The Panchatantra Book V

Book V

Ill-Considered Action

Here, then, begins Book V, called “Ill-considered Action.” The first verse runs:

Deeds ill-known, ill-recognized,
Ill-accomplished, ill-devised —
Thought of these let no man harbor;
Take a warning from the barber.

“How was that?” asked the princes. And Vishnusharman told the following story.

In the southern country is a city called Trumpet-Flower. In it lived a merchant named Jewel, who lost his fortune by the decree of fate, though his life was given to the pursuit of virtue, money, love, and salvation. The loss of property led to a series of humiliations, so that he sank into utter despondency. And one night he reflected: “A curse, a curse upon this state of poverty! For the proverb says:

Conduct, patience, purity,
Manners, loving-kindness, birth,
After money disappears,
Cease to have the slightest worth.

Wisdom, sense, and social charm,
Honest pride and self-esteem,
After money disappears,
All at once become a dream.

To the wisdom of the wise
Constant household worries bring
Daily diminution, like
Winter breathed upon by spring.

After money disappears,
Keenest wisdom is at fault,
Choked by daily fuel and clothes,
Oil and butter, rice and salt.

Poor and paltry neighbors scarce
Waken sentiments of scorn,
Like the bubbles on a stream,
Ever dying, ever born.

Yet the rich have license for
All things vulgar and debased:
When the ocean bellows, none
Reprobate his faulty taste.

Having thus set his mind in order, he concluded: “Under these circumstances, I will abandon life by self-starvation. What can be made of this calamity — life without money?” With his resolve taken, he went to sleep.

Now as he slept, a trillion dollars appeared in the form of a Jain monk, and said: “Good merchant, do not lose interest. I am a trillion, earned by your ancestors. Tomorrow morning I will come to your house in this same form. Then you must club me on the head, so that I may turn to gold and prove inexhaustible.”

On awaking in the morning, he spent some time pondering on his dream: “Let me think. Will this dream prove true or false? I cannot tell. No doubt it will prove false, for I think of nothing but money all day and all night. And the proverb says:

Dreams that do not mean a thing
Come to sick and sorrowing,
Lovelorn, drunk, and worrying.”

At this moment a barber arrived to manicure his wife’s nails. And while the barber was busy with his manicuring, the Jain monk suddenly appeared. When Jewel perceived the monk, he was delighted and struck him on the head with a stick of wood that lay handy. Whereupon the monk turned to gold and immediately fell to the ground.

The merchant then set him up in the middle of the house, and said to the barber, after handing him a tip: “My good fellow, you must not tell anybody what has happened in our house.” To this the barber assented, but when he reached home, he thought: “Surely, all these naked fellows turn to gold when clubbed on the head. So tomorrow morning I, too, will invite a lot of them and club them to death, in order to get a lot of gold.” And the day and the night dragged away as he meditated his plan.

In the morning he rose and went to a Jain monastery, arranged his upper garment, circumambulated the Conqueror thrice, sought the ground with his knees, laid his garment’s hem over the gateway of his mouth, made a profound obeisance, and with an ear-piercing voice intoned the following hymn:

“The saints victorious endure
Who live by saving knowledge pure,
Who sterilize the mind within
By mind, against the seed of sin.

And further:

The tongue that praiseth Him is blest;
The heart, in Him that seeketh rest;
The hands are blest, and only they,
That e’er to Him due homage pay.”

After chanting other hymns also to the same effect, but in great variety, he sought out the abbot and dropped on his knees and hands, saying: “Greetings, Your Reverence.” From the abbot he received a benediction for the increase of his virtue, likewise instructions for a vow that involved the practice of celibacy. Then he said devoutly: “Holy sir, when you take your pious walk today, pray come to my house with your whole company of monks.”

“My dear neophyte,” replied the abbot, “you know the holy law. How can you speak so? Do you take us for Brahmans, that you invite us to eat? Nay, we wander each day just as it happens, and when we meet a pious neophyte, enter his house. Begone. Never speak so again.”

“Holy sir,” said the barber, “I know it well. I will do as you say. However, you have many neophytes engaged in pious labors; while I, for my part, have made ready strips of canvas adapted to the wrapping of manuscripts. And for the copying of manuscripts and the payment of scribes, sufficient money is provided. In view of this, pray do what seems proper.” And so he started home.

When he arrived there, he got ready cudgels of acacia wood, placed them in a corner behind the door, then toward noon he returned to the monastery gate and waited there. Then as they all came forth in order of dignity, he besought them as teachers, and led them to his house. For their part, in their greed for book-covers and money they passed by their familiar neophytes, even the pious ones, and joyfully flocked behind him. Well, there is sense in the verse:

Behold a wonder! Even he
Who lives alone, from kindred free,
With hand for spoon, and air for dress,
Is overcome by greediness.

Then the barber conducted them well into the house and clubbed them. Under the clubbing some died, others had their heads broken and began to bawl. But when the soldiers in the citadel heard the howling, they said: “Well, well! What is this tremendous hubbub in the middle of town? Come along!” So they all scampered and saw the monks rushing from the barber’s house, blood streaming over their bodies. And being asked what it meant, they told exactly how the barber had behaved.

So the soldiers fettered the barber and carried him off to court together with such monks as had survived the slaughter. There the judges questioned him: “Come, sir! What means this shameful deed by you committed?” And he replied; “Gentlemen, what else could I do?” And with this he related the behavior of Jewel.

The judges therefore despatched a summonser, who returned with Jewel. And they questioned him: “Merchant, why did you kill a certain Jain monk?” And he in turn gave a full account of the original monk. Whereupon they said: “Well, well! Let this villainous barber be impaled. For his act was advised.”

When this had been done, they observed:

Deeds ill-known, ill-recognized,
Ill-accomplished, ill-advised —
Thought of these let no man harbor;
Take a warning from the barber.

And there is sound sense in this:

Let the well-advised be done;
Ill-advised leave unbegun:
Else, remorse will be let loose,
As with lady and mungoose.

“How was that?” asked Jewel. And they told the story of THE LOYAL MUNGOOSE.

The Loyal Mungoose

There was once a Brahman named Godly in a certain town. His wife mothered a single son and a mungoose. And as she loved little ones, she cared for the mungoose also like a son, giving him milk from her breast, and salves, and baths, and so on. But she did not trust him, for she thought: “A mungoose is a nasty kind of creature. He might hurt my boy.” Yes, there is sense in the proverb:

A son will ever bring delight,
Though bent on folly, passion, spite,
Though shabby, naughty, and a fright.

One day she tucked her son in bed, took a water-jar, and said to her husband: “Now, Professor, I am going for water. You must protect the boy from the mungoose.” But when she was gone, the Brahman went off somewhere himself to beg food, leaving the house empty.

While he was gone, a black snake issued from his hole and, as fate would have it, crawled toward the baby’s cradle. But the mungoose, feeling him to be a natural enemy, and fearing for the life of his baby brother, fell upon the vicious serpent halfway, joined battle with him, tore him to bits, and tossed the pieces far and wide. Then, delighted with his own heroism, he ran, blood trickling from his mouth, to meet the mother; for he wished to show what he had done.

But when the mother saw him coming, saw his bloody mouth and his excitement, she feared that the villain must have eaten her baby boy, and without thinking twice, she angrily dropped the water-jar upon him, which killed him the moment that it struck. There she left him without a second thought, and hurried home, where she found the baby safe and sound, and near the cradle a great black snake, torn to bits. Then, overwhelmed with sorrow because she had thoughtlessly killed her benefactor, her son, she beat her head and breast.

At this moment the Brahman came home with a dish of rice gruel which he had got from someone in his begging tour, and saw his wife bitterly lamenting her son, the mungoose. “Greedy! Greedy!” she cried. “Because you did not do as I told you, you must now taste the bitterness of a son’s death, the fruit of the tree of your own wickedness. Yes, this is what happens to those blinded by greed. For the proverb says:

Indulge in no excessive greed
(A little helps in time of need) —
A greedy fellow in the world
Found on his head a wheel that whirled.”

“How was that?” asked the Brahman. And his wife told the story of THE FOUR TREASURE-SEEKERS.

The Four Treasure-Seekers

In a certain town in the world were four Brahmans who lived as the best of friends. And being stricken with utter poverty, they took counsel together: “A curse, a curse on this business of being poor! For

The well-served master hates him still;
His loving kinsmen with a will
Abandon him; woes multiply,
While friends and even children fly;
His high-born wife grows cool; the flash
Of virtue dims; brave efforts crash —
For him who has no ready cash

And again:

Charm, courage, eloquence, good looks,
And thorough mastery of books
(If money does not back the same)
Are useless in the social game.

“Better be dead than penniless. As the story goes:

A beggar to the graveyard hied
And there ‘Friend corpse, arise,’ he cried;
‘One moment lift my heavy weight
Of poverty; for I of late
Grow weary, and desire instead
Your comfort: you are good and dead.’
The corpse was silent. He was sure
‘Twas better to be dead than poor.

“So let us at any cost strive to make money. For the saying goes:

Money gets you anything,
Gets it in a flash:
Therefore let the prudent get
Cash, cash, cash.

“Now this cash comes to men in six ways. They are: (1) begging for charity, (2) flunkeyism at a court, (3) farmwork, (4) the learned professions, (5) usury, (6) trade.

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