The Panchatantra Book V, Vishnu Sharma
The Panchatantra Book V
Vishnu Sharma
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The Panchatantra ("Five Treatises") is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose, arranged within a frame story. The text's author has been attributed to Vishnu Sharma in some recensions and Vasubhaga in others, both of which may be pen names. The Panchatantra is a series of inter-woven fables, many of which deploy metaphors of anthropomorphized animals with human virtues and vices. Book five of the text is, like book four, a simpler compilation of moral-filled fables. These also present negative examples with consequences, offering examples and actions for the reader to ponder, avoid, and watch out for. The lessons in this last book include "get facts, be patient, don't act in haste then regret later", "don't build castles in the air". The book five is also unusual in that almost all its characters are humans, unlike the first four where the characters are predominantly anthropomorphized animals.

The Panchatantra

Vishnu Sharma

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.”

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