The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Many persons here that are not really of tranquil souls appear in outward form as men of tranquil souls. There are again others that are really of tranquil souls but that appear to be otherwise. How, O sire, shall we succeed in knowing these people?'
"Bhishma said, 'In this connection is recited the old story of the discourse between a tiger and a jackal. Listen to it, O Yudhishthira! In ancient times, in a city called Purika, full of affluence, there was a king named Paurika. That worst of beings was exceedingly cruel and took delight in injuring others. On the expiry of the period of his life he obtained an undesirable end. In fact, stained by the evil acts of his human life, he was reborn as a jackal. Remembering his former prosperity, he became filled with grief and abstained from meat even when brought before him by others. And he became compassionate unto all creatures, and truthful in speech, and firm in the observance of austere vows. At the appointed time he took food which consisted of fruit that had dropped from the trees. That jackal dwelt in a vast crematorium and liked to dwell there. And as it was his birth place, he never wished to change it for a finer locality. Unable to endure the purity of his behaviour, the other members of his species, endeavoured to make him alter his resolve by addressing him in the following words fraught with humility: 'Though residing in this terrible crematorium, thou desirest yet to live in such purity of behaviour. Is not this a perversity of understanding on thy part, since thou art by nature an cater of carrion? Be thou our like. All of us will give thee food. Eat that which ought always to be thy food, abandoning such purity of conduct. Hearing these words of theirs, the jackal replied unto them, with rapt attention, in these sweet words fraught with reason and inculcating harmlessness to all: 'My birth has been low. It is conduct, however, that determines the race. 1 I desire to behave in such a way that my fame may spread. Although my habitation is this crematorium, yet listen to my vows in respect of behaviour. One's own self is the cause of one's acts. The mode of life to which one may betake oneself is not the cause of one's religious acts. If one, while in the observance of a particular mode of life, slays a Brahmana, will not the sin of Brahmanicide attach to him? If, on the other hand, one gives away a cow while one is not in the observance of any particular mode of life, will that pious gift produce no merit? Moved by the desire of getting what is agreeable, ye are engaged in only filling your stomachs. Stupefied by folly ye do not see the three faults that are in the end. I do not like to adopt the life led by you, fraught as it is with evil both here and hereafter, and characterised as it is by such censurable loss of virtue occasioned by discontentment and temptation.' A tiger, celebrated for prowess, happened to overhear this conversation, and accordingly,
taking the jackal for a learned person of pure behaviour, offered him such respectful worship as was suited to his own self and then expressed a wish for appointing him his minister.'
"The tiger said, 'O righteous personage, I know what thou art. Do thou attend to the duties of government with myself. Enjoy whatever articles may be desired by thee, abandoning whatever may not suit thy taste. 1 As regards ourselves, we are known to be of a fierce disposition. We inform thee beforehand of this. If thou behavest with mildness, thou wilt be benefited and reap advantages for thyself.'--Honouring these words of that high-souled lord of all animals, the jackal, hanging down his head a little, said these words fraught with humility.'
"The jackal said, 'O king of beasts, these words of thine with reference to myself are such as befit thee. It is also worthy of thee that thou shouldst seek for ministers of pure behaviour and conversant with duties and worldly affairs. Thou canst not maintain thy greatness without a pious minister, O hero, or with a wicked minister that is on the look-out for putting an end to the very life. Thou shouldst, O highly blessed one, regard those amongst thy ministers that are devoted to thee, that are conversant with policy, that are independent of one another, desirous of crowning thee with victory, unstained by covetousness, free from deceit, possessed of wisdom ever engaged in thy good, and endued with great mental vigour, even as thou regardest thy preceptors or parents. But, O king of beasts, as I am perfectly contented with my present position, I do not desire to change it for anything else. I do not covet luxurious enjoyments or the happiness that arises from them. My conduct, again, may not agree with that of thy old servants. If they happen to be of wicked conduct, they will produce disunion between thee and me. Dependence upon another, even if that other happens to be possessed of splendour, is not desirable or praiseworthy. I am of cleansed soul, I am highly blessed. I am incapable of showing severity to even sinners. I am of great foresight. I have capacity for great exertion. I do not look at small things. I am possessed of great strength. I am successful in acts. I never act fruitlessly. I am adorned with every object of enjoyment. I am never satisfied with a little. I have never served another. I am, besides, unskilled in serving. I live according to my pleasure in the woods. All who live by the side of kings have to endure great pain in consequence of evil speeches against themselves. Those, however, that reside in the woods pass their days, fearlessly and without anxiety, in the observance of vows. The fear that arises in the heart of a person who is summoned by the king is unknown to persons passing their days contentedly in the woods, supporting life upon fruits and roots. Simple food and drink obtained without effort, and luxurious food procured with fear, widely differ from each other. Reflecting upon these two, I am of opinion that there is happiness where there is no anxiety. A few only amongst those that serve kings are justly punished for their offences. A large number of them, however, suffer death under false accusations. If, notwithstanding all this, thou appointest me, O king of
beasts, as thy minister, I wish to make a compact with thee in respect of the behaviour thou shouldst always adopt towards me. Those words that I shall speak for thy good should be listened to and regarded by thee. The provision which thou wilt make for me shall not be interfered with by thee. I shall never consult with thy other ministers. If I do, desirous of superiority as they are they will then impute diverse kinds of faults to me. Meeting with thee alone and in secret I shall say what is for thy good. In all matters connected with thy kinsmen, thou shalt not ask me what is for thy good or what is otherwise. Having consulted with me thou shalt not punish thy other ministers afterwards, yielding to rage thou shalt not punish my followers and dependants.' Thus addressed by the jackal, the king of beasts answered him, saying, 'Let it be so,' and showed him every honour. The jackal then accepted the ministership of the tiger. Beholding the jackal treated with respect and honoured in all his acts, the old servants of the king, conspiring together, began ceaselessly to display their hatred towards him. Those wicked persons at first strove to gratify and win him over with friendly behaviour and make him tolerate the diverse abuses that existed in the taste. Despoilers of other people's property, they had long lived in the enjoyment of their perquisites. Now, however, being ruled by the jackal, they were unable to appropriate anything belonging to others. Desirous of advancement and prosperity, they began to tempt him with sweet speeches. Indeed, large bribes even were offered to allure his heart. Possessed of great wisdom, the jackal showed no signs of yielding to those temptations. Then some amongst them, making a compact amongst themselves for effecting his destruction, took away the well-dressed meat that was intended for and much desired by the king of beasts, and placed it secretly in the house of the jackal. The jackal knew who had stolen the meat and who had conspired to do it. But though he knew everything, he tolerated it for a particular object. He had made a compact with the king at the time of his accepting the ministership, saying, 'Thou desirest my friendship, but thou shalt not, O monarch, mistrust me without cause.'
"Bhishma continued, 'When the king of beasts, feeling hungry, came to eat, he saw not the meat that was to have been kept ready for his dinner. The king then ordered, 'Let the thief be found out.' His deceitful ministers represented unto him that the meat kept for him had been stolen away by his learned minister, the jackal, that was so proud of his own wisdom. Rearing Of this injudicious act on the part of the jackal, the tiger became filled with rage. Indeed, the king, giving way to his wrath, ordered his minister to be slain. Beholding the opportunity, the former ministers addressed the king, saying, 'The jackal is ever ready to take away from all of us the means of sustenance.' Having represented this they once more spoke of the jackal's act of robbing the king of his food. And they said, 'Such then is his act! What is there that he would not venture to do? He is not as thou hadst heard. He is righteous in speech but his real disposition is sinful. A wretch in reality, he has disguised himself by putting on a garb of virtue. His behaviour is really sinful. For serving his own ends he had practised austerities in the matter of diet and of vows. If thou disbelievest this, we will give thee ocular proof.'
[paragraph continues] Having said this, they immediately caused that meat to be discovered by entering the jackal's abode. Ascertaining that the meat was brought back from the jackal's house and hearing all those representations of his old servants, the king ordered, saying, 'Let the jackal be slain.' Hearing these words of the tiger, his mother came to that spot for awakening son's good sense with beneficial counsels. The venerable dame said, 'O son, thou shouldst not accept this accusation fraught with deceit. Wicked individuals impute faults to even an honest person, moved by envy and rivalry. Enemies desirous of a quarrel cannot endure the elevation of an enemy brought about by his high feats. Faults are ascribed to even a person of pure soul engaged in penances. With respect to even an ascetic living in the woods and employed in his own (harmless) acts, are raised three parties, viz., friends, neutrals, and foes. They that are rapacious hate them that are pure. The idle hate the active. The unlearned hate the learned. The poor hate the rich. The unrighteous hate the righteous. The ugly hate the beautiful. Many amongst the learned, the unlearned, the rapacious, and the deceitful, would falsely accuse an innocent person even if the latter happens to be possessed of the virtues and intelligence of Vrihaspati himself. If meat had really been stolen from thy house in thy absence, remember, the jackal refuses to take any meat that is even given to him. Let this fact be well considered (in finding out the thief). Wicked persons sometimes put on the semblance of the good, and they that are good sometimes wear the semblance of the wicked. Diverse kinds of aspect are noticeable in creatures. It is, therefore, necessary to examine which is which. The firmament seems to be like the solid base of a vessel. The fire-fly seems to be like the actual spark of fire. In reality, however, the sky has no base and there is no fire in the fire-fly. You see, there is necessity. therefore, for scrutiny in respect of even such things as are addressed to the eye. If a person ascertains everything after scrutiny, he is never called upon to indulge in any kind of regret afterwards. It is not at all difficult, O son, for a master to put his servant to death. Forgiveness, however, in persons possessed of power, is always praiseworthy and productive of renown. Thou hadst made the jackal thy first minister. In consequence of that act, thou hadst earned great fame among all neighbouring chiefs. A good minister cannot be obtained easily. The jackal is thy well-wisher. Let him, therefore, be supported. The king who regards a really innocent person falsely accused by his enemies to be guilty, soon meets the destruction in consequence of the wicked ministers that lead him to that conviction.' After the tiger's mother had concluded her speech, a righteous agent of the jackal, stepping out of that phalanx of his foes, discovered everything about the manner in which that false accusation had been made. The jackal's innocence being made manifest, he was acquitted and honoured by his master. The king of beasts affectionately embraced him again and again. The jackal, however, who was conversant with the science of policy, burning with grief, saluted the king of beasts and solicited his permission for throwing away his life by observing the Praya vow. The tiger, casting upon the virtuous jackal his eyes expanded with affection and honouring hit' with reverential worship, sought to dissuade him from the accomplishment of
his wishes. The jackal, beholding his master agitated with affection, bowed down to him and in a voice choked with tears said these words: 'Honoured by thee first, I have afterwards been insulted by thee. Thy behaviour towards me is calculated to make me an enemy of thine. It is not proper therefore, that I should any longer dwell with thee. Servants that are discontented, that have been driven from their offices, or degraded from the honours that were theirs, that have brought destitution upon themselves, or have been ruined by their enemies (through the wrath of their master). that have been weakened, that are rapacious, or enraged, or alarmed, or deceived (in respect of their employers), that have suffered confiscation, that are proud and desirous of achieving great feats but deprived of the means or earning wealth, and that burn with grief or rage in consequence of any injury done to them, always wait for calamities to overtake their masters. Deceived, 'they leave their masters and become effective instruments in the hands of foes. 1 I have been insulted by thee and pulled down from my place. How wilt thou trust me again? How shall I (on my part) continue to dwell with thee? Thinking me to be competent thou tookest me, and having examined me thou hadst placed me in office. Violating the compact then made (between us) thou hast insulted me. If one speaks of a certain person before others as possessed of righteous behaviour, one should not, if desirous of maintaining one's consistency. afterwards describe the same person as wicked. I who have thus been disregarded by thee cannot any longer enjoy thy confidence. On my part, when I shall see thee withdraw thy confidence from me, I shalt be filled with alarm and anxiety. Thyself suspicious and myself in alarm, our enemies will be on the look-out for opportunities for injuring us. Thy subjects will, as a consequence, become anxious and discontented. Such a state of things has many faults. The wise do not regard that situation happy in which there is honour first and dishonour afterwards. It is difficult to reunite the two that have been separated, as, indeed, it is difficult to separate the two that are united. If persons reunited after separation approach one another again, their behaviour cannot be affectionate. No servant is to be seen who is moved (in what he does) by only the desire of benefiting his master. Service proceeds from the motive of doing good to the master as also one's own self. All acts are undertaken from selfish motives. Unselfish acts or motives are very rare. Those kings whose hearts are restless and unquiet cannot acquire a true knowledge of men. Only one in a hundred can be found who is either able or fearless. The prosperity of men, as also their fall, comes of itself. Prosperity and adversity, and greatness, all proceed from weakness of understanding." 2
"Bhishma continued, 'Having said these conciliatory words fraught with virtue, pleasure, and profit, and having gratified the king, the jackal retired to the forest. Without listening to the entreaties of the king of beasts, the intelligent jackal cast off his body by sitting in praya and proceeded to heaven (as the
reward of his good deeds on earth).'"
241:1 The meaning is that though born in a low race, that is no reason why I should act like a low person. It is conduct that determines the race and not the race that determines conduct. There may be pious persons therefore, in every race. The Burdwan version of this line is simply ridiculous,
242:1 Yatram means, as explained by the commentator, the duties of government.
245:1 Nilakantha explains aparasadhanah as aparasa adhanah, i.e., without rasa or affection and without dhana or wealth. This is very far-fetched.
245:2 Perhaps the sense is that men of vigorous understanding think all states to be equal.
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