Panchatantra Book I : The Lion and the Bull

Once upon a time, in a city in southern India, there lived a wealthy merchant named Vardhaman. One day he thought: “Even an abundant store of wealth will reduce to nothing if it is not consistently replenished. A very little, if added to, grows like an ant-hill. Hence, even though money be abundant, it should be increased. Money should be earned. What is earned, should be guarded. What is guarded, should be enlarged and carefully invested. Even enemies seek the friendship of a rich man. Money makes the old become young, while even the young become old if they do not have wealth.

Having thus set his mind in order, he collected merchandise bound for the city of Mathura, assembled his servants, and after saying farewell to his family, set forth from the city. He had many bullocks and horses in his caravan. One of them was a fine bull named Sanjeevaka; he looked like white cloud and was girded with a golden bell.

During the course of his journey, he passed through a dense forest. Here the bull Sanjeevaka met with an accident. One of his feet fell in a ditch and he got grievously hurt. When the driver saw what had happened, he jumped excitedly from the wagon, ran to the merchant Vardhaman not far away, and humbly bowing, said: “Oh, my lord! Sanjeevaka is exhausted by the trip, and sank in the mud.”

On hearing this, merchant Vardhaman was deeply dejected. He halted for five nights, but when the poor bull did not return to health, he left caretakers with a supply of fodder, and said: “You must join me later, bringing Sanjeevaka” Having given these directions, he started for his destination.

On the next day, the men, fearing dense forest, abandoned the bullock and made a false report to their master. “Poor Sanjeevaka died,” they said, “and we performed the last rites with fire and everything else.” The merchant, felt sad about his bull for some time and then continued on his journey towards Mathura.

In fact, Sanjeevaka was not dead. He limped step by step to the nearby river. There browsing on the emerald tips of tender grass, he regained his strength and in a few days grew plump as Shiva’s bull, high-humped, and full of energy. He began to merrily explore the jungle and having a ball of his time.

But one day a lion named Pingalaka, with a retinue of servants and friends, came down to the bank of the river for water. There he heard Sanjeevaka’s remarkable bellow. This unknown sound scared the lion and he, while concealing his fear from his company, withdrew under a banyan tree and sat there lost in deep thought.

Now Pingalaka was a righteous king of his forest. He ruled judiciously and all the animals in the forest were happy with him. He was fearless, honest and never adopted deception. He had in his retinue two jackals, sons of former counsellors. Their names were Karataka and Damanaka. These two got into a secret discussion, and Damanaka said: “My dear Karataka, just look at our master Pingalaka. He came all the way for water but is crouching here dejectedly.”

“Why meddle, my dear fellow?” said Karataka. “Needless meddling may be harmful as happened in case of the wedge-extracting monkey.”

“How was that?” asked Damanaka. And Karataka told the story of The Wedge Pulling Monkey.

“Therefore,” Karataka told Damanaka, “it is not wise to poke our nose into affairs that are not our concern. We have a food store. Why should we bother ourselves about Pingalaka’s worries?”

“But,” said Damanaka, “How can you give first-rate service merely from a desire for food with no desire for distinction? What matters is a life full of learning, courage and wealth. If living somehow is the goal, even the crow lives long eating leftovers. We should share the pain and concern of our friends and co-workers.”

“But at present,” said Karataka, “we two hold no job at court. So why meddle? The elders have always said that the stupid person who offers uncalled for advice to the king invites not only insult but also deceit.” “My dear fellow,” said Damanaka, “anyone who serves the king with devotion is bound to earn his favour in the long run. The one who does not remains where he is. Those who understand why the king is angry or generous will one-day rise in office. It is necessary to be in the good books of the king.”

“Well,” said Karataka, “what do you wish to imply?” And Damanaka answered: “You see, our master is frightened, his servants are frightened, and he does not know what to do.” “How can you be sure of that?” asked Karataka, and Damanaka said: “Wise men can infer the thoughts of others from their body language. The expressions, gestures, gait and sound of voice give away the inner thoughts. So by virtue of native intelligence I intend to dispel his fears and gain his confidence.”

“Why,” said Karataka, “you do not know how to make yourself useful to a superior. So tell me. How can you establish power over him?”

“And what makes you think that I do not know the duties of a functionary?” said Damanaka. “I have learnt from the works of poet Vyasa.”

But Karataka objected: “He might perhaps despise you for forcing yourself into a position that does not belong to you.” “Yes,” said Damanaka, “there is point in that. However, I am also a judge of occasions. I cannot take up this discussion when our master is preoccupied with something urgent or more important. I should not appear to be meddling either.”

“But,” said Karataka, “kings are hard to conciliate.”

“Quite true,” said Damanaka. “However the clever person quickly influences his target.”

And Karataka replied: “If you have made up your mind, then I wish you good luck. May your purpose be accomplished.”

So Damanaka went to Pingalaka, bowed and sat down on the seat indicated to him.

Then Pingalaka extended a right paw, and said respectfully: “Do you enjoy health? We haven’t seen you for a long time?” And Damanaka replied: “I don’t know of what use I can be to you, my lord. Yet, according to the learned, there are occasions when every person however high or low will be of use to the king. For generations we have served the king with devotion. Yet I am out of your majesty’s favour.”

“Oh,” said Pingalaka, “you must not say such things. You are the son of my old counsellor.” “O King,” said Damanaka, “there is something that should be said.” And the king replied: “My good fellow, tell me what is it that you have in your mind.”

Then Damanaka began: “My master set out to take water from river. Why did he turn back and camp here?” And Pingalaka, concealing his inner feelings, said: “Damanaka, it just happened so.” “O King,” said the jackal, “if you do not want to disclose, then let it be.”

Hereupon Pingalaka thought: “He seems trustworthy. I will tell him what I have in mind. For one should share his worries with people he can trust.” So Pingalaka said: “Friend Damanaka, did you hear a great voice in the distance?” “Yes, master, I did,” said Damanaka. “What of it?”

Pingalaka continued: “My good fellow, I intend to leave this forest.” “Why?” said Damanaka. “Because,” said Pingalaka, “there has come into our forest some gigantic creature, from whom we hear this great voice. His nature must correspond to his voice, and his power to his nature.”

“What!” said Damanaka. “Is our master frightened by a mere voice? It would be improper if our master abruptly left the forest which was won by his ancestors and has been so long in the family. Besides, many kinds of sounds are heard in the woods. Yet they are nothing but noises, not a warning of danger. I can tell you the story of the jackal, how it overcame the fear of sound.”

“How was that?” asked Pingalaka. And Damanaka told the story of The Jackal and the War Drum.

“And that is why I say that one should not be troubled by a mere sound.” “But,” said Pingalaka, “these retainers of mine are terrified and wish to run away. So how am I to reinforce my resolution?” And Damanaka answered: “Master, they are not to blame. For servants take after the master. The usefulness or uselessness of servants and tools depends upon the skill of master.”

“Please remain on this spot until I return, having ascertained the nature of the creature. Then act as seems proper.” “If you feel so, my dear fellow,” said Pingalaka, “then go. May the force be with you.”

So Damanaka bowed low and set out in the direction of the sound made by Sanjeevaka. And when he was gone, Pingalaka began worrying, so that he thought: “Ah, I made a sad mistake in trusting him to the point of revealing what is in my mind. Perhaps this Damanaka will betray me for dismissing him once. A servant that has been fired from the job cannot be trusted anymore.”

“So I will keep an eye on him, in order to learn his purpose. Perhaps Damanaka might even bring the thing along and try to kill me. Wise men have always maintained that it is difficult to kill even a weak man who does not easily trust others but easy to kill a strong man who readily trusts others.

As the king kept an eye on him, Damanaka moved slowly towards Sanjeevaka, and found that he was after all an animal and thought, “Well, well! This is lucky. This will help me to get back into the good books of the king. Just as a healthy man never thinks of a doctor, a strong and secure king also never remembers the need for a minister.”

With these thoughts in mind, he returned to meet Pingalaka. And Pingalaka, seeing him coming, assumed his former posture. So when Damanaka had come near, had bowed low, and had seated himself, Pingalaka said: “My good fellow, did you see the creature?” “I saw him,” said Damanaka, “through my master’s grace.” “Are you telling the truth?” asked Pingalaka. And Damanaka answered: “How could I report anything else to my gracious master? Whoever lies to the king faces certain ruin.”

“Yes,” said Pingalaka, “I suppose you really did see him. The great do not become angry with the weak. They take on only their equals.”

And Damanaka replied: “I will bring the creature into my gracious master’s presence.” And when Pingalaka heard this, he felt very pleased.

Meanwhile Damanaka returned and called Sanjeevaka: “Come here, you villainous bull! Come here! Our master Pingalaka asks why you don’t stop this meaningless bellowing.” And Sanjeevaka answered: “My good fellow, who is this person named Pingalaka?”

“What!” said Damanaka, “you do not even know our master Pingalaka?” And he continued with indignation: “You shall face the consequences of your ignorance. He has a retinue of all kinds of animals. He dwells beside the great banyan tree. He is a mighty lion.”

When Sanjeevaka heard this, he thought himself as good as dead, and he fell into deep dejection, saying: “My dear fellow, you seem to be a man of great wisdom and wit. You alone can save me. If you cannot avoid taking me there, then please ask the master to grant me a safe-conduct.” “You are quite right,” said Damanaka. “Your request shows the ability to say what is appropriate. I would take you to the king once I have his agreement.”

Then Damanaka returned to Pingalaka and said: “Master, he is no ordinary creature. He has served as the vehicle of blessed Shiva. And when I questioned him, he said that Great Shiva was satisfied with him and has given him this forest as a playground.”

At this Pingalaka was frightened, and he said: “I knew it, I knew it. Only by special favour of the gods do creatures wander in a wild wood, bellowing like that, and fearlessly cropping the grass. But what did you say?”

“Master,” said Damanaka, “I said: This forest is the domain of Pingalaka, vehicle of Shiva’s passionate wife. Hence you come as a guest. You must meet him, must spend your time in brotherly love, must eat, drink, work, play, and make your home with him.” All this he promised, adding: ‘You must make your master grant me a safe-conduct.’ “As to that, the master is the sole judge.”

At this Pingalaka was delighted and said: “Splendid, my intelligent servant, splendid! I grant him a safe-conduct. You must hasten to bring him here, but not until he too has bound himself by oath toward me.”

Now Damanaka thought, as he set out to meet Sanjeevaka: “Well, well! The master is gracious to me and ready to do my bidding.” So he found Sanjeevaka, and said respectfully: “My friend, I won the master’s favour for you, and made him give you a safe-conduct. You may come without fear. Still, you must act in agreement with me. I for my part, will take the role of counsellor, and bear the whole burden of administration. Thus we shall both enjoy royal affluence. Otherwise, he who does not respect everyone, however high or low, will forfeit the favour of kings like Dantila.”

“How was that?” asked Sanjeevaka. And Damanaka told the story of The Rise and Fall of Merchant Dantila.

Damanaka resumed, “That is why we must know that pride goes before fall.” “My dear fellow,” said Sanjeevaka, “your argument is quite convincing. Let it be as you say.”

After this Damanaka took him to Pingalaka and said: “O King, here is Sanjeevaka.” Then Sanjeevaka bowed respectfully and stood before the king in a modest attitude. Thereupon Pingalaka extended over him a right paw and said with admiration: “Do you enjoy health? Why do you dwell in this wild wood?”

Sanjeevaka related accurately his separation from merchant Vardhaman and the others. And Pingalaka, after listening to the story, said: “Have no fear, friend. Protected by my paws, lead your own life in this forest.” And Sanjeevaka answered: “Very well, O King.” Then the king of beasts went down to the riverbank, drank and bathed his fill, and plunged again into the forest.

Thus the time passed, and the two developed good friendship. Now Sanjeevaka had assimilated solid intelligence back in service of the merchant Vardhaman, so that in a very few days he educated Pingalaka. He weaned him from forest habits and taught him city manners. Sanjeevaka and Pingalaka held secret discussions every day. This being so, all the other animals of the retinue were kept at a distance. As for the two jackals, they did not even have the right to enter.

Now Karataka and Damanaka, robbed of their master’s favour, got into a discussion. Damanaka said: “Karataka, my noble friend, we two seem to have lost our job. Pingalaka takes such delight in Sanjeevaka’s conversation that he is neglecting his kingly duties. What should we do?”

And Karataka replied: “The king may not heed our advice. But as his counsellors, it is our duty to advise him on it if it is good for him. Besides, in introducing this grass-nibbler to the master you were handling live coals.” And Damanaka answered: “You are right. The fault is mine, not the master’s. What happened to the sage and the jackal should not happen to us.”

How was that? asked Karataka. And Damanaka told two stories in one, called The Sage & The Thief.

After telling the story, Damanaka said, “The sage and the jackal have none to blame except themselves.”

“Well,” said Karataka, “so what should we do in that case?” And Damanaka answered: “Let me think of a plan to separate Sanjeevaka from the king. Besides, our master Pingalaka has fallen into serious vice. For even the greatest of kings may fall into bad habits at times and it is their ministers’ duty to bring them back on track by using diplomacy.”

“What bad habit has our master taken to?” asked Karataka. And Damanaka replied: “There are seven vices in the world, namely – Intoxication, Lust, Greed, Cruelty, Gambling, Anger & Arrogance. These, however, really make a single vice, called ‘attachment’ with seven subdivisions.” Then Karataka inquired: “Is there only a single fundamental vice, or are there others also?”

Damanaka explained: “Five situations in the world are fundamentally bad. These are Attachment, Deficiency, Corruption, Devastation & Mistaken Policy. Now our master Pingalaka has been so captivated by Sanjeevaka that he is paying no heed to his ministers. Pingalaka must by all means be detached from Sanjeevaka. No lamp, no light.”

“How will you detach him?” objected Karataka. “You do not have the power.” “My dear fellow,” said Damanaka, “haven’t you heard that even though you may not subdue the enemy with brute force, you can destroy him by your shrewdness?”

“Wait,” said Karataka. “if Pingalaka & Sanjeevaka get to know of our plans, than that would be the end of us.”

“My friend, you are too pessimistic. When time and tide are against you, don’t give up. Wise men keep on trying till they succeed in getting what they want. The Goddess of Wealth favours the man who persists. Pray to God by all means, but put in your best effort. Even if you don’t succeed, you will be free of blame.”

Karataka was still not convinced that Damanaka could create rift between the fierce Pingalaka and the wise Sanjeevaka. So Damanaka told him the story of a cunning crow couple who managed to save their children from a cobra.

“That’s why,” Damanaka told Karataka, “there is nothing in the world that the intelligent cannot control. That is how a small rabbit killed the mighty lion.”

“How was that?” asked Karataka.

And Damanaka told the story of The Rabbit & The Foolish Lion.

“But,” said Karataka, “all this seems like a fluke. Even if the rabbit was successful this time, a week person should still not bluff with the stronger ones.”

Damanaka replied: “Weak or strong, one must resolve for concrete action. Only stupid people wait for fate to take its turns, whereas unrelenting efforts would eventually bring success. Failure is not a flaw of a man’s character whereas inaction certainly is. Even Gods help those who strive.

Then Damanaka told the story of The Weaver who loved a Princess.

 

“Well, my friend”, said Karataka, “if you are so determined about your scheme then please go ahead. May Lord bless your actions.”

Thereupon Damanaka went to the lion’s court. Once he had bowed and taken his seat, Pingalaka asked him, “Where have been for so long?” And Damanaka answered: “Your majesty, as a faithful servant of your court, I bring an urgent & sensitive matter to your attention. As your counsellor, it is my duty to bring such matters for your timely consideration, no matter how unwelcome or uncomfortable they may be.”

Believing that Damanaka is saying the truth, Pingalaka asked him: “What is it that you want to say?” And Damanaka answered: “O King, Sanjeevaka has gained your confidence with an ulterior motive. On many occasions, he has confidentially told me that he has examined your strengths & weakness. Having assessed your prestige, relationships & resources at your disposal, he has been planning to kill you and seize the throne. In fact he intends to execute his plan today.”

Pingalaka was shocked to hear this news and was left speechless. Observing his king in this state, Damanaka continued: “Your majesty, some things in life, like a broken splinter of wood or a loose tooth or an unfaithful relationship should be nipped from the root. There may be temporary grief but you would be better off in long run. A king should never delegate all his powers to just one person. Sooner rather than later, greed and impatience would take over this person and he would be plotting to kill the king and take the throne to himself. Even now, Sanjeevaka manages all business as he will, without any restraints.”

On hearing this, Pingalaka said: “After all, he is my servant. Why should he experience a change of heart toward me?” But Damanaka answered: “We can never be sure of his loyalty. He didn’t take up your service out of reverence for you.”

“My dear fellow,” said the lion, “even so, I do not want to turn against him.”

Damanaka retorted, “My lord, observe how this person, upon whom you have showered so much attention to the detriment of everyone else, now desires to become the master himself.

Therefore, dear though he be, he should be abandoned, being a traitor, like one who has never been dear. Just like one shouldn’t wear jewellery, no matter how exquisite, if it is harming your body. Similarly, one should drop all acquaintances that are prone to obstructing one’s aim.

And if you fancy that he will bring benefit because he has a bulky body, then you make a perverse mistake. For what good is a mighty elephant if he will not serve the king? A person’s worth is to be evaluated by his services and not his physical shape.

Any pity that our lord and king might feel toward him, is quite out of place. For whoever does bad deeds, indeed suffers its consequences over time.

And an intelligent person always heed to his friends & well-wishers’ sincere advice. One should not take advice from strangers at the cost of his trusted advisors.”

“My good fellow,” said the lion, “please do not say such things. For we should not defame an eminent person in public without concrete evidence. I have given him a safe-conduct, since he appeared as a suppliant. How can he prove ungrateful then?”

But Damanaka re-joined: “Every individual has their character traits. Just as the kink in a dog’s tail can’t be removed by any means, similarly a person’s goodness or meanness doesn’t change. While even a small act of kindness on gentle people comes back as a bigger gesture, a hundred benefits are lost on a mean person. A hundred advice is useless on an undisciplined individual. A hundred logical arguments are lost on an idiot. And every gift is lost that goes where it doesn’t fit.

Therefore, the master must by no means fail to heed my sound advice; unlike the man who helped another in spite of being advised not to do so, and had to bear the consequences.”

“How was that?” asked Pingalaka. And Damanaka told the story of The Ungrateful Man.

 

“Now my lord and king indulges with Sanjeevaka, thereby making a vicious mistake that results in the neglect of the three things worth living for – virtue, money, and love. And do not blame your servant if harm comes your way from Sanjeevaka.”

“If that is the case, my good fellow,” said the lion, “should I warn him?” “What! Warn him?” said Damanaka. “No your majesty. An enemy should never be warned and should rather be surprised with swift action.”

“After all,” said Pingalaka, “he is a grass-nibbler. I am a carnivore. How can he hurt me?” “Precisely,” said Damanaka. “He is food for you. If the fellow is powerless in front of you, he can still use other tools to bring you grievous harm.”

“How can that be?” said the lion. And Damanaka answered: “You have constantly engaged in battle with unnumbered elephants, wilder beast, boars, tigers, and leopards. Your body is speckled with injuries here and there. Now this Sanjeevaka, living beside you, is always scattering his excrement in your vicinity. This would breed worms and those worms would infect your wounds. And so you are as good as dead. As when the bedbug let the flea in his area, it led to his demise.”

“How was that?” asked Pingalaka. And Damanaka told the story of The Flea and the Bedbug.

 

“And another thing. My lord and king shouldn’t neglect the servants who have been by his side for generations. He who abandons a trusted advisor and trusts an outsider will die like Chandaraka.”

“How did he die?” Pingalaka asked him. And Damanaka told the story of The Blue Jackal.

“The moral is,” Damanaka said, “he who abandons his own folk will perish.”

Then Pingalaka asked: “How should I believe that he wants to hurt me?” And Damanaka answered: “Earlier he used to come up to you in a relaxed state. He has already told me that he is planning to kill you. If you notice him red eyed, in obvious readiness to charge with his horns, then you may understand that he has treachery in mind.”

Thereupon Damanaka rose and visited Sanjeevaka. The bullock received him with courtesy and said, “My good fellow, how are you?” To which he replied: “How can a dependent do? Those in service of others have lost their freedom for the sake of money. They know no sleep, no interest in food nor can they speak without fear. Yet they live.” said Damanaka.

After listening to this, Sanjeevaka said, “What’s your point?” And Damanaka answered: “Well, you are my friend. I cannot help telling you what is in your benefit. The master, Pingalaka, is filled with rage against you. And he said today: ‘I will kill Sanjeevaka and provide a feast for all meat-eaters.’ Of course, I fell into deep dejection on hearing this. Now you should take necessary action.”

Sanjeevaka fell into deep dejection on hearing these words. He said, “It is truly said that a person who serves the king is like a bullock without horns. It is not easy to serve a king. Blessings, like king’s service, comes with accompanying uncertainty & pain. Even sages could not read the minds of kings.”

“Yet, after all, the mistake is mine, because I made friends with the wrong person. How can I, a herbivorous, make friends with this lion who devours raw flesh? There is wisdom in the saying that marriage and friendship is secure only where wealth & social status are similar. Moreover, harsh talk, untimely action & false friends are worse than useless; just like the swan was killed in his sleep.”

“How was that?” asked Damanaka. And Sanjeevaka told the story of the Swan and the Owl.

I think somebody who was jealous of my friendship with the king must have poisoned his mind.”

It is impossible to live with wicked people, however small they are. They can always think of a hundred ways to get you in the same manner the jackal and crow trapped the camel.”

“Sounds interesting. Let me know what happened to the camel,” asked Damanaka.

Sanjeevaka told him the story of The Trusting Camel.

After telling the story, Sanjeevaka continued, addressing Damanaka: “My dear fellow, this King, with his shabby advisers, is no good to his dependents. It’s better to have as king, a vulture advised by swans rather than a swan advised by vultures. For the king would acquire much bad advice from vulture counsellors, enough to bring his ruin. You know how a carpenter was alarmed by his friend’s advisors?”

“How was that?” Asked Damanaka. And Sanjeevaka told the story of The Lion and the Carpenter.