The Ungrateful Man

In a certain town lived a Brahman whose name was Bali. He could not find enough work to do and sometimes, he and his family had to go without food. At last the Brahman, undertook a long journey in search of work, and in a few days entered a great forest.

While wandering hungry in this forest, he began to hunt for water. And in a certain spot he came upon a well, overgrown with grass. He walked upto the well and looked in. To his utter surprise he found a tiger, a monkey, a snake and a man fallen in the well. They also saw him.

Then the tiger thought: “Here comes a man,” and he cried: “O noble soul, there is great virtue in saving life. Think of that, and please help me out, so that I can go back to my family.”

“Why,” said the Brahman, “the very sound of your name brings a shiver to every living thing. I am afraid of you. How can I pull you out of this well? How do I know you will not kill me?” But the tiger said: “There is atonement possible for every sin but ingratitude” and he continued: “I bind myself by a triple oath that I will not do you any harm. Please take pity on me and save my life.” Then the Brahman thought it through to this conclusion: “If disaster befalls in the saving of life, it is a disaster that spells salvation.” So he searched for a rope around and pulled the tiger out.

Next the monkey said: “Holy sir, pull me out too.” And the Brahman pulled him out too. Then the snake said: “Brahman, pull me out too.” But the Brahman answered: “One shudders at the mere sound of your name, how much more at touching you!” “But,” said the snake, “I bind myself by a triple oath that you need have no fear of me.” After listening to this, the Brahman pulled him out too. Then the animals said: “The man down there is a shrine of every sin. Beware. Do not pull him out. Do not trust him.”

Furthermore, the tiger said: “Do you see this mountain with many peaks? My cave is in a wooded ravine on the North Slope. You must do me the favor of paying me a visit there some day, so that I may return your kindness. I should not like to drag the debt into the next life.” With these words he started for his cave.

Then the monkey said: “My home is quite near the cave, beside the waterfall. Please pay me a visit there.” With this he departed.

Then the snake said: “In any emergency, remember me.” And he went his way.

Then the man in the well shouted time and again: “Brahman! Pull me out too!” At last the Brahman’s pity was awakened, and he pulled him out, thinking: “He is a man, like me.” And the man said: “I am a goldsmith, and live in Baroch. If you have any gold to be worked into shape, you must bring it to me.” With this he started for home.

Then the Brahman continued his wanderings but found nothing whatever. As he started for home, he recalled the monkey’s invitation. So he paid a visit, found the monkey at home, and received fruits sweet as nectar, which put new life into him. Furthermore, the monkey said: “If you ever have use for fruit, please come here at any time.” “You have done a friend’s full duty,” said the Brahman. “But please introduce me to the tiger.” So the monkey led the way and introduced him to the tiger.

Now the tiger recognized him and, by way of returning his kindness, gifted him a necklace and other ornaments of gold, saying: “A prince whose horse ran away with him came here alone, and when he was within range of my attack, I killed him. All this I took from his person and stored carefully for you. Please accept it.”

So the Brahman took it, then recalled the goldsmith and visited him, thinking: “He will do me the favor of getting it sold.” Now the goldsmith welcomed him with respectful hospitality, then said: “Tell me, sir. What may I do for you?” And the Brahman said: “I have brought you gold. Please sell it.” “Show me the gold,” said the goldsmith, and the other did so.

Now the goldsmith thought when he saw the jewelry: “I worked this gold for the prince.” And having made sure of the fact, he said: “Please stay right here, while I show it to somebody.” Goldsmith called out to his wife and asked her to look after the Brahman. With this he went to court and showed it to the King. On seeing it, the King asked: “Where did you get this?” And the goldsmith replied: “In my house is a Brahman. He brought it.”

Thereupon the King thought: “This man must have murdered my little Prince and robbed his jewels!” And he issued orders to the soldiers: “Arrest the Brahman who is in goldsmith’s house and throw him into the darkest dungeons of my kingdom!”

King’s guard stormed into goldsmith’s house and seized Bali. He could not understand what was going on. “Why are you doing this? What have I done?” he questioned the guards. Soldiers said that “You have dared to kill our young Prince and stole his jewels. You will certainly be put to death for this great crime.”

Bali was thrown into a dark dungeon. He remembered the snake, who appeared at once and said: “What can I do to serve you?” Seeing him Bali cried and said “Please help me, I have been sentenced to death for a crime I did not commit.” Bali narrated the whole incident to the snake. After listening to his story snake explained Bali his plan, “I will bite the King’s dear Queen. Then, in spite of all medicines and antidotes of physicians, I will keep her poisoned. Only by the touch of your hand will the poison be neutralized. Then you will go free.”

Having made this promise, the snake bit the queen, whereupon shouts of despair arose in the palace, and the entire city was filled with dismay. King declared that anyone who could cure the Queen would be handsomely rewarded. Physicians and doctors came from far and near, but their medicines had no effect. No one could revive the Queen.

Finally, a proclamation was made with beat of drum, upon hearing which the Brahman said: “I will cure her.” The moment he spoke, they freed him from his chains, took him to the King, and introduced him. And the King said: “Cure her, sir.” So he went to the Queen and cured her by the mere touch of his hand.

When the King saw her restored to life, he was overjoyed and shed tears of happiness. He embraced Bali and thanked him. He paid the Brahman honour and reverence, then respectfully asked him: “Reveal the truth, sir. How did you come by this gold?” And the Brahman began at the beginning and related the whole adventure accurately. As soon as the King comprehended the facts, he arrested the goldsmith, while he gave the Brahman a thousand villages and gold coins.