The Heron That Liked Crab-Meat

There was once a heron in a certain place on the edge of a pond. Being old, he sought an easy way of catching fish on which to live. He began by lingering at the edge of his pond, pretending to be quite uncertain how to act, not eating even the fish within his reach.

Now among the fish lived a crab. He drew near and said: “Uncle, why do you neglect today your usual prey?” And the heron replied: “So long as I kept fat and flourishing by eating fish, I spent my time pleasantly. But a great disaster will soon befall you. And as I am old, this will cut short the pleasant course of my life. For this reason I feel depressed.”

“Uncle,” said the crab, “of what nature is the disaster?” And the heron continued: “Today I overheard the talk of a number of fishermen as they passed near the pond. “This is a big pond,” they were saying, “full of fish. We will cast our net tomorrow or the day after. But today we will go to the lake near the city.” This being so, you are going to get caught. My food supply would be cut off, I would go hungry, and in grief at the thought, I am indifferent to food today.”

Now when the water-dwellers heard the heron’s report, they all feared for their lives and implored him, saying: “Uncle! Father! Brother! Friend! Thinker! Since you are informed of the calamity, you would also know the remedy. Please save us from the jaws of this death.”

Then the heron said: “I am a bird; not competent to fight with men. However, using my flight, I can transfer you from this pond to another, a bottomless one.” By this artful speech they were so led astray that they said: “Uncle! Friend! Take me first! Me first!”

Then the old rascal laughed in his heart, and thought: “My shrewdness has brought these fish into my power. They ought to be eaten very comfortably.” Having thus thought it through, he promised what the thronging fish implored, lifted some in his bill, carried them a certain distance to a slab of stone, and ate them there. Day after day he made the trip with supreme delight and satisfaction, and had a belly full of meal.

One day the crab asked the heron, “Uncle, you are taking everyone to the faraway lake and not me. Why don’t you take me there today and save my life?” Tired with eating fish every day, the heron too was happy to carry the crab to the lake that did not exist. So he picked up the crab and flew through the air.

But since he avoided all bodies of water and seemed planning to alight on the sun-scorched rock, the crab asked him: “Uncle, where is that pond without any bottom?” And the heron laughed and said: “Do you see that broad, sun-scorched rock? All the water-dwellers have found rest there. Your turn has now come to find peace.”

Then the crab looked down and saw a great rock of sacrifice, made horrible by heaps of fish-bones. He thought, “This heron has already eaten these fish whose skeletons are scattered in heaps. So what might be an opportune course of action for me? He may be old and elder to me but he is wicked and deserves punishment for his trickery. I must quickly think of a way to save myself. So, before he drops me there, I will catch his neck with all four claws.”

When he did so, the heron tried to escape, but being a fool, he found no defence to the grip of the crab’s nippers, and had his head cut off.

Then the crab painfully made his way back to the pond, dragging the heron’s neck as if it had been a lotus-stalk. And when he came among the fish, they said: “Brother, why come back?” Thereupon he showed the head as his credentials and said: “He enticed the water-dwellers from every quarter, deceived them with his lies, dropped them on a slab of rock not far away, and ate them. But I perceived that he destroyed the trustful, and I have brought back his neck. Forget your worries. All the water-dwellers shall live in peace.”

The Sage & The Thief

There lived a sage named Deva Sharma in a monastery situated far from human habitation, who had amassed a lot of wealth by selling clothes gifted to him by his well-wishers and disciples. Since, he did not trust anyone, guarding the accumulated wealth became a burden for him, and he carried his bag full of money with him wherever he went.

A thief named Ashadhabhooti, noticed Deva Sharma carrying his bag at all times and began planning to steal it away from the sage. He checked walls of the saint’s room but found them to be too strong. He checked the door but found that to be too high. At last he thought to himself, “I will talk to him, win his confidence, and become his disciple, for he will be in my power when I have his confidence”.

Then one day, Ashadhabhooti met the saint and promptly fell on his feet and said, “Oh, know-all, I have realized that this life is an illusion; youth is fleeting and all familial ties are like a dream. Please show me the correct path that delivers me from all worldly ties.”

Pleased with his humility, Deva Sharma said, “Child, you are the blessed one who has thought of renouncing worldly pleasures. Listen, however low his caste is, the person that chants “Om Namah Sivayah” and smears holy ash on his forehead, becomes Siva himself and knows no rebirth. I shall accept you as my follower but you must not enter my room in night because company is forbidden for saints. After taking your vows, you have to live in the hut at the monastery gate.”

Ashadhabhooti promised the saint that he would consider every sign from him as a command and carry it out. Satisfied, the saint accepted the cheat as his disciple. Ashadhabhooti too began making Deva Sharma happy by attending to every need of his. But seeing that the saint never separated the money-bag from his person, Ashadhabhooti thought, “The old man is very crafty and always keeps the bag with him. How can I snatch it from him? Shall I kill him?”

As the thief was at a loss to achieve his goal, the son of another disciple came calling on the sage. The visitor invited Deva Sharma to come to his village and perform a sacred thread ceremony. The saint accepted the invitation and set out for the village taking Ashadhabhooti with him.

On the way, the guru and his disciple had to cross a river. After bathing in the river, Deva Sharma took the money bag and pushed it into an ascetic robe he was carrying and told the disciple, “I have to respond to nature’s call. I am leaving this holy robe of Siva here. Keep an eye on it.” The sage thus fooled by the false confidence of his accomplice, rested for a while and got engrossed in a fight of two rams.

Whereas behind his back, the moment the guru went out of his sight, Ashadhabhooti collected the bag and fled the place. After a while, while brooding over the ram fight, Deva Sharma returned to where he had left the money-bag with Ashadhabhooti and panicked when he found Ashadhabhooti missing. The robe was there but not the money-bag in it. He began wailing, “Oh, trickster, what have you done? I have lost everything in this world.” After a vain search for the thief, the foolish saint returned home dejected.