In a part of a forest lived a lion named Vajradaunstra, in company with three counselors, a wolf, a jackal, and a camel. One day he fought with a furious elephant whose sharp-pointed tusk tore his body and he could not get out of bed for a week.
Then, suffering from a seven-day fast, his body lean with hunger, he said to his famished advisers: “Round up some creature in the forest, so that, I may provide needed nourishment for you.” The moment he issued his orders, they roamed the wood, but found nothing.
After that the jackal reflected: “If the camel here were killed, then we should all be nourished for a few days. However, the master is kept from killing him by friendly feeling. In spite of that, I will trick the master into killing him. For, indeed, nothing is impossible for clever & wise people.”
After these reflections, he said to camel: “Friend camel, the master is starving. If the master goes, our death is also a certain thing. So I have a suggestion for your benefit and the master’s. Please pay attention.” “My good fellow,” said the camel, “make haste to inform me, so that I may unhesitatingly do as you say. Besides, one earns credit for a hundred good deeds by serving his master.”
And jackal said: “My good fellow, give your own body at 100 per cent interest, so that you may receive a double body in next life, and the master may prolong his life.” On hearing this proposal, camel said: “If that is possible, my friend, my body shall be so devoted. Tell the master that this thing should be done. I stipulate only that the Death-God be requested to guarantee the bargain.”
Having made their decision, they all went to visit the lion, and jackal said: “O King, we did not find a thing today, and the sun is already nearly set.” On hearing this, the lion fell into deep despondency. Then jackal continued: “O King, our friend camel makes this proposal: ‘If you call upon the Death-God to guarantee the bargain, and if you render it back with 100 per cent interest, then I will give my body.’” “My good fellow,” answered the lion, “yours is a beautiful act. Let it be as you say.” On the basis of this pact, camel was struck down by the lion’s paw, his body was torn by the wolf and the jackal, and he died.
Then jackal thought: “How can I get him all to myself to eat?” With this thought in his mind, he noticed that the lion’s body was smeared with blood, and he said: “Master, you must go to the river to bathe and worship the gods, while I stay here with wolf to guard the meal.” On hearing this, the lion went to the river.
When the lion was gone, jackal said to wolf: “Friend wolf, you are starving. You might eat some of this camel before the master returns. I will make your apologies to the master.” So wolf took the hint, but had only taken a taste when jackal cried: “Drop it, friend. Master is coming.”
Soon the lion returned, saw that the camel was minus a heart, and wrathfully roared: “Look here! Who turned this camel into leavings? I wish to kill him, too.” The wolf expected the jackal to convince the lion of his innocence. But the jackal was cunning and said, “I had warned you against eating the meat. Why do you expect me to help you now?” Realizing that there was danger, the wolf fled as fast as possible to save himself.
At this moment, as fate would have it, a great camel caravan happened to pass their way, heavily laden, making a tremendous jingling with the bells tied to the camels’ necks. And when the lion heard the jingle of the bells, loud even in the distance, he said to the jackal: “My good fellow, find out what this horrible noise may be.”
On receiving the instructions, jackal barely went out of sight of lion, then darted back, and cried in great excitement: “Run, master! Run, if you can run!”
“What’s the matter,” the lion asked him. “Why are you frightening me? Let me know clearly what’s happening.” And jackal cried: “Master, the Death-God is coming, and he is in a rage against you because you brought untimely death upon his camel, and had him guarantee the bargain. He intends to make you pay a thousand fold for his camel. He also plans to make inquiries about the father and grandfathers of that one. He is coming. He is near at hand.”
When the lion heard this, he, too, abandoned the dead camel and scampered for dear life. Whereupon the jackal ate the camel bit by bit, so that the meat lasted a long time.