The Smart Jackal

The following story is from U. Mahesh Prabhu’s upcoming book TIMELESS TALES OF A WISE SAGE

The wise who wrongs another,
Pursuing selfish good,
Should keep his plans a secret,
As jackal did in the wood.”

In a forest there once lived a lion, in company with three counselors, a wolf, a jackal and a camel. One day, he fought with a furious elephant whose sharp-pointed tusk so tore his body that he withdrew from the world.

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, even in my present condition, I may provide needed nourishment for you.” The moment he issued his orders, they roamed the wood, but found nothing.

Thereupon jackal reflected, “If 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, my wit will put the master in a frame of mind to kill him. For, indeed,

All understanding may be won,
All things be slain, and all be done,
If mortals have sufficient wit;
For me, I make good use of it.”

After these reflections, he said to camel “Friend camel, the master lacks wholesome food, and is starving. 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 the jackal said “My good fellow, give your own body at 100 per cent interest, so that you may receive a double body, and the master may prolong his life.” On hearing this proposal, camel said, “If that is possible, my friend, my body shall be 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 the jackal said, “O King, we did not find a thing today, and the blessed sun is already near his setting.” On hearing this, 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 percent 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 paws, his body was torn by the wolf and the jackal, and he died.

The jackal reflected “How can I get him all to myself to eat?” With this thought in his mind, he noticed 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 food-supply.” 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 old master returns. I will make your apologies to the master.” So the wolf took the hint, but had only taken a taste when the jackal cried, “Drop it, wolf. The master is coming.”

Presently, 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 peered into jackal’s visage, as much as to say “Come, now! Say something so that he may calm down.” But jackal laughed and said, “Come, come! You ate the camel’s heart all by yourself. Why do you look at me?” And wolf, hearing this, fled for his life, making for another country. But when the lion had pursued him a short distance, he turned back, thinking, “He, too, is carnivore. I must not kill him.”

At this moment, as fate would have it, there came that way a great camel caravan, heavily laden, making a tremendous jingling with bells tied to the camel’s 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 this commission, jackal advanced a little in forest, then darted back, and cried in great excitement “Run, master! Run, if you can run!”

“My good fellow,” said the lion, “why terrify me so? Tell me what it is.” And jackal cried “Master, the death-god is coming, and he is in a rage against you because you brought untimely death upon this camel, and had him guaranteed the bargain. He intends to make you pay a thousand-fold for his camel. He has immense pride in camels. 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.

“And that is why I say:

The wise who wrongs another,
Pursuing selfish good…

November 3, 2017

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