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The Miserly Father

Swabhavakripan was a Brahmin living in a city in the south. He was known for his miserliness. Every day, he would go out...

The Miserly Father

Swabhavakripan was a Brahmin living in a city in the south. He was known for his miserliness. Every day, he would go out begging and save some corn flour people gave him as alms. He stored such flour in an earthen pot and when it was full he hung the pot to a peg above his bed so that he could keep an eye on it.

He returned home one day very tired and went to sleep and began dreaming: “This pot is full of flour and if there is a famine it would fetch me a very high price. With that money, I will buy two she goats that in course of time will become a big herd. I will sell them for a huge profit and buy cows with that money. Then I will buy buffaloes and later horses. And, when the stables are full of horses I will sell them and buy lots of gold.“

“With this gold, I will build a huge house with four floors. Seeing my riches one Brahmin will offer the hand of his beautiful daughter to me. She will soon deliver a son and I will name him Soma Sarma. When he is a year old, I will go and hide in the stable and call out to him to find me out. But the son drifts dangerously towards the horses. I shout at my wife to come and take him away. Busy with domestic chores she ignores my call. Then I shall kick her.“
The Miserly Father

The dream shattered when he kicked the pot of flour hanging from the peg and spilled all its contents over his body. He now looked like a white ghost.

Chakradhara resumed, “That is why, I said:

“He who covets the impossible
Or builds castles in the air
Comes to certain grief like
Poor Soma Sarma‘s father.“

“I don‘t see anything in this to blame you,“ said Suvarnasiddhi. “Every one becomes a slave to greed. As the learned have said,

“He who is overwhelmed by greed
And doesn‘t weigh its consequences,
Will become a victim of deceit
Like King Chandra in this story.“

Suvarnasiddhi then told the story of King Chandra to Chakradhara.

Once upon a time there was a king named Chandra ruling a small state. His children were fond of playing with monkeys. So the king ordered a number of monkeys to be brought to the palace and asked his servants to feed them well and look after their needs. The leader of the monkeys was an old scholar well versed in statecraft, specially the works of Sukracharya, Brihaspati and Chanakya. The old monkey trained the younger ones also in statecraft.

The king had a stable of goats that his young sons used to ride. One of the goats was fond of food and would daily sneak into the kitchen at any time of the day and make a clean sweep of whatever was available in the kitchen. If the cook chanced to see him stealing food, he would throw at it whatever was handy, a stick or a brass pot.

The monkey leader saw this drama between the cook and the wily goat and thought: “I am sure this tussle between the cook and the goat will lead to the ruin of my tribe. This goat has become a slave to food. The cook will throw at it whatever is nearby. It may be a stick or if it is not readily available he may use an ember from the hearth to throw at the goat. This will set ablaze the goat‘s fur-covered body making him run into the stable that would soon catch fire and burn the horses. The great veterinarian Salihotra has said the fat of monkeys is the best medicine for burns. That will be the end of monkeys.“

The monkey leader then summoned all the younger ones and told them that the feud between the cook and the goat would certainly do harm to them. In their own interest they should leave the palace as early as possible. He quoted the scholars saying:

“He who wants to live in peace
Must leave a house of daily strife.
Conflict breaks up kingdoms
Like bad words separate friends“

The younger ones, however, refused to listen to the advice of the old monkey. They told the leader, “Sir, you have become old and senile. We are not going to leave this palace where we have the best food available. What do we get there to eat in the jungles? We cannot eat the indifferent food in the forest.“

Extremely unhappy at their response, the old monkey said, “You have no idea of the price you will pay for the comforts of the palace. They won‘t last long. I cannot see the end of our tribe. I am leaving. He who spares himself the spectacle of a friend in distress, of his house occupied by an enemy or of the division of his country, is the happiest.“

The old monkey left all of them with a heavy heart.

Some days later, the wily goat entered the royal kitchen and the cook, failing to see anything handy to punish it, took out a burning piece of wood from the hearth and hurled it at the goat. His fur afire, he ran in panic into the stable where his burning body set ablaze the hay stacked there. Several horses perished in the fire. The king consulted expert veterinarians who advised him to use monkey fat as unguent for horses suffering from burns.

The king ordered all monkeys to be killed and their fat used to heal the burns of the horses. The old monkey was distressed by the death of her progeny and began planning as to how he could take revenge on the king for killing all monkeys. Wandering restlessly in the forest, the old monkey saw a lake full of lotuses. On deeper inspection of the lake, the senior monkey found footprints of animals and human beings entering the lake but not footprints leaving the lake.

The monkey at once realised that there must be some wicked crocodile in the lake and that it was better to drink water with the tube of a lotus. As he began drinking water, a monster emerged from the lake wearing a pearl necklace. The monster addressed the monkey and said, “You seem to be an intelligent chap. You drank water without entering the lake. I am impressed by the presence of your mind. Ask anything you want.“

The monkey asked, “Sir, how many lives can you take in one go?“

The monster said, “I can swallow tens, hundreds and thousands at one time. All this I can do only when they enter the lake. Outside the water, even a jackal can challenge me.“

The monkey said, “I have to settle scores with a king. If you can lend me the pearl necklace on your body, I will somehow persuade the king and all his men to enter the lake for hidden wealth. Then you can kill all of them.“

Trusting the monkey, the monster gave him the pearl necklace. The monkey reached the kingdom of Chandra. People saw the dazzling necklace and asked him how he got it. The monkey told them about the lake. When the word reached the king, he sent for the monkey and asked him how he got the necklace.

On the monkey telling him everything about the lake, the king, led by the monkey, and accompanied by his family, ministers and followers, reached the lake. The monkey told the king that it was better that all his men entered the lake at the same time at dawn. But the monkey told the king, “My lord, you will not go with them. I will take you separately to a spot where you can get a large store of pearl necklaces.“

According to the plan, all the king‘s men entered the lake at the same time and were killed by the monster. When nobody came out of the water for a long time, the king became suspicious and asked the monkey about the delay in his men coming out of the lake. The monkey immediately sprang to the top of a tree and told the king:

“O king, the monster inside the lake has killed all your people. You have killed my people. This is my reply to that treachery.“

Suvarnasiddhi concluded the story by repeating the earlier verse:

“He who is overwhelmed by greed
And doesn‘t weigh its consequences,
Will become a victim of deceit
Like King Chandra in this story.“

Suvarnasiddhi then asked Chakradhara for permission to leave. Chakradhara said that it was not good to desert a friend in distress.

Suvarnasiddhi said, “What you say is true. Yet, it is always better to do according to what the wise men advise. Otherwise, I will have to repent later like you. As the learned have said, “Those who are not united will perish like the great bird which had two heads on a single torso but ate different fruits.“

On Chakradhara‘s request Suvarnasiddhi began telling that story.

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