Week 5: Hitopadesa (Hitopadesha)

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BOOK ONE: The Acquisition of a Friend

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 800 words.

Hiranayaka the mouse is a good friend of Chitra-greeva and wants to set Chitra-greeva free first of all, and they debate about this. And remember the crow, Laghu-patanaka, from the very beginning of this story? Remember how he was watching everything that happened? Well, he now re-enters the story and asks to become friends with Hiranyaka as well.

Chitra-greeva replied, "What else, my friend, can it be, but the effect of the evil committed in a prior existence? Seeing thou art endued with great wisdom, what was the use of thy question? For is it not said,

"Whatsoever cometh to pass, either good or evil, is the consequence of a man's own actions, and descendeth from the power of the Supreme Ruler.

"Sickness, sorrow, and distress; bonds and punishment to corporeal beings, are fruit of the tree of their own transgressions."

Hiranyaka having heard these words, quickly ran out to gnaw asunder the cords by which Chitra-greeva was confined.

"Not so, my friend," said Chitra-greeva, "until thou hast cut asunder the bonds of these who are under my protection."

Hiranyaka then said, "I am weak, my friend, and my teeth are delicate; how then am I able to bite open the snares which entangle them? As long as my teeth shall not break, so long will I gnaw thy snares; and afterwards, if it should be in my power, I will divide the cords which confine the rest."

"Let it be as I say," replied Chitra-greeva; "and to the utmost of thy power try to subdue their bonds first."

"Those," said the mouse, "who are acquainted with the rules of prudence, do not approve, that for the preservation of those who are under our protection, we should abandon ourselves.

"A man should keep his riches against accidents, and with his riches he should save his family; but he should, on all occasions, save himself, both with his family and his riches.

"Our lives are for the purposes of religion, labour, love, and salvation. If these are destroyed, what is not lost? If these are preserved, what is not preserved?"

"That may be so," said Chitra-greeva; "but I am not, by any means, able to suffer the afflictions of those who are here under my protection.

"Without misfortune, they will not forsake me; then I will protect these who have taken sanctuary with me, even with the loss of my life.

"Why dost thou hesitate over this perishable body composed of flesh, bone, and excrement? O my friend, support my reputation!

"The difference between the body and the qualities is infinite. The body is a thing to be destroyed in a moment, while the qualities endure to the end of the creation."

Hiranyaka having been attentive to what had been spoken, and being exceedingly pleased, exclaimed, "Nobly! nobly! my friend. By such generosity to those who are under thy protection, thou art worthy to be elevated to the supreme command over the regions of the three worlds."

Having said this, Hiranyaka gnawed asunder their bonds; and when he had addressed himself to all in respectful compliments of congratulations, he said, "Friend Chitra-greeva, always when you see a net, suspect great harm will come of it; and learn not to think meanly of yourself. But, alas!

"A bird who seeth her prey before her, even at the distance of a hundred yojan (8 miles), perceiveth not, if her time be come, the snares which are laid to entrap her.

"Birds meet their fate whilst sporting in the air, and fishes, by artful means, are destroyed from the bottomless waters of the ocean."

The mouse having taught this, and performed the duties of hospitality, Chitra-greeva took his leave, and with his flock departed for that country his inclination led him to; and Hiranyaka retired into his hole.

The crow, Laghu-patanaka, having been a spectator of all which had passed, now presently appeared and called out, "What ho! Hiranyaka! Thou art worthy to be praised, to be adored, and to be a place of refuge, throughout the three regions of the world!

"Behold how many pigeons, his friends, even hundreds, have been delivered by the friendship of a mouse!

"In consequence of this, I too am anxious to form a friendly acquaintance with thee. Then favour me with thy friendship."

Hiranyaka having heard him, called out from the inside of his hole, "Who art thou?" and he replied, "I am a crow, and my name is Laghu-patanaka."

Hiranyaka, upon hearing who he was, laughing said, "What friendship can I have with thee?

"The wise man is united with that in this life with which it is proper he should be united. I am bread, thou art the eater. How then can harmony exist between us?

"As such may be seen in a certain story, of which the following verse is the introduction:

"Harmony between the food and the feeder is the forerunner of misfortune. A deer, through the artifice of a jackal, is caught in a snare, but is preserved by a crow."

"How did this happen?" demanded Laghu-patanaka; and the mouse, Hiranyaka, related as follows:

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • why did Chitra-greeva want to be freed after the other pigeons?
  • what did the pigeons do after Hiranyaka the mouse freed them from the net?
  • how did the mouse react when the crow Laghu-patanaka proposed that they become friends?

Source: Fables and Proverbs from the Sanskrit, Being the Hitopadesa. Charles Wilkins (1787), with an introduction to the second edition by Henry Morley (1886). Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing (www.kessinger.net). There is no online edition of this text. IMPORTANT NOTE: The text has been substantially abridged. Where you see one or two proverbs in the text here, there are frequently four or five or more proverbs in the original edition.

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM