#Panchatantra 5.3. Even if one is very learned, without common sense, he becomes the butt of ridicule

Panchatantra : #Principle 5

Rash Deeds – Action without comprehension (Aparikshita Karakam अपरीक्षितकारकं)

Story 3 : The Lion That Sprang to Life

Four friends decided to gain knowledge and stepped out of their homes. After studying various subject 3 of them became experts in the field of their choice, but they gave little importance to common sense. The fourth boy named Subuddhi could not become expert in any specific subject, but he gained a lot of general knowledge and was good with common sense.

When they started their journey back to their home, there was a debate as to who is the best among them. All of them thought that there was no use of their learning unless it brought them money to live happily. Therefore, they decided to go and seek the patronage of kings. On the way, the eldest of them pointing out to the fourth man told the others, Friends, this fellow is an unlettered fool. He has common sense and nothing else. I am not going to share my earnings with this fellow. Let him go home.” 

The second man also supported the eldest boy’s suggestion. But the third boy said, “Friends, it is not proper to send him back. We played and studied together and he is one of us. Let us share our gains with him because elders have said: “He who has a narrow mind thinks this is mine, this is his. To a large-hearted person the whole world is his family.” In the end, the other two agreed with the third boy’s suggestion and let the common sense man accompany them.

As they continued to travel they reached a forest where they saw a heap of bones. One of them told the rest, “Look, here is an opportunity to test our learning. Some animal is dead. Let us bring it to life using the knowledge we have acquired.” 

The first man said, “Okay, I will use my learning to assemble the bones into a skeleton.” With the power of  learning he ordered all the bones to come together and become a skeleton. When the skeleton was ready, the second man commanded flesh and blood to fill the skeleton and skin to cover it. When the third man was about to bring life to the body, Subuddhi, who had only common sense, warned him, “Look, this is a  the body of a lion. If it comes to life, he will kill all of us.” The man who was to put life into the body of the animal told Subuddhi, “You are a fool. Do you think I will lose this opportunity to test my learning.” Subuddhi then told him to wait so that he could climb up a tree for safety and went up a tree. When the third man gave him life, the lion came alive and killed all the three learned men.

Suvarnabuddhi continued, That’s why I have always said: “Even if one is very learned if he is without common sense he becomes the butt of ridicule, like the learned in this story.”  

“What is that story? Please tell me,” asked Chakradhara. Suvarnasiddhi began to tell the story. There lived four young Brahmin boys in a city. They were good friends eager to go out and acquire knowledge. They went to a place called Kanyakubj. They joined a monastery and began studying sciences and scriptures. After twelve years of learning they thought it was time to go home and asked their guru for permission to leave the monastery. After taking his permission, they started their homeward journey. After a few days of travel, they reached a point where the road forked. They were not sure which road would take them home. Then they saw a funeral procession. One of the boys opened his book of learning and read out “Follow the path taken by great men.” The boy told his other friends, “Let us join and follow these great men leading the funeral procession.” They thus followed the procession to the cremation ground where they met a donkey. The second Brahmin boy opened his book of shastras and found this verse in it: “He who comes to your aid in times of danger, famine, cremation and invasion is truly a friend in deed.”  Then he told his friends that the donkey was, therefore, their best friend. At once one of them held on to the neck of the donkey. Another washed his feet.

After this ceremony, they looked around and found a camel. The four of them began figuring out what the animal is. The third man opened his book of knowledge and read out, “What moves fast is righteousness” and decided that the camel must be the embodiment of righteousness. The fourth man referred to his book and found that righteousness and friendship should always be together. They then tied the donkey and the camel together. Informed of this, the donkey’s owner rushed to beat the four Brahmins. But they escaped before he came.

They continued to travel till they reached a river and found a big leaf floating over the water. One of them saw it and, remembering a line from a verse describing how a leaf helped a man cross the river, jumped on it and was being carried down by the current. A second Brahmin saw his friend in distress and remembered a verse: “When total loss stares in the face a wise man sacrifices half and manages with what remains.” So, with a view to save half of his friend, the second Brahmin cut off the head of the drowning man.

The remaining three resumed their travel only to stop when three villagers invited them for a feast. When the host served a dish resembling noodles to the first Brahmin, he thought “what is long should be discarded” and left the place without food. The second man was served pancakes. He thought, “What spreads is not good for health” and refused to eat. Vada (doughnut shaped Indian salty snacks) were served to the third Brahmin. He remembered that “There is peril where there is a hole” and left. The three Brahmins later went home.

Suvarnasiddhi ended the story and turned to Chakradhara and told him: “Even if one is very learned if he is without common sense, he becomes the butt of ridicule like the learned one’s in this story.” 

Chakradhara protested, “That is not true,” and quoted this verse: “What God chooses to save survives sans human effort and no human effort can save what God ordains to perish.” As a frog said, “the one with thousand tricks sat on the head of the fisherman, the one with hundred tricks is hanging by the fisherman’s arm and I with only one trick am happily swimming in the water.” 

“How is that?” asked Suvarnasiddhi.

Chakradhara begins the story.


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