The Panchatantra – Story 25


Somilaka was an expert weaver. He could weave fine clothes of different colours and with several colours in the same clothes. The clothes woven by him were so fine as to be fit to be worn by Kings. Still, though he was skilled in weaving various kinds of garments, he could never earn more than what was barely necessary for his food and clothing. Seeing the ordinary common weavers, who knew only to make coarse clothes, earning much more than himself and rolling in plenty, he told his wife, ‘Darling, see how even the common weavers who know only to weave coarse clothes are getting plenty of money while i get only a bare subsistence despite my vast superiority to them in knowledge, ability and industry. Hence I owe nothing to this wretched town which is treating me so shabbily. I shall therefore go elsewhere’.

She replied, ‘Dearest, it is an absurd delusion to suppose that you will, by going elsewhere, get the wealth which you do not get here. It has been said, ”All our gains and losses here below are determined once for all by our deeds in previous births. That which has not been given away by one in the previous birth cannot be got in this birth even by birds whether they soar up into the sky or climb down and alight on earth. That which is destined not to occur will not occur despite the best efforts, and that which is destined to perish will perish even though placed on the palm of the hand. Just as a calf knows its mother even among a thousand cows, so an action done in the previous birth finds out the doer and goes to him. The action done by men in the previous births sleeps with them when they sleep, goes with them wherever they go, and always remains with them. Just as light and shade always follow each other so an action and its doer are closely united to each other.” So, remain here doing your work and enjoying whatever you get since that is all that you are destined to get.’ 

He replied, ‘Darling, what you say is not correct. Fate itself cannot operate without some activity on our part. It has been said, “Just as the clapping sound cannot be produced with only one hand, so an action which is not accompanied by exertion has no fruit. See, even the food, obtained through fate, will never enter the mouth if the hand does not exert itself. The goddess of wealth favors that lion-like man who is industrious. It is cowards who always attribute everything to fate. So, ignoring fate, strive to the best of your ability. If, after your best efforts, failure ensues, how can anybody blame you as it is not your fault? Actions succeed by industry and not by mere pious wishes; beasts do not enter the mouth of the lion when he is asleep. No desire will be fulfilled without exertion. It is the cowards who say that what is destined to happen will happen whatever we do. If after our best efforts failure ensues, we are not to blame as our manly efforts have been frustrated by an unkind fate!”. So I must certainly go abroad.’ So saying Somilaka went to Vardhamanapura(modern Burdwan). 

After working hard in that city for three years, he earned three hundred gold coins and started for his native town. When in the middle of his way, he had to cross a mighty forest. While crossing it, the sun set and it began to get dark. From fear of proceeding further in the night, Somilaka climbed up a stout branch of a banyan tree by the side of the road and slept. In the night in a dream ‘he saw two men with blood-red eyes talking to each other angrily. One of them said to the other, “Oh Karta(Karta=Doer, God who rewards exertions with appropriate returns), though I opposed several times your giving more than bare subsistence to this Somilaka and though you never once gave him more in the past how is it that you have now given him three hundred gold coins ?”. The other replied, ‘Oh, Karman(Karman=The deed in the last birth regulating the reward in this), it is my duty to reward people according to their exertions. It is up to you to take the money away since he is not destined to keep it. So yon may take it away.’ 

Hearing this, the weaver woke up and felt the bag in which he had kept the gold coins and to his horror found it empty. He thought to himself, ‘How did my hard-earned money disappear so quickly ? How can I, whose efforts have all come to naught and who is penniless, face my wife and friends?’ So he went back to Vardhamanapura and in the course of a year worked so hard and so well that he earned five hundred gold coins. Then he returned to his native country but this time chose another route in order to avoid the previous misfortune but lost his way and wandered on. 

When the sun set, the unfortunate man saw the very same banyan tree before him. He thought to himself, ‘ Ah me, how relentless, and cruel fate is that it has brought me again to this demon in the shape of this banyan tree!’ Thinking over this misery, he fell into a drowsy stupor in which he had a dream. He again saw the two men on the branch of the banyan tree above him. One of them said to the other, ‘Oh, Karta, why have you given to Somilaka five hundred gold coins? Have you not yet understood that he is destined to get nothing more than what is necessary for his food and clothes?’ The other replied, ‘Oh, Karman, I am bound to give the due reward for the exertion. It is for you to take it away. So why do you censure me unnecessarily ? Take away the money.’ As soon as he heard these words, Somilaka searched his bag and found it empty. 

Bitterly disappointed and grieved, he thought to himself, ‘What is the use of my penniless existence? I shall hang myself on this banyan tree and die.’ So resolved, he made a rope from some darbha(A long thorny grass useful for making ropes and mats) grass growing in the neighborhood and, putting a noose round his neck, got up one of the branches of the banyan tree, tied the other end to the branch, and was about to throw himself down for the swing when a resplendent divine being appeared in the sky and said, ‘Oh, Somilaka don’t do this rash deed. I am that Karta who ordered your gold to be taken away. I could not till now allow you to own a pie more than was absolutely necessary for your food and clothing. But nobody sees my divine shape in vain. I have also been greatly pleased by the bold fight you have put up against Karman. So you may ask a boon of me.’ Somilaka bowed and said, ‘ If so, give me enormous wealth.’ Karta replied, ‘Friend, of what use will this wealth be to you since you cannot derive any enjoyment from it as you are destined to get only just the food and clothing you require? The weaver said, ‘All the same, give me wealth. He who has plenty of wealth, though he is miserly and low-born, is served by those who hanker after his riches and run after him. Of yore, the jackal said to his wife, ” Good lady, I have observed for fifteen years those two which are loose and well-formed and appear as if they would fall down and yet never fall.” Karta asked, ‘ What is that story ?’ Somilaka then related the story of “The bull’s cod“. 

‘So,’ said Somilaka ‘the rich man becomes an object of envy and longing for all. Give me therefore plenty of wealth.’ Karta said, ‘All right. Go back once more to Vardhamanapura. Two traders called Dhanagupta(One who hoards wealth) and Bhuktadhana(One who enjoys wealth by spending it lavishly) live there. Having understood their different natures choose which of those you would prefer to be like, and I shall, as a special case, confer on you that favour.’ Having said this, the figure in the sky disappeared. 

Somilaka trudged back to Vardhamanapura. At dusk he reached the town. With very great difficulty, he found out by inquiry Dhanagupta’s house. As Dhanagupta never spent a pie in charity or entertainments or out-of- the-way purchases and never even allowed it to be known that he was a master of crores lest people should trouble him for charity, he was not known to many persons. Somilaka went and squatted upon the miserably neglected veranda. It was meal time. Dhanagupta was at home. But his wife and children at once went and tried to drive the stranger away. Somilaka refused to budge an inch and insisted on having a meal saying, ‘I am sunset guest and you are extremely rich. You are bound to feed me under the ancient laws of piety.’ After a great deal of argument, and largely as a bribe to him in order not to broadcast the news of Dhanagupta’s riches which he had somehow come to know, a most miserable apology for a meal was thrown at him. Exhausted by this unheard-of act of extravagant expenditure and generosity, terrified at what Dhanagupta would say when he returned, and afraid as to what further demands Somilaka would make if they remained there, the woman and children shut the door in the face of the guest. 

Somilaka was tired and soon went to sleep. In a dream he saw the two men whisper together, ‘ Oh Karta,’ said one to the other, ‘why have you burdened Dhanagupta with this excess expenditure in the shape of a meal to Somilaka? This is most improper on your part.’ The other replied, ‘ Oh Karman, it is not my fault. I am bound to look to the expenditure of earnings for all legitimate purposes. It is for you to make good the excess drain.’ Karman said, ‘All right. Tomorrow morning Dhanagupta will get severe diarrhea. He will never call a doctor and will fast for a whole day as prescribed in the ancient books on medicine. Thus he will save the cost of two meals for the one he has given.’ Somilaka woke up and in a few minutes saw Dhanagupta return home The miser was heart-broken at hearing that a meal had been given to the stranger. He was terribly angry with his wife and children for this act of waste and had no sleep. Early in the morning he got severe diarrhea and acted exactly as Karman had predicted. 

After seeing all this, Somilaka started for Bhuktadhana’s house. He easily found out his house as all the poor and all the artists, merchants, priests, and learned men who had received presents from him knew him very well. As soon as Bhuktadhana saw Somilaka at his threshold, he received him cordially, treated him with respect, gave him an excellent bath, new clothes and meals, and provided for him a fine bed at night.

While sleeping comfortably, Somilaka saw the two men whispering to each other. One asked the other, ‘ Oh Karta, you have made Bhuktadhana spend a lot of money on the reception and entertainment of Somilaka today and left him penniless for the day’s expenditure tomorrow. Besides, he has taken this money from another trader. So how do you propose to supply him with funds for tomorrow’s expenditure ?’ Karta replied, ‘ Oh Karman, early in the morning a messenger of the King will come with big presents and a round sum in cash for Bhuktadhana sent by the King in token of his pleasure at some service rendered to him before by Bhuktadhana. So this generous merchant will have ample money for spending for many days.’ 

Hearing all this and seeing the King’s messenger arrive with the presents in the morning, Somilaka thought to himself, ‘Even though this Bhuktadhana has no hoards of cash, he is far the better of the two. Contemptible is Dhanagupta with all his crores. It has been said, ” The study of the Vedas is useful only if one keeps up the sacrificial fire, the reading of the scriptures is useful only if the character is ennobled thereby, a wife is useful only if she gives sexual enjoyment and children, and wealth is useful only if it enables one to enjoy comfort and give away in charity”.’ 

The study of the Vedas is useful only if one keeps up the sacrificial fire, the reading of the scriptures is useful only if the character is ennobled thereby, a wife is useful only if she gives sexual enjoyment and children, and wealth is useful only if it enables one to enjoy comfort and give away in charity

Somilaka in Mitrasampati, Panchatantra

So he said to the divine Karta, ‘ Oh God, give me wealth similar to that of Bhuktadhana. I do not want wealth similar to that of Dhanagupta.’ Then Karta gave him never-ending wealth similar to that of Bhuktadhana. Somilaka returned to his wife and lived with her happily, giving and entertaining with a free hand never wanting money for expenditure and never having any savings to be hoarded. 

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