The Panchatantra – Story 25a


There was once a bull with an oscillating cod. Reveling in his strength, he had separated himself from his herd of cows and was wandering about freely in the forest eating the green grass growing on the sides of a forest stream. There was in that forest a jackal called Pralobhika. He used to live with his wife in comfort in a sand-hill on the banks of the stream. Once the bull entered the stream in front of the jackals’ sand-hill in order to drink water. Seeing his oscillating cod, the jackal’s wife said to her husband, ‘Darling, see, that huge lump of flesh is about to fall off. It is sure to fall in three hours at the utmost. So you must follow the animal and never lose sight of him.’ The jackal replied, ‘Dearest, we do’ not know whether it will fall or not. So why do you want me to take all this trouble? Let us continue to remain here and eat the mice which go to drink the water. This is their way to the river. Again, if I follow this hulls some other may occupy this excellent habitation of ours. So we should never follow that bull. It has been said, “He who abandons the certain and runs after the uncertain loses the certain ; as for the uncertain, it has from the very outset bean lost”.’ 

The female jackal replied, ‘What cowardice! You are always satisfied with whatever miserable things you get. It has been said, “A small river fills up soon, the cavity of the hands of a mouse is easily filled, and a mean fellow, who is quite contented with his lot, is satisfied even with a little.” So a man who wishes for distinction should exert himself to the utmost. It has been said, “The Goddess of wealth stays there where there is plenty of exertion and where laziness is put down and justice and courage obtained. One should never give up one’s exertions, depending on fortune; no oil can be extracted even from the sesamum without exertion. Even the little wealth of the unfortunate dullard who is content with a little is washed off in the twinkling of an eye.”

Your saying that it may fall or not is highly improper and is only a trick to save yourself the trouble of following the bull. It has been said- “Those whose resolution is firm deserve to be worshiped. Mere greatness without resolution or industry is useless. What is the status of a poor chataka(A bird said to live only on rain drops) bird, and yet because of its resolution and industry even the great Indra(Indra is the Hindu God responsible for rains) carries rain water for him to drink.” Besides, I am disgusted with the miserable meat of these mice. You see this piece of flesh is about to fall. So you are to follow this animal and pick up the lump of flesh as soon as it falls.” 

The jackal, on hearing these words, left his abode and, together with his wife, followed the bull. Truly have the wise men said, ‘ A man will be master of himself in all things only so long as he is not prompted to action by the goad in the shape of the stinging words of his wife. A man who is urged to action by the stinging words of his wife will think an unfit thing as fit, an inaccessible thing as accessible, and a thing unfit to be eaten as fit to be eaten.’ The jackal and his wife traveled after the bull for fifteen long years without the cod’s falling down. Then 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. Nor will they ever fall. Let us go back to our old abode with its assured supply of mice.’ 

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