The fifth strategy begins with the following verse:
“Whoever without judgment
Does what the foolish barber
In this chapter did
Comes to eternal grief.”
This is the story that shows how true is the above verse. Manibhadra was a merchant living in the southern city of Pataliputra. He was a man of principles who had lost all his wealth. His poverty made him very sad and one night he reflected on his condition and thought:
“Neither character nor patience
Neither humility nor pedigree
Dispels a poor man’s gloom.”
Even if a man has merit, the pressures of earning a livelihood overshadow such merit. The need to look after the family wears out one’s brilliance. A poor man’s house is like a sky without stars, a lake without water.
“A poor man is shunned even if
He has character and pedigree.
A wealthy man shines in society
Without merit and caste roots.
What he does is never shameful
But to be poor is always a crime.”
After thinking a lot about his condition, Manibhadra decided that death alone could solve his problems. With these thoughts he fell asleep and saw a dream. In his dream, a Jain monk appeared and said, “O merchant, don’t give in to self-pity. I am Padmanidhi, the treasure collected by your ancestors. Tomorrow morning when I will visit you in this guise, you will hit my head with a stick and I will turn into gold. You can live happily ever after.”
When the merchant woke up next morning he wondered whether what he saw in the dream was real or unreal. “This may not be true. It could just be an illusion because I have been thinking about money all the time,” he thought and remembered the following poem:
“Their dreams never come true Who are sick, grief stricken, Lovelorn and infatuated.”
Meanwhile, a barber came to the merchant’s house because his wife had called him for pedicure. Very soon came the Jain monk who appeared in the merchant’s dream. Manibhadra was happy to see him and at once reached for the stick and struck him on his head. The monk turned into a statue of gold. The merchant then gave clothes and money to the barber and told him not to pass this information to anyone.
The barber went home and thought, “if a monk turns into gold if I strike him, I will invite all the monks and kill them and I can have lots of money.” He passed the night with great difficulty. Next morning he went to the Jain monastery, went round its precincts three times and prostrated before the idol of Jinendra and sang the praise of the Jains thus:
“Victory to the Jain monks Who keep lust and love at bay Who turn the mind into a desert Where desire does not grow. Blessed are the hands that worship The enlightened Jinendra And blessed is the tongue That praises the great Saint.”
After this prayer, the barber met the chief monk and knelt before him seeking his blessings. The monk blessed him and asked the barber the reason that brought him to the monastery. The barber pleaded humbly that the chief monk and others should accept his hospitality.
The chief monk said, “O my son, we are not Brahmins who are invited home to be honoured. We are mendicants who visit Jain homes and accept what is necessary to keep us alive. Please go away and don’t embarrass me.”
Disappointed, the barber said, “O great seer, I have made all preparations to receive you. Yet I cannot press you. You will do what you think is best.”
The barber went home and kept a stick ready after checking the exits of the house. He went to the monastery again and stood there pleading with the monks to accept his offerings. Taking pity on the barber, the monks agreed to visit his home. The elders have rightly said:
“Man becomes old and infirm, Loses his hair and teeth and Cannot even hear and see properly. Everything in his body Degenerates but not desire.”
When the poor monks trooped into his house, the barber closed all the exits and began assaulting them. Some of them died while some were crying with pain. The sheriff, passing by, heard this commotion and asked his men to immediately find out what was happening. The men saw what the barber had done and presented him before a magistrate. The barber admitted that he had killed some of the monks. The magistrate ordered that the barber be impaled.
The judges then said that no one should do like the barber without understanding the situation for the learned have said that he who does things without discretion or prudence regrets his action like the Brahmin’s wife.
Fifth Strategy – Imprudence – Panchatantra Tales – Vishnu Sharma