Concerning Three Brahmans
The Book of Good Council: Hitopadesha, iv.
Oriental Department, March, 1897
In the city of Devikota, there is a Brahman, Vedasharma by name. In the season of the equinox, he received a vessel of rice. Thereupon, taking it, and going to a potter’s shop full of pots and pans, and resting there in a quiet corner, he fell to meditating:
“If I were to sell this vessel of rice, and get ten cowries, then with them I could buy water-pots and vessels here, and sell them again, and then doing this many times, with the increase of wealth gained thereby, again buying grain-jars and the like, and at last gaining a hundred thousand, I will thereupon marry four wives. And then, amongst those wives, whichever is the youngest and prettiest will be my special favorite. And when my other wives, their jealousy being enkindled, straightway make trouble, then very wroth I will correct the other wives after this fashion, with a club!
Thinking thus, he threw his club. And his own rice-vessel was ground by it to powder, and many pots were broken. Thereupon when this was perceived by the potter who arrived suddenly on account of the sound of the breaking pottery, that Brahman was by him reviled, and cast forth without the shop.
In the forest of Gautama, a sacrifice was prepared. A certain Brahman, having bought a goat from another village, and setting it on his shoulder, was going homeward, when he was perceived by a triad of knaves. Then those knaves having considered the matter, waited for the Brahman, having taking up positions, at intervals along the road, under the shadow of three trees.
The Brahman, approaching, was addressed by one of the knaves: Ho! Brahman! Why is this dog being carried by thee on thy shoulder?
The twice-born says: This is no dog; this is a goat for sacrifice.
After this, he was again addressed by the second, who had taken up his position a mile or two further on, and who spoke to him to the same effect. Hearing him, the Brahman, setting the goat upon the ground, and examining it repeatedly, and once more putting it on his shoulder, went forward, his mind wavering like a swing.
Following upon this, hearing the like speech of the third knave, the aberration of his mind becoming fixed, abandoning the goat, and performing his ablutions, he went home.
The goat, being led away by the knaves, was consumed.
In Ujjayini, there is a Brahman, Madhava by name. To him his wife bore a child. And she, his wife, leaving the Brahman to take care of the child, went out to the bathing place. Immediately after this, the Brahman received a summons to perform the funeral rites of ancestors for the King. Learning this, the Brahman, impelled by the poverty in which he had been born, thought as follows:
If I go not speedily, then some other will there seize upon these funeral rites. For it is said :
Of what should be taken or given,
Or of some work to be done,
If it be not accomplished quickly,
Time drinks all its virtue up.
But there is no one to guard my offspring; what am I to do? Let it be thus. Leaving this mongoose, whom I have for years cherished as a son of my own, to guard my offspring, I go.
Thus doing, he went. Then a black snake which had approached close to the boy was slain by the mongoose, and eaten. Thereafter seeing the Brahman approaching, the mongoose, his mouth and feet smeared with blood, hurriedly going to meet him, licked the Brahman’s feet. Then the Brahman, seeing the condition of the mongoose, and thinking:
My son has been eaten by it; slew it. Thereupon the Brahman, going in and looking, saw the boy asleep and the serpent slain.
These stories are given to reveal sides of Oriental life and thought which do not appear in the philosophic books. Many similar stories are connected, by tradition, with former births of Buddha.