The Tale of a Tiger
The Book of Good Counsel. Hitopadesha, i.
Oriental Department, January, 1897
TOLD BY THE PIGEON KING.
Once on a time, as I passed through the Southern Forest, I beheld An old Tiger who had taken a bath, covering his paw with grass, on the lake shore speaks:
“Hail! Wayfarers, hail! Let this golden bracelet be accepted!”
Thereupon one Wayfarer, led on by greed, spoke thus:
“This also befalls through heaven’s grace; yet,—in times of doubt as to one’s aim, it is not right to hurry. For it is written:
Even the wished from the unwished receiving,
The end and outcome is not ever fair;
When there is poison craftily admixed,
Even the heavenly nectar makes for Death.
“Yet in every gaining of wealth, there is cause for doubt. As it is written:
Till he o’ercomes his doubts, no man
attains to wealth.
O’ercoming doubt, he may attain;
—if he survives.
[Mahabharata Adi, cxl, 73.]
“Thus far, I consider the matter.” He says aloud:
“Where is the bracelet?”
The Tiger, pushing his paw forward, shows it.
The Wayfarer said:
“How can I have confidence in thee?”
The Tiger spoke:
“Now I, even I, practice ablutions and am a giver; I am old, and have lost my nails and teeth; how am I not a sure ground for confidence? As it is written:
Sacrifice, study, penances gifts,
Truth, firmness, patience, lack of lust:
This is the Way long handed down,—
The Noble Eightfold Path of Right.
The first four Virtues of the Path,
The Hypocrite may practice too;
The last four Virtues ever dwell
In the Magnanimous alone.
[Mahabharata Udyoga, xxxv, 56-7.]
“And mine is such a freedom from greed, that I am willing to give a golden bracelet, that is even now in my paw, to anyone at all! All the same, that popular saying, to wit: ‘Tiger eats Man,’ is hard to overcome. As it is written:
The World, that ever follows where it’s led,
May take as its instructor in right life
A dame of weakest reputation,—or
Even a Twice-born who has killed a cow!
“For I too have read the holy Books of Law. Listen!
As thou dost love the Life of thine own Self,
All other Beings love their own Lives too;
By Self-similitude, the perfect Wise
Show to all Being pity equally.
Ever in all refusing or all giving
In pleasures pain; in what he loves or hates
By Self-similitude, a man should act
And follow thus the perfect Rule of Right.
[Mahabharata, 13, 5572.]
“And yet another:
Oh son of Kunti! succour well the Poor!
Give not thy Wealth to one already Rich!
They that are Sick, alone need healing herbs;
What use are healing herbs to him in Health?
What Gift is given, thinking ‘one should give,’
To one who cannot render it again,
At the right place and time, to the right man,
Such is a gift of Goodness; this they know.
[Bhagavad Gita, xvii, 20.]
“Therefore after bathing here in the lake, accept this golden bracelet.”
Thereupon, as he enters into the lake to bathe, so sinking down in the deep mud, he is unable to escape.
“I will come and lift thee up!”
Thus declaring, and by little and by little approaching, held by that Tiger in his paw, he meditated:
‘Tis not enough to say: he reads the holy Law
And studies well the Vedas, if his Heart is bad;
His evil nature ever will come out at last,
As surely as, by nature, milk of cows is sweet.
Whose senses and whose heart are uncontrolled,
Is like the bathing of an elephant;
And like adornments to an ugly face,
A useless load is Wisdom without works.
“This was not well done by me, that I placed confidence in one whose very Self is Murder. As it is written:
Of every one, the inborn Nature shews,
On trial, and not other Qualities.
Ever outstripping other Qualities,
The inborn Nature triumphs at their head.”
Thus meditating, verily, he, by that Tiger was slain and consumed.