27 October 2017
A large and good collection of witty tales, mostly told to teach people the way of life and its illusory nature when emotions and ignorance take a toll. The tales cover all aspects of life wit, bravery, mindfulness, trickery and fantasy. The mixture is really amazing and gives us a clear picture of what the children of yesteryear generations grew up with, such lustrous stories of Gods, demons, wise men, stupid men and brave women. Touches on all virtues and vices of human nature. Some stories turn you into a king, some into a poor man and some into a wise man and even some into a woman.
There are both male-centred and women-centred stories, I could literally taste these stories. One thought-proving and inspiring tale that I personally love is the tale titled
A young Brahman in search of knowledge had heard about a great sage and philosopher who lives in the heart of a dense forest, far from the madness of civilization. So he walked for days through the thorns of the jungle and the menace of the wild beast till he reached the lonely cottage on the bank of the river where the great sage lived. the old sage welcomed the young seeker, accepted him as his disciple, and gave him a place to stay in his hut. The young man served the master and his wife in various ways did some of the household chores and learned all he could from the old master.
Now the old man was still youthful, and in his old age, his wife became pregnant for the first time. Just when she was eight months into her pregnancy, the sage had a desire to go and visit the source of the holy river by which he lived. as he could not take her with him, he entrusted her to the care of his disciple and another sage's wife.
The old sage's wife was ready to give birth and, at the appropriate time went into labour. The women friend stayed with her inside the cottage and the disciple waited outside, anxiously praying that she should safely give birth to a healthy baby.
Now, Hindus believe that Brahma, the Creator, is present at the birth of every child and writes on the newborn infant's forehead his or her fortunes. He is supposed to arrive just at the moment of birth, just when the child leaves the mother's womb to enter the world. He is, of course, invisible to ordinary mortals. But the young disciple's eyes were not exactly those of any ordinary mortal. His master had given him all kinds of knowledge and various powers. So he was startled to see a person entering most unceremoniously, the cottage where his mater's wife was giving birth.
Stop right there! said the disciple angrily. The great God shuddered, for no one so far had ever seen him or stopped him like this in his eternal round of duties. He was astonished and quite bewildered when he heard the following words of rebuke: 'You old brahman, what do you think your doing, entering my master's cottage without so much as a by-your-leave? Right in front of me! my teacher's wife is in labour. You can't go in there'.
Bhrama hastily explained to the young man who he was and what he was about to do. The baby had already begun to leave the womb and he had very little time to waste. When the young man heard who he was, he tied his upper cloth around his waist as a mark of respect before an elder and a god, prostrated himself before Brahma, and begged his pardon.
Brahma was in a hurry. He wanted to go in at once, but the young man would not let him go until he has told him what he meant to write on the forehead of the newborn child. 'Son', said the Brahma, 'even I do not know what my stylus will write on the forehead of the newborn. As the child comes into the world, I place the stylus on its head and it writes the fate of the child according to it's good and bad acts in its previous life. You shouldn't stop me here. I have to go in at once.'
'Then' said the young man, 'on your way out, you must tell me what was written on the forehead of my guru's child.'
'All right', said the Brahma in a hurry and went in. In a moment he returned, and the young man asked the god what his stylus had written.
'Son, I'll tell you what it wrote', said Brahma. 'But if you tell anyone about it, your head will split into thousand pieces. The child is a boy. He has a hard life before him. A buffalo and a sack of rice will e his share in life; he'll have to live on it. What can be done?'
'What! O, father of the Gods, this child is the son of a great sage. Is this his fate?' cried the disciple.
'What do I have to do with it? Such are the fruits of a former life. Wha's sown in the past must be reaped in the present. Now, remember what I said: if you reveal this secret to anyone, your head will explode into a thousand pieces'.
Then the Brahma vanished, leaving the young disciple bewildered by what he had heard and pained by the thought of what a hard life awaited his guru's newborn son. But he could tell no one about it.
His guru returned from his pilgrimage and was delighted to see his wife and child doing well. And the young disciple forgot his sorrow in the learned company of the old sage.
Three more years passed his deep study, and again the old sage decided to go on a pilgrimage to the sacred source of the Tungabhadra River. Again his wife was pregnant, and he had to leave her in the care of his disciple and his friend's wife. This time, too, Brahma came at the moment of birth. The young man was waiting for him. Brahma was again stopped at the door and promised to tell the young man the fate of the child. On his way out, the god told the young man. 'The child is a girl this time. My stylus has written that she has to earn her living as a prostitute, sell her body every night. Remember what I told you last time: if you reveal this secret to anyone, your head will explode into a thousand pieces. Don't forget'.
When Brahma left the young man was still in shock. The daughter of the holiest man was fated to live the life of a prostitute! After turning over and over in his mind for days, he consoled himself with the thought that fate alone governs human lives.
The old sage returned from his pilgrimage, and the young disciple spent two more years with him. At the end of these years, when the boy was five and the girl was two, the disciple himself decided to go on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas. The thought of the growing children and the miserable fate life that was waiting for them filled him with pain and even anger, though he consoled himself again and again with the thoughts of fate.
With the guru's permission, he left the forest hu and his guru's family and journey towards the Himalayas. He visited many towns and learned men, lived with and learned from many sages. He wandered for twenty years, examining the world, understanding human nature, pondering the ways of Providence. Then he decided to return to the guru's place on the banks of the river where he had begun his studies.
But when he got there, he found that his guru had died and so his wife. His heart heavy with sorrow over their passing, he went to the nearest town in search of his guru's children. After a while, he found a coolie with a single buffalo. He at once recognised his guru's son in this poor man. What Brahma's iron pen had written in his forehead had come to pass. The disciple's heart grew heavier. He could hardly bear to see his great guru's son a poor man living off a single buffalo. He followed the poor man to his hut, where he had a family, a wife and two ill-fed children. There was a sack of rice in his house and no more. Each day the family anxiously took out a little of it, husked it, and cooked it. When the sack was empty, with his coolie's saving, he was able to get one more sack, that's all. That's how they lived, just as the stylus of Brahma had written.
The disciple started a conversation with the sage's son, calling him by name and asked, 'Do you know me?'
The coolie was astonished to hear his name from the lips of an utter stranger. The disciple introduces himself and explained who he was and begged him to follow his advice. As the disciple was himself middle-aged and looked like a sage, the coolie was impressed. Then the disciple said 'Son, please do as I tell you. As soon as you wake up tomorrow, take your buffalo and the sack of rice and sell them in the market for whatever price they'll fetch. Don't think twice about it. Buy whatever you need for a great dinner for you and your family and finish it all by tomorrow evening. Leave not even a mouth full for the next day. reserve nothing. with the rest of the money, feed the poor and give gifts to the best Brahmans in town. You'll never regret it. I'm your father's disciple and I'm telling you this for your own welfare. Trust me'
But the coolie couldn't believe him, what will I do to feed four mouths in this house if I sell it all tomorrow?' he cried. 'You brahmans are always advising poor people like me to give it all to Brahmans. It's all very well for you. You are at the receiving end.
But his wife who had overheard the conversation, intervened. She said, ' This gentleman looks like a wise man, just like your father who was his guru. He must know something we don't. Let's follow his advice for one day and see'.
The coolie's doubt broke down when she also supported the holy man. The next day, somewhat anxiously, he sold his buffalo and his sack of rice. What he bought with the money was enough to feed fifty Brahmans morning and evening as well as his own family. So that day he fed people other than his own family for the first time in his life. When he went to bed that night after this unusual day, he couldn't sleep. He got up in the middle of the night and found his father's disciple sleeping on the flat ground outside his hut. the disciple was wakened by the coolie's arrival and asked him what the matter was. The coolie said, 'Sir I've done as you told me. In a few hours, it will be dawn. What will I do when my wife and children wake up? What will I feed? I've nothing left not a pice, not a handful of rice, and no buffalo to give milk'.
The disciple showed him some money he had, enough to buy another buffalo and a sack of rice, asked him to go back to bed.
The coolie had bad dreams that night and woke up early. When he went out to wash his face at the well, he looked at the make shift shed where he used to feed his buffalo some straw the first thing every morning. But, to his astonishment, he found another buffalo standing there. He thought, 'Fie on poverty! It makes you dream of buffaloes when you have none'. It was still dark. So he went in and brought out a lamp to see if the buffalo was real. It was a real beast! And beside it was a sack of rice! His heart leapt with joy and he ran out to tell the holy man, his father's disciple. But when he heard the news, the disciple said with a disgusted air, 'My dear man, why do you care so much? why do you feel so overjoyed? Take the beast and the sack of rice at once, and sell them as you did yesterday. Give your family and the Brahmans another terrific meal'.
the coolie obeyed this time without any misgivings. He sold the buffalo and the sack of rice, bought provisions, and again fed his family and fifty Brahmans, keeping nothing. Thus it went in the house of the sages son. Every morning he found a buffalo and a sack of rice. A month passed. The holy man was now sure that this kind of good life has become an established fact in the life of his guru's son. So one day he said, You're now living comfortably. continue to do what you've been doing. Reserve nothing for yourself. If you do, your happiness will end. If you hoard the money, this good fortune will desert you'. He whole heartedly agreed to do everything the holy man said, to the last detail. Then the holy man said, 'I've to go do something else now. Tell me where your sister is? The sages son choked on tears when his sister was mentioned. 'Don't ask about her,' he said. She is lost to the world. The disciple knew full well what the son spoke of. "Just tell me where I can find her," he said.
The son reluctantly directed him to the next village, where she was a prostitute. The disciple then took his leave, ardently wishing to help his master's daughter. Arriving in her village, he reached her house before twilight and knocked on her door. The door was opened at once, as none in her profession wait for a second knock. She was shocked to find a holy man on her doorstep. He introduced himself as the disciple of her father, and she wept with shame, falling to his feet, sorrowing at the thought that she, a common whore, was the child of a great sage. She told him how poverty had brought her to this state. He comforted her, saying, 'Daughter, I ache to see you living in such a way. But if you'll listen to me, I can help you live a better life. Shut your door to all who knock, and say that you'll only open it to one who brings you pearls of the first water. Do it for tonight, and I'll see you in the morning.'
Sick of the life she was living, she readily agreed. Her customers thought she had gone crazy, asking for pearls all of a sudden, and she turned away all comers. But as dawn approached, she began to worry. Who in the village could now afford her price? But Brahma's prophecy had to be fulfilled. In the last hours of the night, Brahma himself assumed the form of a young man, carrying a measure of fine pearls with him. He spent the night with her, and a god loved her until dawn.
She told the holy man all that had transpired. He knew then that his plan had worked. "From now on, you are a pure woman. There are few men in the world who can afford your price every night. Whoever gave you these pearls must continue to do so from now on, as your husband and lover. Never let another person touch you. Now, do what I say: sell all the pearls each day at the market, and spend the money on feeding yourself and the poor. Keep nothing. Give everything away. If you fail to do this, away goes your husband and your life of poverty will return. Will you do what I ask?
The sage's daughter happily agreed. He went to live under a tree near her house to see if this plan would work. It soon did. Finally satisfied with the improved lives of his master's children, the holy man decided to set off on another pilgrimage. Anxious to be going, he woke too early and set off when the moon was still overhead. He hadn't gone too far when he saw a man approach. This handsome figure led a buffalo on a rope, balanced a sack of rice on his head, and had a lustrous string of pearls over his shoulder. The holy man asked this person his business in the forest.
'Who are you sir walking like this in the forest? Asked the holy man.
The man with the buffalo threw down the sack at this question and almost wept as he replies, 'Look, my head has become almost bald from carrying this sack of rice every night to that coolie's house. I lead this buffalo to that man's shed. Then I dress up and carry these pearls to his sister's house. My iron pen wrote their fates on their forehead, and thanks to you, you wretched clever man, I have to supply them whatever was promised at their birth. when will you relieve me of these burdens?
Brahma wept, for it was non-other than Brahma himself. 'Not till you grant them good ordinary life and happiness!' said the holy man. Brahma did exactly that and was relieved of his troubles in these two cases.
Thus were fate and Brahma outwitted.