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Children's Fiction - Folk Tales

The Panchatantra Retold Part 5 Apariksitakarakam

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This is the fifth section, Apariksitakarakam (Ill-considered Action).

1. Apariksitakarakam

The fifth part of the Panchatantra ‘Apariksitakarakam’ starts here.

“A person must not rush into any action without first knowing why he is doing something, without first understanding what it is that he is to do, without first planning the steps he is to take, and without first examining the consequences that might arise from the action. Take a lesson from what happened to the barber.”

“What happened?” asked the Princes of Mahilaropya.

And so Pandit Vishnu Sharma told them the following tale -

In the city of Pataliputra, there once lived a trader named Manibhadra. He was a righteous, industrious fellow, but, unfortunately, fortune did not favor him and his business failed and he descended into poverty. Because of his changed circumstances, his former associates began to avoid him and people began to ridicule him to his face. It became very difficult for Manibhadra to deal with the daily slights and insults.

One night, unable to sleep because of the pecuniary concerns weighing on his mind, he thought, “I can’t take this grinding poverty any longer. When a person loses his wealth, he loses everything. Every ounce of respect, pride, beauty, and intelligence is destroyed. So what is to be done? Why endure it? It will be far better for me if I put an end to my life. I’ll give up eating and starve myself to death.”

Making up his mind about this, he fell asleep.

And then he dreamed of a Jain monk in saffron robes and, in his dream, the monk said to him, “My good man, don’t despair and don’t do anything drastic. Your fortunes are about to change for the better. Tomorrow morning, I shall come to your house to ask for alms, and you must ask me inside and hit me on the head with a stick . You shall then have a large pile of gold that will never diminish.”

Manibhadra woke up in the morning, the dream still clear in his mind, and he wondered if it could possibly be true.

“No, it was just a dream,” he thought. “I keep worrying about money all the time, so what else am I going to dream about?”

And putting it out of his mind, he busied himself with his morning activities. That day, his wife had asked the barber to come over to trim and paint her nails, and the man sat in the front hall tending to her.

While he was so occupied, someone called to Manibhadra and, going out, he was startled to see the same monk that he had seen in his dream. So he invited the monk inside and, as he had been instructed in his dream, Manibhadra picked up a stick and, to his wife’s and the barber’s astonishment, hit the monk on the head with it. At once the monk vanished, leaving a large pile of gold coins in his stead.

Manibhadra and his wife quickly gathered up the gold coins and put them away in a safe place. Manibhadra gave a few of the coins to the barber and told him not to tell anyone what he had seen.

The barber went away, quite amazed by the incident, and he thought, “So! These Jain monks turn into gold if you hit them on the head with a stick, do they? In that case, I will go to their ashram and invite all of them to my house tomorrow. Then I will hit all of them on their heads with a solid stick and get plenty of gold.”

He couldn’t sleep that night, thinking of all the riches that were to come to him.

Early the next morning, he went to the Jain ashram and paid his respects to the Chief Monk and invited him and the other monks to his house for a feast.

Now it wasn’t the custom of the Jain monks to go to anyone’s place for a feast. They preferred to get their meals by asking for alms.

But the barber was very insistent, offering gifts of canvas for manuscripts and money for scribes in addition to a fine meal, and so, finally, they agreed to visit him.

The barber went back home and cut a large staff and placed it in readiness by the door.

When the monks arrived a while later, he invited them all inside, closed the door, and went into a hitting frenzy, cudgeling all the shaven heads that he could reach with his stick.

The terrified and injured monks forced open the door and ran out screaming and crying.

The noise alerted the town guards and they came running to see what the commotion was about.

One of the monks told them that the barber had gone mad and was hellbent on murdering them all and at that moment the barber came chasing after some monks, brandishing his stick.

The town guards apprehended him at once and, reprimanding him for attacking the monks, dragged him before the magistrate.

“What do you mean by treating the monks like this?” demanded the magistrate.

“Sir,” said the barber. “I only did what Manibhadra the trader did.”

And he related to the magistrate what he had seen at Manibhadra’s house the other day.

The magistrate summoned Manibhadra and demanded a verification of the barber’s tale.

Manibhadra explained about his dream and the magistrate said to the barber, “You are a stupid fellow to think you could do the same.”

And the barber received a very severe punishment for beating the monks.

The magistrate said, “This foolish barber acted without understanding what he had seen. A person must never rush into any action without knowing what he is doing, without considering why he is doing something, without understanding what it is that he is to do and how he is to do it, and without examining the consequences that might arise from the action. A person who acts in haste, without examining and thinking things through, ends up regretting their actions just like the Brahmin’s wife did over the death of the mongoose.”

“What do you mean?” asked Manibhadra.

“I’ll tell you,” said the magistrate, and began his tale.

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