The Four Learned Fools - Panchatantra Stories

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In a certain town, there lived four brahmins who had become great friends. They were all extremely naive by nature. One day, they said to each other, Let us all go to another kingdom, study hard and then make some money there. So, they set off for Kanyakubja to get their, education. They joined a school and began a course of study.

They worked hard there for twelve years. One day, they said to each other, ‘We have now acquired sufficient knowledge in all branches of the sciences. Let us go to our preacher, get his permission and leave.’

So, they did this and left. After they had been traveling for a short time, they came to a place where two paths met.

They stood still and pondered.

One of them said, ‘Which way shall we go?’ At this very moment, a huge funeral procession, including several prominent citizens of the town, passed by, on its way to the funeral place as the son of a wealthy merchant died.

Then one of the Brahmins consulted his holy book and read. Whichever road is followed by great men, is the right one to follow.

“So they said, ‘Let us go the same way as these people.’ And they started following the road taken by the prominent citizens.”

“When they reached the funeral place, they saw a donkey standing there. As they could not decide what to do next, the second Brahmin consulted his holy book and read. ‘Whosoever stands by you on a joyful occasion, in calamity, sickness, famine or war. In the court of law or at the funeral place. Is your true friend.’

So one of the Brahmins put his arms round the donkey’s neck, the second kissed him, whilst the third began to wash his hoofs.

They said, ‘he is our true friend!’ “Meanwhile, they saw, in the distance, a camel coming quickly towards them. The third Brahmin consulted his book and read. Righteousness marches rapidly. So they all decided that this camel must be nothing but righteousness incarnate. Then the fourth Brahmin opened his book and read, ‘A wise man should lead his friend to righteousness.’

So, they decided that the donkey should be introduced to the camel, and when the camel approached, they tied them up together.

When the donkey's master, a washerman, heard the news that his donkey was being dragged along by a camel, he picked up a stick and ran after the four learned fools to beat them. They ran for their lives.

When they had gone a little way, they came to a river. The leaf of a tree was floating by. One of them cried, This floating leaf will take us across the river.

And with this, he jumped on it and immediately began to drown. The second Brahmin grabbed him by the hair and remembered a quotation from the book, When total destruction is imminent, a wise man sacrifices half and works with the rest, for a complete loss is unbearable. ‘So,’ he concluded, ‘He should be cut in two!’ And they cut him in two halves with a sharp sword.

The three remaining Brahmins wandered on, until they reached a village.

There, they were invited by the villagers and lodged in different houses.

“One of the Brahmins was served with sweet Sutrika. When he saw the long noodles-like substance, he remembered the verse that says. ‘A man who makes use of long tactics, is sure to be destroyed. “So, he did not touch the food and went away hungry.

“The second Brahmin was served with Mandaka. When he saw the bowl of frothy food, he remembered the verse that says. Whatever is frothy and distended, will not last long? “So, he too left his food and went away hungry.”

“The third Brahmin was given a Vatika. When he saw all the little holes in it, he remembered the verse that says, the presence of defects, is a sure sign of approaching disaster.”

So, he also left his food and went away hungry. “Thus, the three learned fools began to starve and started out on their journey home, with all and sundry ridiculing them on the way.

Moral of The Story “And so,” continued Suvaranasiddhi, “that’s why I said, People well versed in the shastras, but lacking in commonsense, become the object of ridicule, like the four learned fools.’

“You too, Chakradhara, are devoid of Commonsense. You would not listen to me. That’s why you have been reduced to this state.”

“But that’s not the reason,” said Chakradhara. “It’s because fate is against me. As they say, ‘An orphan whom fortune smiles on, though left unprotected in a jungle, survives, but a man with luck against him. Dies in his own home.’ When fate is hostile, even the talented pay with their lives. Shatabuddhi, with his hundred talents, is hanging from his hand, whilst I, Ekabuddhi, with my single talent, am swimming happily in this water.’

“How was that?” asked Suvaranasiddhi. And Chakradhara told this story. TWO FISHES AND THE FROG

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