The Merchant and The Barber - Panchatantra Stories

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In the south of India, there was a town called Patliputra. A merchant, by the name Manibhadra, lived there. He was given to perform charitable deeds, for the sake of religion, for the love of other, and for the salvation of his soul. But his fate a hostile and he lost his entire fortune.

As a result the man’s respect and reputation gradually diminished everywhere. He grew utterly dejected. One night, as he lay in bed, he thought to himself, “Oh, to hell with this poverty! It’s true what they say, ‘A man may be of good character, compassionate and pure, sweet-tempered and born of a noble family, but once he has lost his money. He is no longer widely esteemed.’ And, ‘the breeze in spring, gradually diminishes the splendor of winter, and the daily cares of maintaining a family, Diminish a wise man’ A poor man’s house Is like the sky without stars or a lake the sky without water. Impressive, but lifeless as a burial ground.’ ‘The sea roars and everyone trembles, the rich flaunt themselves and are respected by all’.”

Thinking all this over, Manibhadra came to a decision. “What is the good of leading such a useless life?” he said. “I shall fast and starve myself to death.” Then, he dropped off to sleep.

He dreamt that a Jain monk appeared to him and said, “Merchant, don’t worry! I am Padma Nidhi, accumulated by your forefathers through hard work. Tomorrow morning, I shall come to your house in this very form. Strike me on the head with a stick and I shall turn into gold. You will have much gold.

Early next morning, when the merchant got up, he thought to himself, “I wonder whether this dream will come true or not. In the mean time, the merchant’s wife had called in a barber, to anoint her sore feet.

Just after his arrival, a Jain monk appeared on the scene. He was the image of the one the merchant had seen in his dream.

The merchant saw him, he was delighted and immediately struck him on the head with a stick that happened to be handy.

The monk fell to the ground and turned into a pile of gold!

The merchant picked up the gold and quietly hid it in a secluded room of the house.

He made the barber happy by giving him money and clothes, saying to him, “Never tell anybody what you have seen.”

The barber got home, he thought to himself, “If all these Jain monks turn to gold when hit them on the head, I’ll invite a few of them to my house.”

Next morning, he got up and went over to the Jain Vihara. Three times he went round the idol of Jinendra. Then he knelt on the ground, and holding his upper garment before his mouth, in the tradition of the Jains.

When he had finished, the barber went over to the chief monk, knelt on the ground with his hands folded, and said, “Sir, I bow before you.”

In return, the monk blessed him to.
The barber then said very humbly to the chief monk, “I implore you, when you go out for alms today, please come and dine at my house and bring the other monks with you.”

“My good devotee!” said the monk. “You are obviously a very religious man, so how can you talk like that? Do you think that we Jains are like Brahmins, that you’ve come to invite us to your home to eat! Don’t you know that when we go out collecting alms everyday, we accept food from the first devotee we come across and then only eat just enough to keep ourselves alive? So, go away and don’t talk like that again.”

“But Rishi,” said the barber, “I know your religion quite well and I also know that you do accept invitations from devotees. Now, I have collected a number of exquisite pieces of cloth, which would be beautiful to wrap round your holy hooks. I have also saved a lot of money to give to the scribes who copy them. But please, don’t let this influence you, do as you think best.”

Then the barber asked for the chief monk’s blessings and went home.

When he got there, he put a stick or wood behind the door, in readiness.

Then at lunch time, he went back to the Vihara and waited outside.

When the monks came out, he begged them to accompany him to his house to conduct prayers.

Coveting the cloth and the money, the monks agreed and went with the barber.

As the monks entered the barber’s house, he locked the doors firmly from inside and began to beat them on their heads, with the stick.

Some fell down dead, some had their heads smashed in, whilst the others began to scream for help.

When the chief watchman of the town heard their cries, he ordered his men to go and find out what all this noise was about.

The watchmen went to look and they saw the monks rushing out of the barber’s house with blood streaming from them.

“Whatever has happened?” they asked the monks. The monks told them all that the barber had done. The watchmen came and arrested the barber and took him to the court law.

At court, the judges said to the barber, “Why did you commit this wicked crime?”

“It wasn’t my fault!” he said. “I saw the merchant do it. And I thought, I too would try.”

He told them all that he had seen at Manibhadra’s house.

Then the judges ordered the merchant to appear before them and they asked him, “Have you been killing any Jain monks?”

The merchant told them in detail all about the monk in his dream.

Then the judges said, “Let this wicked barber, who blindly imitated the merchant, be put to death.”

The barber was hanged. Then the judges said, “No wise man should follow the barber’s example, pursuing what he has neither accurately observed, nor properly understood, Neither correctly heard, nor sufficiently considered.” He who acts without due consideration, will afterward repent, as the Brahmin wife repented the death of the mongoose.

Now tell me how was that—asked the merchant. And the judge told this story. THE BRAHMIN’S WIFE AND THE

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