Panchatantra Stories – The Foolish Scholars
Hinduism is the main religion of India, although many Indians belong to other faiths, such as Buddhism. Hindus believe in the caste system and are divided into four main groups. The caste system began as a division of labor, so that everyone did the work assigned to them. But soon people began marrying and living within their own castes and the system became a rigid way of life in India. Hindus belong to the caste in which they are born. Brahmins are the highest caste; they are entrusted with reading the holy books, performing religious rites, praying and teaching. The Brahmins are considered intelligent and full of wisdom and are respected next to gods. Hindus all over the world consider it their duty to support them financially by making donations. They strongly believe that the donations please the gods and that this ensures a better place in their next life.
Once there were four Brahmin friends. Three of them were scholars of scripture, while the fourth was illiterate. He was considered wise since he was the son of a Brahmin. One day the four decided to travel around the world to become rich.
They set out on their journey. They managed to earn a lot of money. One day, not long after they had set out, one of them was absent. The eldest scholar said to the other two, “Thank God he is not with us today. Now I have the opportunity to speak. We three are the great scholars, while he is illiterate. We have knowledge through education, while he does not. We can read the holy books and perform religious ceremonies, and he can only help since he can not read. Why, then, should we share our earnings with him?”
“I agree,” said the second scholar. “Let us send him away.”
But the third scholar was not happy with the suggestion. “No we can’t do that. We have grown up together. It is not fair to abandon him now.
Eventually the three forgot their differences and remained friends with the fourth Brahmin. Soon the four were on the road again to continue with their long journey. “We must stop all this wandering about in search of wealth,” though the fourth Brahmin. “We need to find jobs, and settle down.”
Soon they came to a dense green forest, filled with birds and the sound of other animals. The forest was known to be home to tigers, lions and cobras.
“I don’t want to go through the forest,” said the first scholar. “The whole place is infested with snakes and birds.”
“Well,” said the fourth, “we have no choice. I am sure the animals will be too busy to notice us at this time of the day. Just the same, we should move very fast and very quietly.”
They were halfway through the forest when they came upon a pile of bones beneath a large tree.
“Hey, look at that,” cried the first scholar, considered to be the most intelligent of them all. “Let’s use our knowledge and put these bones back together, to bring this animal back to life.”
“Oh no, don’t do that. You don’t know what it is,” said the fourth Brahmin.
“Why don’t you keep quiet and let us do the thinking?” said the third scholar to the fourth. “You are the always afraid of something, because you are not learned as we are. You had better sit back quietly and let us do the right thing.”
“All right,” said the fourth Brahmin. “If you are so determined to bring life into these bones, let me first climb up a tree. I do not wish to stand by and watch a ferocious animal taking shape before my eyes.” And, he quickly climbed up a nearby tree while the others stood and laughed at him.
“You are stupid and ignorant,” jeered the first scholar after him.
But the fourth Brahmin ignored them. He sat on a branch and watched in silence as the first scholar collected the bones and arranged them into a skeleton. The second one added the skin, blood and flesh into the skeleton with his mystical powers. The third was about to put life into the body when the fourth called from the tree, “Watch out. It’s the body of a lion. He will kill us all if you bring him to life.”
But the others only laughed at him. “You just sit there and watch the magic of our skill and knowledge. It is a great thing to bring a dead creature to life,” laughed the first scholar. “Only the learned can do so. You cannot understand the joy of mastering this skill.”
The three then proudly carried on with their work. But as soon as the third scholar brought the lion to life, it sprang upon the three and killed them all. After making a great feast of his foolish creators, the created walked away for a deep slumber beneath the shade of a tree.
The fourth Brahmin watched it all, and when the lion went away, he cautiously climbed down the tree and ran home. He told everyone what had happened and added, “It is not knowledge but wisdom that is great. Alas, my learned friends did not understand this, in spite of being so well educated.”