The Tiger and the Jackal

Appearance can be deceptive. Mahabharata talks in detail about this valuable adage. In this week’s edition, we discuss this through a Mahabharata story. Read on..

In ancient times, in a city called Purika there lived a King called Paurika. He was very cruel by nature and delighted in hurting others. Having spent his entire life in misdeeds he met an undesirable end too. He was reborn as a jackal. Remembering his previous birth and the prosperity he enjoyed, he regretted the way he lead his life and was filled with grief and remorse.

Knowing the cause of his fall, in this birth as a jackal he abstained from eating meat even when brought before him by others. He subsisted only on fruits that fell off the trees on their own accord. He became compassionate in nature and truthful in speech. The jackal which was born in a graveyard chose to remain there itself and did not seek to change his abode to anything finer.

Seeing this jackal lead such a pure life the others of his species were jealous of it and endeavoured to make him change his ways. They all went to him and speaking sweetly said, “Though you are living in a grave, you desire to lead a pure life! Don’t you think this is kind of paradoxical? You don’t seem to understand what is right and wrong. It will do you good to be like us and eat like us. Your very nature would make you crave for meat. So instead of abstaining from it, eat meat. All of us will give you food.”

The intelligent jackal replied, “It is one’s conduct that determines one’s greatness and not one’s birth. I do not desire to lead a life like you which is evil and would serve no good both here and hereafter.”

A tiger of great prowess happened to overhear this conversation and was very impressed by the intelligence and conduct of the jackal. The tiger slowly approached the jackal and paying him due respect, conveyed his desire to appoint the jackal as his minister.

The tiger said, “Oh dear jackal! I am very impressed by your intelligence! It would be a honour if you can work in the government with me. You shall also be able to lead a happy and contented life by enjoying what you desire and abandoning that which does not suit you. But I do warn you that we tigers are fierce by nature. As long as you are mild you will be benefitted and reap advantages.”

Hearing this wonderful offer of the tiger, the Jackal replied, “Oh King of beasts! It is worthy of you to seek ministers of pure behaviour and conversant with duties and worldly affairs. Such ministers alone should be appointed who are devoted to you, are conversant with policy, are independent of one another, desirous of seeing you victorious, unstained by covetousness, free from deceit, possessed of wisdom ever engaged in your good and endued with great mental vigour. But, Oh King, since I am perfectly happy and contended with my way of life and present position, I do not desire to change it for anything else. I do not desire any luxury or pleasure that arises from them. Again, I may be very different from your other ministers and they may not like me. That may in turn make them turn you against me. Dependence for whatever cause is not desirable or praiseworthy. Right now I am living a completely independent life and have never served another. It is said that those who live by the side of king will have to endure great pain in consequence of evil speeches against themselves but those who live in the woods pass their days fearlessly without any anxiety. Simple food and drink obtained without effort and luxurious food procured with fear widely differ from each other. Reflecting thus, I am of the opinion that there is happiness where there is no anxiety.

If in spite of my saying so you wish to appoint me as you minister, I would agree only on your acceptance of a few conditions regarding the behaviour you have to adopt towards me always. Whatever I speak for your welfare should be listened and heeded by you. The provision you make for me should not be interfered with by you. I shall never consult any of your other ministers. If I do, desirous of superiority they may make false charges against me. So I shall meet you in private and in secret and say what is good for you. You should not consult me regarding your relatives. And having consulted with me you should not punish other ministers.

Thus addressed by the jackal, the tiger said, “Let it be so” and appointed him as his minister. The jackal too accepted the offer of the king and became his minister. Seeing the jackal being treated with special respect and honoured for his acts, the old servants were much annoyed and hated the jackal. Having the jackal for ruler now, the wicked ministers could not appropriate the wealth of the kingdom and were much perturbed by this. They first tried to speak sweetly to the jackal and make him see their ways and the advantages thereof. They even tried to bribe him to allure his heart. Possessed of great wisdom, the jackal did not fall prey to any temptation.

Disappointed by this, a few of the wicked ministers joined hands to plot against the jackal. They took away well-dressed meat that was intended for the king and placed it in the house of jackal. When the jackal saw the meat in his house, he understood who were behind it and their intention. But he tolerated it because he had added in the condition when he took the job that the king should not mistrust him without proper cause and wanted to see how the king took it.

When the tiger feeling hungry came to eat he found no meat for dinner. Knowing his dinner to be stolen, the king ordered the thief to be found immediately. Waiting for this opportunity, the deceitful ministers said, “Oh King! It is that proud jackal whom you have appointed as a minister who is the thief. Indeed what you heard about him is entirely false. He is righteous in speech but his real disposition is sinful. A wretch in reality, he has disguised himself in the garb of virtue. We have proof for his sin this time. We shall, this very moment bring the meat meant for you from his house.”

Saying so, they made the meat be brought from the house of the jackal. The tiger was enraged. In fury, he ordered the jackal to be slain immediately. Hearing these words of the tiger, his mother came to that spot for giving him wise and beneficial counsel. She said, “Dear Son! Do not judge in a hurry! Wicked people are always after demeaning the good. Jealous people will stoop to anything to harm their enemy. The impure hate the pure. The idle hate the active. The unlearned hate the learned. The poor hate the rich. The unrighteous hate the righteous and the ugly hate the beautiful. These ministers of yours claim that the meat has been stolen by the wise jackal. But remember that the jackal does not eat any meat. So I urge you to ascertain the truth before you come to a conclusion. If a person ascertains everything after scrutiny, he is sure never to regret afterwards. O son! It is easy for a master to put a servant to death. However, forgiveness in persons possessed of power is praiseworthy. A good minister cannot be obtained easily. The Jackal is your well-wisher. The king who punishes the innocent going by the words of his wicked enemies, shall soon meet his own destruction in consequence of the wicked ministers that lead him to that conviction.”

When the tiger’s mother thus concluded her advice, a loyal minister stepped forward and revealed the plan of all the wicked ministers. When the jackal’s innocence was thus proved, the tiger acquitted the jackal and honoured him. However, pained by all that happened, the jackal refused to stay with the tiger. The jackal said, “Having honoured me first you have now insulted me. You thought I was your enemy. That being so how can I work under you again. If one is removed from employment and recalled again, he will not be faithful to the master. If you, who have insulted me so, employ me as your minister again how can I trust you? Or how can you trust me? I had placed a few conditions before I took up your employment. I told you not to misjudge me listening to others words. But you had forgotten all that. I cannot stay here anymore.”

Though the tiger tried to appease the jackal with sweet and assuring words, the jackal refused to stay and left the tiger. He went into the forest and observing vow quit his body. Thus the tiger lost a valuable minister and friend because he could not recognise his enemies from their appearance and talk.