Monday, January 30, 2012

The wicked cat says...

Hitopadesha (meaning Good Advice) is a collection of simple tales in Sanskrit which are a mix of the retelling of Panchtantra Tales by Vishnusharma (3rd century BCE) and new ones written by Narayan Pandit (12 century CE) in a way that are easily understood by children.

One of the stories is about a blind old vulture Jaradgav who is tricked by a wicked cat. The moral of the story is 'not to make thick friends with people without knowing them well'. But there is a couplet in the middle of the story which is of immense significance too.

Here the scheeming cat Deerghakarna, who is confronted by the angry vulture as it was trying to sneak up the tree and eat the new borns of the innocent birds, thinks to itself-

तावद् भयस्य भेतव्यम्, यावद् भयम् अनागतम्
आगतम् तु भयम् विक्ष्य, नरः कुर्यात् यथोचितम्

It means-

When danger is at a distance, that is the time to either fear it and run away or think of a plan to get out of it. A plan can be devised only by a rested and calm mind which is prepared to face what is ahead. But when it is at your doorstep facing you right in the face, it is the time for action. Fear or planning at that time are useless.

The gist implies that usually when the danger is afar we tend to neglect it. Only when it comes close do we either fear it or start planning to get out of it. And by the time we take action in this regard, more often than not it is very late and the calamity has already struck us. The above advice is dispensed keeping this human nature in mind.

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