While Brahma-Dutt ruled Banaras, Bodhisatva was born a lion. The lion used to dwell in a cave with his mate. One day, he stood on the hill and looked around for prey. He saw some hares and deers romping and playing in a meadow beside a pond. The lion roared and ran down the hill towards the field. But as he ran past the pond, he got stuck in a mire, and the creatures playing on the meadow scattered away.

Every time the lion tried to get out of the mire, he got deeper into it. So he kept quiet, anxiously hoping that someone would come there and rescue him. For a whole week, the lion was in that mire without food and water when he saw a jackal come to the pond to drink water. The jackal, too, saw the lion in the mud. He got frightened and stopped.

“Brother,” said the lion to the jackal, “I’ve been in the mire for a week, and I’m dying of hunger. Pity me, and get me out of here somehow.”

“You say you’re hungry,” said the jackal. “You may kill me. How can I believe you?”

“Would I kill the one who has saved my life? Never!” said the lion. “On the other hand, I will be grateful to you for life. Believe me!”

The jackal believed the lion. He brought some dry sticks and threw them in the mire in front of the lion, who managed to get a hold of them and come out safe. The lion kept his word to his rescuer. Both of them hunted some animals and filled their bellies.

“We are brothers,” the lion said to the jackal. “Let us be equals and live together. Come and live with me in my cave.”

The jackal agreed and came with his mate to live with the lions in their cave. He was flattered by the idea of being equal with the lions, but he knew very well the handicap involved in living away from his race. The lion, too, was conscious that his friend made a great sacrifice in coming to live with him. So he treated the jackal equally in every respect and behaved so carefully that the jackal never felt that he was living with his superiors.

But the lion’s mate had no such scruples. She looked upon the jackal’s mate as her social inferior. Nor did the fox’s mate resent it since she accepted her inferiority.

But the trouble started with the coming of the next generation of lions and jackals. The young ones played with one another as if there was no difference, and the lion’s mate did not like it.

She called her young aside and said to them, “Look, kids! Those foxes are our inferiors. Do not let them play with you as though they are your equals. Let them keep their distance. Do you understand?”

The mother’s teaching gradually infected the minds of the innocent cubs. They began to look down upon the young jackals, cheat them at play and tell them, “You shut up! We’re your superiors, and you can’t talk back to us. Is it not enough that we feed you and support you?”

The jackal’s mate was very much hurt by how the lion’s mate instigated her cubs against the young jackals. She told the jackal everything. Then the jackal went to the lion and said to him. “Sir, I am a common creature while you are of the ruling class. There cannot be anything common between us. It is better that I go back with my family to live amidst creatures of my race.”

The lion was surprised at the sudden change in his friend and asked why. The jackal told him everything. The lion asked his mate, “Is it true that you look down upon the young jackals?”

“Why not?” she retorted. “I certainly resent the idea of the young jackals playing with our young as though they were our equals. That jackal has successfully doped you into thinking he is your equal, but I’m going to prevent my kids’ minds from being poisoned that way.”

“Is that so?” said the lion. “Well, let me inform you how the jackal happened to dope me. Do you remember that I didn’t come home for a whole week? Well, at that time, I was stuck up in a bog without food or water. As I was about to die, this jackal came along and got me out very cleverly. Had it not been for him, I wouldn’t have been here, nor the kids. Claiming superiority over someone who saved you from death is a great crime. Insulting him is insulting your kith and kin.”

On hearing this, the lion’s mate was so ashamed of herself that she begged the jackal’s mate to pardon her. After that, the lions and the jackals lived like equals for seven generations.

Chandamama January 1956

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