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Panchatantra stories | The scholars and the lion - knowledge without wisdom
Written about eighteen centuries ago the Panchatantra is an ancient Indian treasure house of fables - all carrying messages we can learn from. The Panchatantra stories are interesting to read and entertain; the stories also carry 'morals' and sharp insights that would prove very useful to anyone reading or listening.
The story of the scholars and the lion (retold below) is a Panchatantra story which shows how 'mere' knowledge without worldly wisdom is not only insufficient but downright dangerous.
The scholars go on a journey
Once upon a time in a small village there lived four friends - Ram, Shyam, Raju and Gopu. Ram, Shyam and Raju were quite learned - they had studied for many years - first with the village teachers and then in an academy in the nearby town. They were filled with a whole lot of information and knowledge - they had read the ancient scriptures and the modern sciences; the old poets and the new pundits - from astrology to zoology they learnt it all, and on the way they picked up quite a few rare and strange sciences - so strange that there wasn't even a name for them. They were scholars and they were exceedingly proud of it.
But Gopu wasn't thought to be a learned man. His academic education stopped with the modest village teacher - no academy for him - but his education was continuing every day - life his only teacher.
One day the three scholars decided to go on a journey across the world to broaden their minds. As a close friend Gopu also wished to accompany them and the three scholars reluctantly agreed.
The four friends set off. They went a long way and visited many villages and towns. One day they had to cross a forest to reach the next town. As they were walking past they saw a pile of bones on the ground. As the friends looked on at that, they started wondering who or what it could have been. They remembered some of the strange knowledge they had picked up. Ram could take up a pile of bones and turn it into a complete skeleton. Shyam had learnt how to endow a skeleton with flesh and skin and make it look life-like and Raju had learnt how to actually breathe life into such a figure and make it come alive! The three scholars looked at each other.
"Shall we," began Ram. "Bring this thing to life," burst out Shyam and Raju. "After all, we know how to. Let us test our knowledge."
But Gopu cautioned them. "Better not try it," he said. "We know not what it may turn to be. What if it is some dangerous creature that attacks us."
But the three scholars did not welcome this advise. "We are the scholars," they exclaimed. "What do you know? You must be jealous of us and our skills."
In spite of his best attempts, Gopu was unable to convince them to avoid what he felt was a foolish exercise.
"I want no part of this," cried Gopu and climbed up to the top of a tree.
Ram set to work and the pile of bones soon turned into a skeleton.
At once Gopu could see that it looked very much like the skeleton of a lion. He warned his friend again from the top of the tree. "This seems to be a lion's skeleton. Please stop this foolish exercise!" But they heeded not.
Then it was Shyam's turn - and soon a realistic looking lion appeared. "It is really a lion," cried Gopu. But the foolish scholars merely admired their handiwork and did not heed his pleas.
Finally Raju did his bit and breathed life into the lion.
With a loud roar the lion came to life and promptly pounced on and killed the three scholars.
Poor Gopu watched all from the top of the tree. But there was nothing he could do. After a while as the lion went away, he came down. With a heavy heart he went back to his home village and informed the villagers of the incident.
"My friends were so learned, they acquired so much knowledge but no practical wisdom," he cried.
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