Chapter 118 — Descriptions of Cranes, Herons, Deer & Travelers

Some companion said:—

Behold the crane which, despite lacking all good qualities, has one special instinct of uttering the sounds imitating the rain. O crane that resembles the swan in the color of your feathers, you might well be taken for a young swan if you were without the rapacity of the kingfisher. There is a line of kingfishers expert in diving amidst deep waters and catching fish in their wide extended beaks. Now they are sitting idly on the shore, not venturing into the water for fear of sharks floating there with open mouths and wide stretched jaws. Thus murderers also dive upon men like kingfishers and cry out saying, “This kingfisher is our instructor in killing.”

Seeing a white heron with its long neck and uplifted head sitting silently and watching on the shore, people first took it to be a swan. But afterward, finding it catch a shrimp from the marsh water, they came to know it as a heron. A woman saw a crane sitting on the shore for the entire day like a devotee. Meanwhile, in reality it was watching for prey until the evening shade, like day laborers do for their bread. “Look there,” says a wayfaring woman to her companion, “how these rustic women pluck lotuses from the frosty lake. If you like, you can follow them, but I will fall back from you.”

Look there, O lord, says the companion to the king, how that traveler appeases his angry mate and leads her to the flowery bower of the weedy bush. Look then, O lord, at the dalliance of the lady, and at her smiling face mixed with her frowning looks, and listen to her speech to her associate. 10 The crane, kingfisher and other rapacious birds that live together in the same place are all of the same mind and purpose. But the fool and wise man can never agree, though they live together in the same society forever. 11 As a cricket caught in a woodpecker’s bill whistles to his face, so the retribution of our past misdeeds unfolds and flies like a flag before us.

12 As long as the cruel crane of fate keeps clucking upon the tall tree on the shore, the fearful shrimp keep itself concealed in the bog with its inner fear. Hence there is no rest of the body or soul until the ultimate release of both. 13 The bodies of animals, devoured by rapacious beasts and birds, then disgorged unhurt and entire out of their bowels, resemble their rising from the lap of sleep or a state of profound trance. 14 The fear that overtakes fish in their native waters at the sight of rapacious animals is far greater than those of thunderclaps or thunderbolts falling upon them. This I know from my memories of my past life as a fish, and it cannot be denied by the wise.

15 See there a herd of deer resting in rapture on a bed of flowers under the shade of trees on the borders of the lake. Look also at the hive of the bees about the new blown flowers of the grove. 16 Look at the high minded and lofty headed peacock craving and crying aloud for rainwater to the great god of the clouds and rains. In return, the god Indra pours floods to fill the whole earth with water, for the greatness of gods looks to the general and individual good. 17 Peacocks, like suckling infants, attend on the clouds as their wet nurses. Or it may be that the black peacocks are the offspring of dark clouds. 18 Behold the wanderer looking with wonder on the eyes of the antelope and finding they resemble those of his dear one at home, remaining stupefied like a statue at the sight of the objects exposed to his view.

19 The peacock, instead of drinking water from the ground, forcefully snatches a snake from underneath. Wherefore I am at a loss to know which of these to blame for its malice. 20 Why is it that the peacock shuns to drink from the large lake, which is as generous as the minds of great men? It is content to swallow drops of rainwater, spit out and poured by clouds. It refuses to drink from the large lake for shame of having to stoop down his head. 21 See the peacock dancing, displaying his flashy feathers to the clouds and shaking their starry plumage in the rain as if they were the offspring of the rainy season. 22 A rainy dark cloud, carried by the wind from the bed of the ocean, appears over the forest lake and meets with the joyful dancing peacock below.

23 It is better for you, O chataka cuckoo, to pick up blades of grass for your food, drink water from fountains, and rest in the shady plantain grove of the forest. You should not have to dwell in the hollow cave of a withered tree in sultry heat because of your pride of never stooping down for your existence. 24 Think not, O peacock, that this cloud is a sea and home for sharks. Know it is a watery cloud, born of the smoke of wildfire and the vapors of mountains ascending to the sky. 25 The peacock, seeing a cloud full of rain even in autumn, sometimes becoming so scant of its supply as not even to fill a tank, sustains its thirst with patience, in gratitude to the cloud’s past favors. It does not blame its former supporter for failing or consider drinking any other earthly water like common people. 26 The peacock, accustomed to drinking crystal drops from clouds, would not stoop to drink dirty water from a ditch, though pressed and pinched by drought and thirst. The sweet memories of his past drink supports him from fainting, and the expectation of fresh drinks preserves him from dying.

27 Travelers lessen the struggles of their journey by conversation on the way, just as the ignorant who are unable to be with themselves communicate their thoughts with others to hide the dullness of their lives. 28 Look there, O lord, at the slender stalks of lotuses supporting the burden of the water on the lotus leaves like distant tender ladies carrying water pots on their heads. 29 Asked why they were carrying those of lotus flowers and leaves and for what use, they replied, to make cooling beds for reducing the fever heat of the love sick wives of travelers from their homes. 30 These impassioned ladies, with swollen breasts and youthful amorous play and the motions and gestures of their bodies, served to excite the memories of separated brides left behind by the travelers in their far distant homes.

31 “Ah surely,” says a traveler, “my dear one must be weeping and wailing in my absence, or falling down and rolling on the ground seeing that distant dark cloud in the sky.” 32 Behold there, lines of black bees fluttering on lotus cups and little bees giddy with the sweet nectar of flowers. Gentle breezes blow on all sides, blowing the fragrance of the opening blossoms. Meanwhile the leaves of trees are dancing to the tunes of the rustling winds.