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The Brahmin and the Cobra

(Story found in:  Franklin Edgerton's reconstruction Durgasimha's Kannada translation Purnabhadra's recension Hitopadesha by Narayana )

There was a Brahmin called Haridatta who had a farm in a certain town. He was hard-working. But despite his hard work on his farm, his farm did not produce enough for him to prosper.
 
One day, while working in the farm, he could not bear the heat anymore and decided to rest under the shade of a tree in his farm. Beside the tree, there was an anthill. While he was resting there, a cobra emerged from the anthill with his hood raised.
 
Observing this, he thought, "This cobra must be the deity of the farm. From today, I will worship and offer oblations to the cobra. Perhaps, the cobra will bless the farm with a rich produce."
 
The Brahmin brought milk on a plate and offered it in front of the anthill and said, "I was not aware of your presence, O protector of my farm, please forgive me and accept my offering."
 
As was the tradition, he went home after he made the offering. The next day, when he came to the anthill, he saw a gold coin on the plate he had offered milk in. He accepted the gold coin as a blessing from the cobra.
 
This went on for a long time. Every day, the Brahmin would offer milk to the cobra and received a gold coin in the plate he offered the milk in. He started growing rich.
 
After some time, the Brahmin needed to visit another village. In order that the worship of the cobra was not hampered, he instructed his son to offer milk to the cobra every day, and keep the blessing the cobra gives in return.
 
Following his instructions, the Brahmin's son did offer milk to the cobra in due time and went home. When he returned next day, he was astonished to find a gold coin lying in the plate.
 
He thought, "If the cobra gives a gold coin every day, there must be lots of gold coins inside the anthill. I can take out all the gold coins if I kill the cobra."
 
The next morning, instead of offering milk, the Brahmin's son waited for the cobra to emerge from the anthill and hit the cobra with a stick in an attempt to kill him. The cobra fought back angrily as it was not a deadly blow, and bit the Brahmin's son. He died from the poison, and his body was cremated in the very farm by their relatives.
 
When the Brahmin returned, he heard what had happened and that his son had died. His relatives wanted to kill the cobra for revenge.
 
The Brahmin was indeed aggrieved for his son's death, but did not favour his behaviour that led to his death. He did not blame the cobra, and defended the cobra's action.
 
The next morning, the Brahmin went to offer milk to the cobra as usual. He stood near the anthill and started praying. On hearing this, the cobra came out of the anthill and confronted him.
 
The cobra said, "Look at yourself. You have even forgotten your son's death and have come here out of the greed for a gold coin! You do not come here out of respect, but for greed. Our friendship cannot last any longer now".
 
The cobra continued, "I bit your son in retaliation to his attack. He got greedy for gold and died. What he did was out of his youthful rashness, but how can you forget his death? Take a look at the funeral pyre, and take a look at my injured hood."
 
The cobra gifted the Brahmin with a diamond this time, and said, "Shattered love cannot be restored with a display of affection. Never come here again!"
 
The Brahmin went home with the diamond, and grieved his son's foolishness and his death, and did not return to the cobra again.
 
The wise indeed say:
Greed crosses all borders of reasoning and ends in disaster.
 
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