There was a Brahmin in a certain town, who was a thief. It was believed that he had become a thief due to ill actions in his previous life.
One day, four Brahmins arrived in this town from a far-off place, to sell some wares. They had a successful business and earned a handful of money.
The thief watched them making money, and thought of stealing the money from them. He approached them as a friend, and soon won their confidence by quoting eloquently from the Holy Scriptures. He requested them to appoint him as their helping hand, to which they agreed.
One day, the Brahmins had sold all their wares. They decided that it would not be proper for them to travel with all the money. So, they purchased jewels with all the money that they had earned. Then, they cut open their thighs and hid the jewels inside. With the help of a special ointment, they healed their cuts.
In this manner, they concealed all their jewels. But, all this happened during the time that the thief was in service. So, he knew where they had hidden all their earnings. The thief wondered, "I have not got a chance to rob them till now. If I can accompany them when they travel homewards, I may be able to get a chance to steal them on the way. I can poison them on the way, and take away the precious jewels."
Later, when they started preparing to leave, the thief started weeping. He said, "Dear friends, the very thought of your departure makes me sad. After so many days that we have been together and shared a bond of love, I will be left all alone after you depart. Please take me along with you."
The Brahmins were moved by his emotions, and decided to take him with them, and the five of them started the journey.
On their way, they were going through the jungle and were crossing an area controlled by a wild tribe. The chief of the tribe had a magical crow as his pet, who could foresee many things.
As they came near their place, the crow screamed, "Quick! They have treasure! Kill them and take their treasure!"
When the tribesmen heard this, they captured the five friends. They searched them and their belongings, even removed their clothes, but found nothing.
The chief said, "You certainly have some treasure with you. The crow has never been wrong before. Hand over your treasure to us, or we will kill you, as the crow suggests. You may have eaten the treasure, and we may have to cut open your stomachs to recover them. Tell us the truth."
The thief, who was also a Brahmin, thought, "If they kill any of them, and search their bodies, they will recover jewels from the body. They will not believe me, and kill me too! They will not find any jewel, is another matter, but I will die anyway."
Thus, the Brahmin-thief made a firm resolution and said to the chief, "O Chief, you believe we have treasure hidden in our bodies. But it will be a mistake to kill all of us to pay for the crow's misunderstanding! I offer you myself. You may kill me, cut open my body to the very bones and see if you find any treasure."
The chief agreed, and thus, the Brahmin-thief sacrificed himself. The tribesmen looked into every bit of his body, but found nothing.
The chief was very confused; he believed that the crow must somehow have misunderstood. He humbly said to the remaining four Brahmins, "O travellers, it was a mistake to kill your friend, for he did not have any hidden treasure. I will not further my mistake by killing any of you. I release you from my captivity, please continue your journey."
In this manner, the four Brahmins, and the jewels were saved and continued their journey.
The wise indeed say: Better an intelligent enemy than a foolish friend.