There once was a city where a king named Indra used to reside. The king owned a group of monkeys that provided entertainment for his sons, and the monkeys were well fed with large amounts of various foodstuffs everyday. The leader amongst all the monkeys was learned in the niti-shastras (codes of conduct) of Shukracharya, Brihaspati and Chanakya, and he used to teach the other monkeys from these books.
There was also a flock of sheep in the palace which the young princes used to ride. Amongst the sheep, there was one who was very greedy who would always fearlessly enter the kitchen, and whenever he would see anything, he would immediately devour it. Whatever the cooks in the kitchen could lay their hands on, they would beat the sheep with it.
Observing this behaviour, the leader of the monkeys thought, “Oh, this fight between the sheep and the cooks will eventually be the cause of destruction for us monkeys. This sheep is extremely greedy, and the cooks will beat the sheep with whatever is close at hand, then in no time at all, the fire will contact the abundantly wooly body of the sheep and it will start burning.
In such a situation, when the sheep is close to the stables, he will run inside, the hay will catch on fire, the entire stable will burn down and then the horses will be burned. In the shastra dealing with animal husbandry, Shalihotra has said, ‘Burns on horse flesh can be cured by using the skin of monkeys.’ For the sake of the horses, the king will certainly have the monkeys killed.”
Apprehending such a future, the old leader of the monkeys called all the other monkeys together and told them, “In this place where the sheep and the cooks are always fighting, we monkeys will certainly be killed. Therefore let us go to the forest before we are all destroyed.”
However, the proud and arrogant monkeys had no faith in the words of the old monkey. They ridiculed the old monkey, saying, “You must have gone senile due to your old age, that’s why you are talking like this! We are not going to give up the many nectarean delicacies that are fed to us by the very hands of the princes themselves, in order to live in the forest and chew on bitter, harsh, acrid hard fruits.”
Upon hearing the proud monkeys speak like this, the old monkey told them with his eyes brimming with tears, “O fools, you don’t know what will be the result of such happiness. Don’t you know that the result of the happiness you derive from relishing the taste of these eatables will ultimately become like poison to you? Anyhow, I don’t want to witness the destruction of our family and loved ones. I will leave for the forest immediately.”
After the old monkey had gone to the forest, one day that greedy sheep entered the kitchen again. Then, not seeing any other object, the cook grabbed a piece of half burning wood and proceeded to beat the sheep with it. Immediately the sheep screamed, ran straight into the nearby stable and as it rolled on the hay lying on the ground, the entire stable caught fire. Some of the horses tore away their binding ropes and, making a great noise, they started running. This led to an alarming situation for all others.
Seeing all this, the king immediately called for the veterinary doctors and asked them how to treat the horses. They looked at the scriptures and said, “Maharaja! In this case, Maharshi Shalihotra has said –
kapinam medasa dosho vahrdaha-samudbhava
ashvanam nashamabhyeti tamah suryodaye yatha
“Just as the rays of the sun remove all darkness, similarly burns on a horse are removed by applying the fat of monkeys.”
The king ordered those doctors, “Treat these horses quickly so that they don’t become further affected due to their burns”. Upon hearing the advice of the doctors, the king immediately ordered the death of the monkeys. With various weapons, clubs and rocks, those monkeys were killed. When he learned that his sons, grandsons and brothers had been killed, the leader of the monkeys became very depressed.
Through this story about the old monkey, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, taught that those that follow the essential instructions of a genuine spiritual master and give up mundane association and material desires and completely engage themselves in hari-bhajana, will attain auspiciousness. And those that think, “I am much more intelligent. What more does this senile old teacher (Sri Gurudeva) understand in comparison to me?” and do not reject the desire to associate with wicked people, will certainly meet with disaster in the future. It will be too painful to see the annihilation of one’s near and dear ones, hence Sri Gurudeva leaves that place and goes to another place, thus manifesting the pastime of disappearance. Therefore it is supremely auspicious to follow Gurudeva’s advise and perform hari-bhajana, rejecting any bad association, when there is still enough time at our disposal.
(Translated from Upakhyane Upadesha)