Among The Robbers

Chapter 4 from "Karma" by Paul Carus.

Years passed on and Pandu's vihara at Kaushambi became a place in which wise samanas used to stay and it was renowned as a centre of enlightenment for the people of the town.

At that time the king of a neighboring country had heard of the beauty of Pandu's jewelry, and he sent his treasurer to order a royal diadem to be wrought in pure gold and set with the most precious stones of India. Pandu gladly accepted the order and executed a crown of the most exquisite design. When he had finished the work, he started for the residence of the king, and as he expected to transact other profitable business, took with him a great store of gold pieces.

The caravan carrying his goods was protected by a strong escort of armed men, but when they reached the mountains they were attacked by a band of robbers led by Mahaduta, who beat them and took away all the jewelry and the gold, and Pandu escaped with great difficulty. This calamity was a blow to Pandu's prosperity, and as he had suffered some other severe losses his wealth was greatly reduced.

Pandu was much distressed, but he bore his misfortunes without complaint, thinking to himself: "I have deserved these losses for the sins committed during my past existence. In my younger days I was very hard on other people; because I now reap the harvest of my evil deeds I have no reason for complaint."

As he had grown in kindness toward all beings, his misfortunes only served to purify his heart; and his chief regret, when thinking of his reduced means, was that he had become unable to do good and to help his friends at the vihara to spread the truths of religion.

Again years passed on and it happened that Panthaka, a young samana and disciple of Narada, was travelling through the mountains of Kaushambi, and he fell among the robbers in the mountains. As he had nothing in his possession, the robber-chief beat him severely and let him go.

On the next morning Panthaka, while pursuing his way through the woods, heard a noise as of men quarreling and fighting, and going to the place he saw a number of robbers, all of them in a great rage, and in their midst stood Mahaduta, their chief; and Mahaduta was desperately defending himself against them, like a lion surrounded by hounds, and he slew several of his aggressors with formidable blows, but there were too many for him; at last he succumbed and fell to the ground as if dead, covered with wounds.

As soon as the robbers had left the place, the young samana approached to see whether he could be of any assistance to the wounded men. He found that all the robbers were dead, and there was but little life left in the chief.

At once Panthaka went down to the little brooklet which was murmuring near by, fetched fresh water in his bowl and brought it to the dying man. Mahaduta opened his eyes and gnashing his teeth said: "Where are those ungrateful dogs whom I have led to victory and success? Without me as their chief they will soon perish like jackals hunted down by skillful hunters."

"Do not think of your comrades, the companions of your sinful life," said Panthaka, "but think of your own fate, and accept in the last moment the chance of salvation that is offered you. Here is water to drink, and let me dress your wounds; perhaps I may save your life."

"Alas! alas!" replied Mahaduta, "are you not the man I beat but yesterday? And now you come to my assistance, to assuage my pain! You bring me fresh water to quench my thirst, and try to save my life! It is useless, honorable sir, I am a doomed man. The churls have wounded me unto death- the ungrateful cowards! They have dealt me the blow which I taught them."

"You reap what you have sown," continued the Samana; "had you taught your comrades acts of kindness, you would have received from them acts of kindness; but having taught them the lesson of slaughter, it is but your own deed that you are slain by their hands."

"True, very true," said the robber chief, "my fate is well deserved; but how sad is my lot, that I must rear the full harvest of all my evil deeds in future existences! Advise me, O holy sir, what I can do to lighten the sins of my life which oppress me like a great rock placed upon my breast, taking away the breath from my lungs."

Said Panthaka: "Root out your sinful desires; destroy all evil passions, and fill your heart with kindness toward all your fellow-beings.

Chapter Five

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