A Story about Senseless Scholars! (Post No. 2406)

lion water

Compiled by London swaminathan

Date: 19 December 2015


Post No. 2406


Time uploaded in London: 11-18

( Thanks for the Pictures  ) 





In a certain town there were four Brahmins who lived in friendship.  Three of them had reached the far shore of all scholarship, but lacked sense. The other found the scholarship distasteful. He had nothing but sense.


One day they met for consultation. “What is the use of attainments, said they, if one does not travel, win the favour of kings, and acquire money? Whatever we do, let us travel”.



But when they had gone a little way, the eldest of them said, “one of us, the fourth is a dullard, having nothing but sense .Now nobody gains the favourable attention of kings by simple sense without scholarship. Therefore we will not share our earnings with him. Let him turn back and go home”.



Then the second said, “My intelligent friend you lacked scholarship. Please go home”.


But the third said, “No, no, this is no way to behave for we have played together since we were little boys. Come along, my noble friend. You shall have the share of the money we earn.”



With this agreement they continued their journey, and in a forest they found the bones of a dead lion. There upon one of them said, “A good opportunity to test the ripeness of our scholarship. Here lies some kind of creature, dead. Let’s bring it to life by means of scholarship we have honestly won”.



Then the first said, “l know how to assemble the skeleton.”

The second said, “l can supply skin, flesh and blood”.

The third said, “I can give it life”.



So the first assembled the skeleton, the second provided the skin, flesh and blood. But while the third was intent on giving life, the man of sense advised against it remarking, “This is a lion. If you bring him to life, he will kill every one of us”.


“You simpleton, said the other, it is not I who will reduce scholarship to nullity. In that case, came the reply, wait a moment, while I climb this convenient tree”.


When this had been done, the lion was brought to life, rose up killed all the three. But the man of sense, after the lion had gone elsewhere, climbed down and went home.


And that is why I say,


“Scholarship is less than sense

Therefore seek intelligence

Senseless scholars in their pride

Made a lion, and they died”.



ganga boat

There is a similar story in the Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna:


Once several men were crossing the Ganges in a boat. One of them, a pandit, was making a great display of his erudition, saying that he had studied various books – the Vedas, the Vedanta, and the six systems of philosophy. He asked a fellow passenger,

“Do you know the Vedanta?”

“No, revered sir.”

“The Sankhya and the Patanjala?”

“No, revered sir.”

“Have you read no philosophy whatsoever?”

“No, revered sir.”


The pandit was talking in this vain way and the passenger sitting in silence, when a great storm arose and the boat was about to sink.

The passenger said to the pandit,

“Sir, can you swim?”

“No”, replied the pandit.

The passenger said, “I don’t know Sankhya or the Patanjala, but I can swim”


What will a man gain by knowing many scriptures? The one thing needful is to know how to cross the river of the world. God alone is real, and all else is illusory.





Amazing Andal: Where did she see the Lion?

Andal  is one of the famous women poets of Tamil Nadu. She lived around 8th century. Though she is known as a devotional poet, her knowledge in several subjects is amazing. She has sung about various subjects from Astronomy to Zoology. In her A to Z dealings, I am going to touch A for Astronomy and Z for Zoo in this article. Ancient Tamil women were well educated. We have scores of female poets (poetesses) in Sangam Tamil literature. We had more than one Avvaiyar in Tamil literature. Among the devotional poetesses Karaikal Ammaiyar of fifth century and Andal of 8th century AD are more popular.

Andals’s 30 verses known as Tiruppavai and  another 143 verses known as Nachiyar Tirumozi are household names in Tamil Vaishnavite families. Her wedding song Varanam Ayiram (part of Nachiyar Tirumozi) is sung in all the Vaishnavite Brahmin weddings. She is the only one female in the twelve famous Vaishnavite Saints known as Alvars.

Two of the 30 Tiruppavai verses are known for her knowledge in Animal Behaviour and Astronomy. One may wonder whether she encountered a lion in a forest or a zoo when one reads her description of a lion. Unless she had keen observation power or a personal visit to a zoo in Madurai near her native place Srivilliputur she would not have described the lion in the following manner:

“ As a fierce lion, which throughout the rains

Within his mountain lair has lain asleep

And awakes, and flashes fire from the eye

And angrily with bristling mane he moves

All of his body, and shakes himself and stands

Upright and roars, and lordly issues forth:

So who flowerlike art, come graciously

Forth from thy shrine; in grace upon by throne

Of cunning craftsmanship, search out the cause

That brings us here. Ah, Elorembavoy  (23)

(From Hymns of the Alwars by J S M Hooper)

Andal and Astronomy

Andal must be an amateur astronomer. Though she was a teenage girl she knew ornithology, zoology, astronomy etc. She mentioned a particular bird called Anaichathan (Asian Drongo Cuckoo or Valiyan Kuruvi) . Her keen observation of Venus rising and Jupiter setting in the early morning sky 1200 years ago helped us to confirm her period. We know approximately her period because of her father Periyalvar and the Pandya king of his times. Andal’s precise date was determined by her astronomical reference in the following verse:

Singing the glory of him

Who split the bird’s bill and killed

And Him who plucked the wicked demon as a weed

Girlies all reached the site of deity

Venus ascended and Jupiter had slept sunk;

Birds too clanged behold, belle gild:

The eye is a la flower or deer flirting?

Yet asleep in bed

Enjoin to dip and shiver in bath of cold;

Shed off thy stealth untold

This day is auspicious, consider our damsel.


In the very first verse of Tirupavai, she says that it was Full moon day in the month of Markazi.( Markazi thingal mathi niraintha nannaalal in Tamil) and then she says Venus ascended and Jupiter went down. This happened on 18th December 731 AD according to scholars Raghava Iyengar and KG Shankar. Thanks to Andal we were able to pinpoint the date.

I am giving both the verses in Tamil for the benefit of Tamil readers:


Animal behaviour:

மாரிமலை முழைஞ்சில் மன்னிக்கிடந்து உறங்கும்

சீரிய சிங்கம் அறிவுற்றுத் தீவிழித்து

வேரி மயிர்ப்பொங்க எப்பாடும் பேர்ந்து உதறி

மூரி நிமிர்ந்து முழங்கிப் புறப்பட்டுப்

போதருமா போலே நீ பூவைப் பூவண்ணா உன்

கோயில் நின்று இங்ஙனே போந்தருளி, கோப்புடைய

சீரிய சிங்காசனத்திருந்து, யாம் வந்த

காரியம் ஆராய்ந்து அருள் ஏல் ஓர் எம்பாவாய் (திருப்பாவை 23)



புள்ளின்வாய் கீண்டானைப் பொல்லா அரக்கனைக்

கிள்ளிக் களைந்தானைக் கீர்ந்திமை பாடிப்போய்

பிள்ளைகள் எல்லாரும் பாவைக் களம் புக்கார்

வெள்ளி எழுந்து வியாழம் உறங்கிற்று

புள்ளும் சிலம்பின காண்! போது அரிக்கண்ணினாய்

குள்ளக் குளிரக் குடைந்து நீராடாதே

பள்ளிக் கிடத்தியோ பாவாய்! நீ நன்னாளால்

கள்ளம் தவிர்ந்து கலந்து ஏல் ஓர் எம்பாவாய் (திருப்பாவை 13)

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