(a tale from India)
Long ago, in Bengal, near the Ganges River Delta, there lived four Brahmans who had known each other their whole lives. They had studied hard, and they possessed great wisdom. Their land was well known for its rich literary heritage, for its beauty, for its forests, and for the magnificent Bengal tiger.
One day the four men were walking along the road, on their way to the royal city. They hoped that they could share their great wisdom with the king.
As they walked, they discussed their plan.
“Surely the king will want us to serve him, for together we possess immense wisdom,” said the first.
“Naturally this is so, and when we are working for the king, we shall share our money, equally,” said the second.
The third Brahman shook his head. “I don’t agree. Only three of us are accomplished scholars.” And with this the first three men turned and looked at their friend. The fourth man had not studied as much, but his great gift was his common sense.
The fourth man nodded at his friends. “I agree that you three are great scholars, but my wisdom is every bit as important, don’t you agree?”
The first man shook his head. “You are a very bright man, it is true, but not so learned as we.”
“I have learned much from living a life,” the fourth Brahman argued.
“But how many books have you read?” one of his friends asked.
The first three men began to count the number of books they had studied. “Many hundreds,” they agreed. “You simply do not know as much as we.”
“My common sense is a great gift,” the fourth man insisted.
“Useless!” said the first Brahman. “We will have complex problems to resolve at the palace.”
“Our knowledge will help the king to wage wars and plan cities, to rule his kingdom, to make decisions,” said the second Brahman.
“It is too bad you did not study more,” said the third Brahman.
They continued to walk, while the fourth Brahman thought over their words. Perhaps he ought to have read more books; maybe he should have studied day and night, the way his friends had studied. He considered his common sense and wondered if that mattered at all.
“You must be right,” he said at last, letting out a deep sigh, for in the distance he could see the city. He wondered if he ought to turn around and return home.
But just then they came upon the skeleton of an animal lying by the side of the road, its bones strewn here and there.
The first Brahman’s eyes lit up. “Now you will see how much I know!” he said gleefully. “I can assemble the bones of this creature in perfect order.”
The second Brahman smiled. “Of course you can,” he said, “but more important than that, I can put the flesh back on the beast.”
The third Brahman nodded, and he looked very seriously at his friends. “Ah, both of you are learned indeed, and I admire your abilities. But my knowledge is greatest of all, for I have learned how to bring this creature back to life.”
The first two men set to work, but the fourth Brahman hung his head. “You do indeed have astonishing powers,” he said to his friends as he watched them set to work.
Soon he could see that this beast was a Bengal tiger, a very large tiger. “I do not have your abilities,” he explained, “but I know a tiger when I see one, and I ask you to consider this. Bringing him to life out here with no protection for us might be a dangerous idea.”
The other three turned and looked at their friend. They laughed derisively. “Fool!” they cried. “We are not afraid.”
“Very well,” said the fourth Brahman, “but if you insist on bringing the tiger to life, I am going to hide in this tree.” He quickly climbed a nearby tree and sat in the branches high up, watching his friends at work.
The first Brahman finished at last and said, proudly, “There, the bones are assembled! As you see, I have made not one mistake.”
The second Brahman set to work, covering the bones carefully with the tiger’s flesh.
Then the third Brahman stepped proudly forward. “Quiet, as I do my work,” he said. “I must have silence, for this requires great concentration and immense intelligence, much learning and attention.” He bent over the tiger, and he began to chant, breathing life into the tiger’s body.
The Brahmans held their breath, and then gasped at the sight before them, for the tiger was stirring. All of a sudden, life rippled through his muscles and he surged to his feet, turning to face the three Brahmans. He licked his lips and then, with a mighty snarl, he pounced upon them.
From his place in the tree, the fourth Brahman watched as his friends struggled with the attacking tiger.
“Scholars you may be,” he said to himself, “but it is the life of common sense for me!”
And when the tiger was gone and it was safe, he climbed down from the tree, running away as fast as he could.