Mahābhārata – Episode 97 - The Fox and the Virtue in being a Human

This article is part 97 of 112 in the series Mahābhārata

In the past, Kāśyapa, the son of a certain riṣi was run over by a chariot that belonged to a vaiśya. The chariot hit him and Kāśyapa fell down. He was greatly pained because of the incident.

He thought – ‘What is the use of this helpless life? I’ll die right away, right at this spot!’. He greatly lamented for the troubles that had come his way.

 Indra, who saw the state in which Kāśyapa was,  came down to the earth in the guise of a fox and told him the following – “Oh dear! Everyone wishes to be born as a human being. You are born as a human, a brāhmaṇa and a śrotriya, moreover. Will anyone who has got such a privileged birth give away his life so easily? The veda-s say that we must be proud of what we possess. When such is the case, you have no pride in the handsome form that you a gifted with. Aha! How blessed are those who possess hands like yours! Just as you are desirous of money, so are we desirous of wealth. Is there a greater thing than having a set of skilful hands? Because we, foxes don’t have hands, we will not be able to pick out even a thorn that gets stuck to our bodies. You have hands and have ten fingers on them – you can so easily protect yourselves.  O brahmana! We will not be able to shoo away the animals which stick to our body and constantly bite us. A person with hands can save himself from getting bitten by insects and protect himself from rain, cold and heat. He can experience comfort by donning clean clothes, sleeping on a nice bed and by eating cooked food that is tasty. He can also domesticate cattle and milk them. The cattle can be employed for his transportation and carrying load too. Lower animals suffer as they have no hands or a voice to speak. Are you an animal like us devoid of all privileges? You are fortunate not to be born as a fox, an insect, a mouse, a snake or a frog. You are not born as any of those lower animals. You must be glad that you are gifted with so many organs with great functionalities. Kāśyapa! This worm is eating me up. I would have plucked it off my body only if I had a set of hands like you do. My birth as a fox is the most helpless kind of birth possible. However, if I end my life by committing suicide by thinking thus, I don’t know what other birth I will be subject to in the future. Some are born in all prosperity but prosperity and happiness will not remain with us throughout our life. Where is the end for the craving for happiness? A person who is comfortable will desire to be the king in no time. Once he becomes the king, he will wish to be a devata; after becoming a devata, he will desire to be Devendra – the leader of the Gods. Thus, there is no end for his desires and he will never be satisfied. Will your desires rest in peace just because they have been fulfilled? If you put together more and more firewood, it will only kindle more and more fire. I understand that you are in pain currently, but keep in mind that you are an equal share of pleasure too. When you have both, why do you have to crib about? Many people don’t have hands. Even those who are blessed with hands become crippled with time. They might also get afflicted with various diseases. You have no handicap in your body and you are in good health. The society respects you. Thus, get up and perform your duties. Don’t compete with anyone. I was, apparently, a scholar of tarka (logic) in my previous birth and was a nāstika (a person who lacks trust in the vedas). I had no trust in anyone or anything and suspected the world too much. I was a fool. It is because of my character in my previous birth that I am born now as a fox. If I ever happen to be blessed with the life of a human in the future, I will make sure that I will perform austerities such as yajña, dāna and tapas. I will gain knowledge in the areas that go well with my innate nature and will keep away things that I am not supposed to be involved with."

Kāśyapa was surprised – “This fox seems to be very brainy, indeed! Where did it get its intelligence and maturity from?”

He then saw through the form of the fox with his eyes of wisdom and realised that it was Indra in disguise. He got up immediately and paid his respects to Indra. After seeking his permission, Kāśyapa returned home.

Yudhiṣṭhira – What is the purpose behind yajña, dāna, tapas and guruśuśrūṣā (service to a guru)?

Bhishma: People who are endowed with the qualities of śraddhā and bhakti are dānta (have their senses undercontrol) and sāttvika by nature. If they, by their very nature, perform good deeds and get to travel from one luxury to another, one sacred state to the next higher one and from one svarga to the next. Karma follows man like a shadow behind him. If he is upright, his shadow is upright too, if he sits down so does his shadow. The shadow runs behind a running man and sleeps next to a sleeping person. When the right time comes, it bears its fruits without any external motivation just as trees and plants bear fruits from time to time. Just as a calf identifies its mother even amidst a thousand cows, so does the karma of a person have its effects on the person it is associated with. Just as clothes get cleaned upon washing and all the accumulated dirt is removed, by performance of good deeds, pāpa fades away and a person’s wishes get fulfilled.


To be continued…

This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form.

The original Kannada version of Vacanabhārata is available for free online reading here. To read other works of Prof. Krishna Shastri, click here.



Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.



Arjun is a poet, translator, engineer, and musician. He is a polyglot, well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, Hindi, English, Greek, and German. He currently serves as Assistant Professor at Amrita Darshanam - International Centre for Spiritual Studies at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Bangalore. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature.


Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.

Prekshaa Publications

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...