Louis Jacolliot - The Bible in India - 05 The Story of Krishna: Parable of the fishermen
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Louis Jacolliot - The Bible in India – Chapter XIII
Parable plays a large part in the familiar instruction of the Hindoo Redeemer. Christna preferred this symbolic form when addressing himself to the people, who could less readily comprehend his philosophic lessons on the immortality of the soul and of future life. This manner of appealing to the intelligence and evoking the moral idea from the action of certain persons introduced for the purpose, is conformable to Oriental habits, and we know that fable and allegory are the produce of Asiatic literature. Nothing we think, will render the popular labours of Christna more comprehensible than citation of one of his most celebrated parables, that of the fisherman, which is held in such high respect and honour in India, as to be carefully impressed upon the memories of children from the most tender age.
Christna was returning from a distant expedition, and re-entering Madura with his disciples. The inhabitants flocked in crowds to meet him and to strew his way with branches.
At some leagues from the city the people halted, demanding to hear the holy word; Christna mounted a little eminence that overlooked the crowd, and thus began:
The Parable of the Fisherman.
On the banks of the Ganges, above the place where its sacred course divides itself into a hundred arms, lived a poor fisherman of the name of Dourga.
At dawn he proceeded to the river to make his ablutions after the manner prescribed by the holy books; and holding in his hand a freshly cut sprig of the divine herb, cousa, he piously repeated the prayer of the Savitri, preceded by the three mysterious words: Bhour, Bhouvah, Shouar (Earth, Air, Aether); then, soul and body thus purified, he went courageously to work to supply the wants of his large family.
The Lord had given him by his wife, whom he had married at the age of twelve years, in all the flower of her virgin beauty, six sons and four daughters, who were his joy, for they were pious and good like himself.
His eldest son was already able to assist him in conducting his boat and casting his nets, and his daughters, confined to the interior of the house, wove the long and silky hairs of the goat to make vestments, and pounded for their repast, the ginger, the coriander, and the saffron, for a paste, which, mixed with the juice of red pepper, should serve to dress the fish.
In spite of continued labour, the family was poor; for, jealous of his honesty and his virtues, the other fishers had combined against Dourga, and pursued him with their daily ill-treatment.
Now they deranged his nets, or during the night drew his boat up into the sands, that he might lose the whole next day in restoring it to the water.
Again, when on his way to the city to sell the produce of his fishing, they would snatch his fish from him by forcer or throw them into the dust, that, seeing them thus soiled, nobody might buy them.
Very often Dourga returned in sadness to his hut, thinking that ere long he would be unable to provide for the wants of his family. Nevertheless, he failed not to present the finest fish he caught to saintly hermits, and received all the miserable who came knocking at his door, sheltered them under his roof, and shared with them the little he possessed, which was a constant subject of derision and mockery for his enemies, who directed all the beggars they met to him, saying to them, “Go, and find Dourga, he is a disguised prince, who only fishes from caprice."
And thus did they ridicule the misery which was their own work.
But the times became very hard for all the world : a frightful famine desolated the whole country, rice and smaller grains having completely failed at the last harvest. The fishers, enemies of Dourga, were very soon as miserable as himself, and, in their common misfortune, no longer thought of tormenting him.
One evening, as the poor man returned from the Ganges without having caught the smallest fish, remembering bitterly that nothing remained in his hut, he found a little child at the foot of a tamarind tree, weeping, and calling for its mother.
Dourga demanded of it whence it came, and who had thus abandoned it.
The child replied that its mother had left it there, saying she was going to seek it something to eat.
Moved with pity, Dourga took the poor little one in his arms, and conveyed it to his house ; his wife, who was good and kind, said he had done well not to leave it to die of hunger.
But there was no more rice, nor smoked fish; the curry stone had not resounded that evening in the hands of the young girls who strike it in cadence.
The moon rose silently in the celestial concave ; the whole family assembled for the evening invocation.
All at once the little child began to sing.
‘The fruit of the cataca purifies water, so good actions purify the soul. Take your nets, Dourga, your boat floats on the Ganges, and the fish await.
This is the thirteenth night of the moon, the shadow of the elephant falls to the east ; the manes of ancestors demand honey, clarified butter, and boiled rice; the offering must be presented.
Take thy nets, Dourga- thy boat is on the Ganges and the fish attend.
Thou shalt give a feast to the poor, where nectar shall flow as abundantly as the 'waters of the sacred river.
Thou shalt offer to the Roudras, and the Adytias (deceased ancestors), the flesh of a red-fleeced goat, for the times of trial are completed.
Take thy nets, Dourga, thirteen times shalt thou cast them ; thy bark floats on the Ganges, and the fish await.'
Dourga, amazed, thought it a notice sent him from above - he took his nets, and, with the strongest of his sons, descended to the waters edge.
The child followed them, entered the boat with them, and having taken an oar, directed their course.
Thirteen times were the nets cast into the water, and at each cast the boat, bending under the weight and the number of fish, was obliged to return and lighten itself of its load on the shore. And the last time the infant disappeared.
Full of joy, Dourga hastened to relieve the hunger of his children; then, immediately remembering that there were other sufferings to soothe, he ran to his neighbours, the fishermen, forgetting the evil he had received from them, to share with them his abundance.
These flocked in crowds, not daring to believe in such generosity, and Dourga, on the spot, distributed amongst them the remains of his miraculous capture.
During the whole time of the famine, Dourga continued not only to feed his old enemies, but also to receive all the unhappy who crowded about him. He had but to cast his nets into the Ganges, to obtain immediately all the fish he could desire.
The famine over, the hand of God continued to protect him; and he became at last so rich, that he was able alone to build a temple to Brahma of such sumptuous magnificence, that pilgrims from all parts of the globe came in crowds to visit it and to offer their devotions.
And it is thus, inhabitants of Madura, that you should protect weakness, aid each other, and never remember the offences of an enemy in his misfortune.