|An extended story of the proverbial race between the hare and the tortoise.
The twists and turns have a telling message for humanity.
The day the tortoise won the race, the hare lost its sleep. Even an ant, the tiniest of the jungle’s denizens, looked away mocking as it passed the hare. The hare found it cumbersome to live with his own failure. He felt that every leaf in the jungle was laughing at him. And the last straw was the day when the fox derided him, “You lost before a tortoise!” These insulting words pierced him like a shaft of fire, igniting an inferno in every pore of his body. His mind and soul became hot and sore because of the affront. He resolved to get his own back on the tortoise, come what may.
Vengeance consumes an individual, degrading him to a state of intense agitation. Only one thought revolved in the hare’s mind all through the days and nights that followed – to make the tortoise forget to ever compete with his kind for seven generations. And thus the hare lost his natural and easy going flair in life. His single-pointed mission denatured his once affable and virtuous nature. As he walked he felt the soft, budding green grass piercing him like daggers. He could no longer sit calmly in one place. His restlessness was akin to a compulsive gambler or an insulted person. Like them, he could neither sleep nor attend to his duties peacefully.
A defeated egotistic person resorts to a path of deceit and trickery to win. The hare’s state of mind was like that of the evil Shakuni. One day, a thought flashed in his mind, and he marched up to the tortoise.
“What do you want?” the tortoise tossed his head in arrogance, not even taking the slightest trouble to look at him.
For umpteen generations not one tortoise had till then defeated a hare in a race. Such an epic victory had filled the tortoise with airs. He lived in an altitude of his own. And, further, ever since the day he had won, he listened to no one. Then what of the hare! The tortoise’s condescending response made the hare more sore and bitter. Both of them were a stark illustration of superiority. A person of such a nature is unable to withstand defeat, and if circumstances forced him to do so, then he would accept it with hatred and prejudice. Then, a minor failure becomes intolerable.
The tortoise’s insulting behaviour provoked the hare. The latter retorted, “Don’t you ever believe that you defeated me through your own might! Remember, I allowed you to win out of sheer mercy and concern for you. Now if you want to race again, then…” The tortoise cut him off midway and blared, “If you want to race again then bring a hundred hares like yourself. And then see what happens to you all!”
The victorious tortoise was totally intoxicated with pride. No other write-up except that of arrogance appeared on the front page of his mind. With his eye on the hare’s weaknesses of laziness, negligence and over-confidence, the tortoise had gone overboard at the thought of his own strength. He was counting all his strength and power on one accidental victory. It seemed that the tortoise had fallen in love with himself. He had become a narcissist – one who has great love for his abilities. He simply basked in his own thoughts of superiority. He resented hearing anything else except words of praise.
A person trapped in his own web of conceit cannot bear with anyone. In his meteoric victory and success, the tortoise did not listen to anyone. And the hare, out of his wounded pride, reacted explosively on the slightest jab or gesture at his debacle. A person becomes disoriented in times of praise or insult, and in victory or defeat. The first thing that he loses is vivek (decorum and discrimination between right and wrong).
The hare threw down the gauntlet, “Hey Tortoise! If you really are a great athlete, then come and race with me again.”
“Not once, but I’m ready to do it 17 times!” the tortoise announced with drunken arrogance.
“And that is precisely why I have come to you,” the hare replied with an inflated chest. And then he spelled out the route for the race, “Look, the destination is that hill over there, beyond the river bank and the jungle.”
“Why upto the hill! I’m ready to race to the skies,” replied the immodest tortoise. The hare simply replied with a silent, concealed smile.
The day of the race arrived. The news of the event had spread to all corners of the jungle. Animals from all quarters started assembling to see the great race. On seeing the tortoise, the animals whispered among themselves, “O, he is the one who beat the hare!” The accolade stoked the fires of ego within the tortoise’s heart. And on seeing the hare, the animals smiled wryly and chattered disapprovingly. This further fuelled the fires of insult in the hare’s heart.
The great moment had arrived. The fox announced, “On your marks! Get set! Go!”
And the tortoise was off. He exerted himself to the maximum, waging all that he had to save his prestige. He didn’t want to lose.
But on the other hand, the hare surprisingly proceeded ahead grazing at a casual, pedestrian pace. His show of open negligence was a signal to others that he could overtake and win the tortoise in a flash.
What a silly spectacle the two were making of themselves – one rooted in victory and the other in the prospect of victory. It was a clash of two egos. A competition between arrogance and arrogance!
The speeding tortoise looked behind every now and then. But the hare was nowhere in sight. The tortoise rebuked the hare in his mind, “O coward, how stupid can you be to challenge me!”
When the tortoise soon reached the jungle, he stood paralysed and shocked, with eyes wide open. He had stopped stiff, in both step and mind. The jungle was full of thorns and thick bushes. He found himself in a fix because of the hare’s plan. For generations his ancestors had never crossed such a perilous terrain. He desperately tried to find a way, but failed. The stalemate was unbearable and terribly painful. The tortoise was left in a quandary, “What would happen to his pride?” He saw his pride drain in a torrent of sweat and despair. There was nothing he could do.
A little while later the hare arrived, and it effortlessly got through the bushes and thorns. Then, he blew a whistle, “Buddy! Are you OK! If you are hungry then come on over here. See how green the fields are!”
The tortoise smarted at every word uttered by the hare. His mind convulsed and his feet stomped the ground. He felt like wringing the hare’s neck, but…! The imminent frustration of defeat pierced him more than the thorns could have before him. The hare, taking advantage of his situation, shot out at the tortoise, “Friend, say it only once that you’ve lost!”
The tortoise simply stood flummoxed. What could he say?
According to the rules, the hare then touched the top of the hill and returned in guffaws. He went to the tortoise, still standing before the thorns and bushes, and spoke in his ears, “Tortoise! You have lost, haven’t you! Don’t you ever think of racing with me again. Understand!”
The inflamed tortoise stretched out its hand to strangle the hare, but the latter scurried away. The tortoise simply watched, pledging supremely, “When another opportunity comes my way and if I fail to retaliate, then I am not Mr Tortoise!”
Dear readers, do you think the story of the victorious hare and the crestfallen tortoise ends here? If you think so then you are mistaken.
In the first race, the hare lost.
The second time, the tortoise lost.
But what will happen in the next race?
The euphoria in which the hare was in victory, will be the state of the tortoise.
The tortoise, enraged by the bitterness of defeat and disgrace, will resort to all unethical ways to defeat the hare. And so the tragedies of victory and defeat will continue all through their lives. They will both exhaust themselves till death in plotting each other’s defeat. The dualities of victory and defeat will lock both of them in mutual conflict, hatred, jealousy, deception, and misery. They will lose their happiness, peace, harmony and smiles.
Has arrogance ever allowed anyone to live in peace and happiness? Bhagwan Swaminarayan has stated, “Ego is the cause of anger, envy, jealousy and betrayal.” (Vach. Vartal-11). And he adds further that as long as one is under the influence of such gunas, one can never be happy (Vach. Gadhada II-51).
In conclusion, the story of ego has no end. It makes no truce for peace. So, for those aspiring or striving to reign over others, this eternal truth can be understood and realized through the innumerable testimonies that history continues to provide for millennia.
Translation: Sadhu Vivekjivandas
But will we ever understand!