Then the king went back through the night to the cemetery filled with ghouls, terrible with funeral piles that seemed like ghosts with wagging tongues of flame. But when he came to the sissoo tree, he was surprised to see a great many bodies hanging on the tree. They were all alike, and in each was a goblin twitching its limbs.
And the king thought: “Ah, what does this mean? Why does that magic goblin keep wasting my time? For I do not know which of all these I ought to take. If I should not succeed in this night’s endeavour, then I would burn myself alive rather than become a laughing-stock.”
But the goblin understood the king’s purpose, and was pleased with his character. So he gave up his magic arts. Then the king saw only one goblin in one body. He took him down as before, put him on his shoulder, and started once more.
And as he walked along, the goblin said: “O King, if you have no objections, I will tell you a story. Listen.”
The Youth who went through the Proper Ceremonies. Why did he fail to win the magic spell?
There is a city called Ujjain, whose people delight in noble happiness, and feel no longing for heaven. In that city there is real darkness at night, real intelligence in poetry, real madness in elephants, real coolness in pearls, sandal, and moonlight.
There lived a king named Moonshine. He had as counsellor a famous Brahman named Heaven-lord, rich in money, rich in piety, rich in learning. And the counsellor had a son named Moon-lord.
This son went one day to a great resort of gamblers to play. There the dice, beautiful as the eyes of gazelles, were being thrown constantly. And Calamity seemed to be looking on, thinking: “Whom shall I embrace?” And the loud shouts of angry gamblers seemed to suggest the question: “Who is there that would not be fleeced here, were he the god of wealth himself?”
This hall the youth entered, and played with dice. He staked his clothes and everything else, and the gamblers won it all. Then he wagered money he did not have, and lost that. And when they asked him to pay, he could not. So the gambling-master caught him and beat him with clubs.
When he was bruised all over by the clubs, the Brahman youth became motionless like a stone, and pretended to be dead, and waited. After he had lain thus for two or three days, the heartless gambling-master said to the gamblers: “He lies like a stone. Take him somewhere and throw him into a blind well. I will pay you the money he owes.”
So the gamblers picked Moon-lord up and went far into the forest, looking for a well. Then one old gambler said to the others: “He is as good as dead. What is the use of throwing him into a well now? We will leave him here and go back and say we have left him in a well.” And all the rest agreed, and left him there, and went back.
When they were gone, Moon-lord rose and entered a deserted temple to Shiva. When he had rested a little there, he thought in great anguish: “Ah, I trusted the rascally gamblers, and they cheated me. Where shall I go now, naked and dusty as I am? What would my father say if he saw me now, or any relative, or any friend? I will stay here for the present, and at night I will go out and try to find food somehow to appease my hunger.”
While he reflected in weariness and nakedness, the sun grew less hot and disappeared. Then a terrible hermit named Stake came there, and he had smeared his body with ashes. When he had seen Moon-lord and asked who he was and heard his story, he said, as the youth bent low before him: “Sir, you have come to my hermitage, a guest fainting with hunger. Rise, bathe, and partake of the meal I have gained by begging.”
Then Moon-lord said to him: “Holy sir, I am a Brahman. How can I partake of such a meal?”
Then the hermit-magician went into his hut and out of tenderness to his guest he thought of a magic spell which grants all desires. And the spell appeared in bodily form, and said: “What shall I do?” And the hermit said: “Treat that man as an honoured guest.”
Then Moon-lord was astonished to see a golden palace rise before him and a grove with women in it. They came to him from the palace and said: “Sir, rise, come, bathe, eat, and meet our mistress.” So they led him in and gave him a chance to bathe and anoint himself and dress. Then they led him to another room.
There the youth saw a woman of wonderful beauty, whom the Creator must have made to see what he could do. She rose and offered him half of her seat. And he ate heavenly food and various fruits and chewed betel leaves and sat happily with her on the couch.
In the morning he awoke and saw the temple to Shiva, but the heavenly creature was gone, and the palace, and the women in it. So he went out in distress, and the hermit in his hut smiled and asked him how he had spent the night. And he said: “Holy sir, through your kindness I spent a happy night, but I shall die without that heavenly creature.”
Then the hermit laughed and said: “Stay here. You shall have the same happiness again to-night.” So Moon-lord enjoyed those delights every night through the favour of the hermit.
Finally Moon-lord came to see what a mighty spell that was. So, driven on by his fate, he respectfully begged the hermit: “Holy sir, if you really feel pity for a poor suppliant like me, teach me that spell which has such power.”
And when he insisted, the hermit said: “You could never win the spell. One has to stand in the water to win it. And it weaves a net of magic to bewilder the man who is repeating the words, so that he cannot win it. For as he mumbles it, he seems to lead another life, first a baby, then a boy, then a youth, then a husband, then a father. And he falsely imagines that such and such people are his friends, such and such his enemies. He forgets his real life and his desire to win the spell. But if a man mumbles it constantly for twenty-four years, and remembers his own life, and is not deceived by the network of magic, and then at the end burns himself alive, he comes out of the water, and has real magic power. It comes only to a good pupil, and if a teacher tries to teach it to a bad pupil, the teacher loses it too. Now you have the real benefit through my magic power. Why insist on more? If I lost my powers, then your happiness would go too.”
But Moon-lord said: “I can do anything. Do not fear, holy sir.” And the hermit promised to teach him the spell. What will holy men not do out of regard to those who seek aid?
So the hermit went to the river bank, and said: “My son, mumble the words of the spell. And while you are leading an imaginary life, you will at last be awakened by my magic. Then plunge into the magic fire which you will see. I will stand here on the bank while you mumble it.”
So he purified himself and purified Moon-lord and made him sip water, and then he taught him the magic spell. And Moon-lord bowed to his teacher on the bank, and plunged into the river.
And as he mumbled the words of the spell in the water, he was bewildered by its magic. He forgot all about his past life, and went through another life. He was born in another city as the son of a Brahman. Then he grew up, was consecrated, and went to school. Then he took a wife, and after many experiences half pleasant, half painful, he found himself the father of a family. Then he lived for some years with his parents and his relatives, devoted to wife and children, and interested in many things.
While he was experiencing all these labours of another life, the hermit took pity on him and repeated magic words to enlighten him. And Moon-lord was enlightened in the midst of his new life. He remembered himself and his teacher, and saw that the other life was a network of magic. So he prepared to enter the fire in order to win magic power.
But older people and reliable people and his parents and his relatives tried to prevent him. In spite of them he hankered after heavenly pleasures, and went to the bank of a river where a funeral pile had been made ready. And his relatives went with him. But when he got there he saw that his old parents and his wife and his little children were weeping.
And he was perplexed, and thought: “Alas! If I enter the fire, all these my own people will die. And I do not know whether my teacher’s promise will come true or not. Shall I go into the fire, or go home? No, no. How could a teacher with such powers promise falsely? Indeed, I must enter the fire.” And he did.
And he was astonished to feel the fire as cool as snow, and lost his fear of it. Then he came out of the water of the river, and found himself on the bank. He saw his teacher standing there, and fell at his feet, and told him the whole story, ending with the blazing funeral pile.
Then his teacher said: “My son, I think you must have made some mistake. Otherwise, why did the fire seem cool to you? That never happens in the winning of this magic spell.”
And Moon-lord said: “Holy sir, I do not remember making any mistake.” Then his teacher was eager to know about it, so he tried to remember the spell himself. But it would not come to him or to his pupil. So they went away sad, having lost their magic.
When the goblin had told this story, he asked the king: “O King, explain the matter to me. Why did they lose their magic, when everything had been done according to precept?”
Then the king said: “O magic creature, I see that you are only trying to waste my time. Still, I will tell you. Magic powers do not come to a man because he does things that are hard, but because he does things with a pure heart. The Brahman youth was defective at that point. He hesitated even when his mind was enlightened. Therefore he failed to win the magic. And the teacher lost his magic because he taught it to an unworthy pupil.”
Then the goblin went back to his home. And the king ran to find him, never hesitating.