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The Cruel Crane Outwitted

Crane Flapping Its Wings

A tailor who used to make robes for the brotherhood was wont to cheat his customers, and thus prided himself on being smarter than other men. But once, on entering on an important business transaction with a stranger, he met his master in the way of cheating, and suffered a heavy loss.

The Blessed One said:

“This is not an isolated incident in the greedy tailor's fate; in other incarnations he suffered similar losses, and by trying to dupe others ultimately ruined himself. This same greedy character lived many generations ago as a crane near a pond, and when the dry season set in, he said to the fishes with a bland voice: care you not anxious for your future welfare There is at present very little water and still less food in this pond. What will you do should the whole pond become dry, in this drought?”

‘Yes, indeed' said the fishes what should we do?' Replied the crane: ‘I know a fine, large lake, which never becomes dry. Would you not like me to carry you there in my beak?' When the fishes began to distrust the honesty of the crane, he proposed to have one of them sent over to the lake to see it; and a big carp at last decided to take the risk for the sake of the others, and the crane carried him to a beautiful lake and brought him back in safety. Then all doubt vanished, and the fishes gained confidence in the crane, and now the crane took them one by one out of the pond and devoured them on a big varana-tree.

“There was also a lobster in the pond, and when the crane wanted to eat him too, he said: ‘I have taken all the fishes away and put them in a fine, large lake. Come along. I shall take you, too!' ‘But how will you hold me to carry me along?' asked the lobster. ‘I shall take hold of you with my beak, said the crane. ‘You will let me fall if you carry me like that. I will not go with you!' replied the lobster. ‘You needst not fear,' rejoined the crane; ‘I shall hold you quite tight all the way.'

“Then said the lobster to himself: ‘If this crane once gets hold of a fish, he will certainly never let him go in a lake! Now if he should really put me into the lake it would be splendid; but if he does not, then I will cut his throat and kill him!' So he said to the crane: ‘Look here, friend, you will not be able to hold me tight enough; but we lobsters have a famous grip. If you will let me catch hold of you round the neck with my claws, I shall be glad to go with you.'

“The crane did not see that the lobster was trying to outwit him, and agreed. So the lobster caught hold of his neck with his claws as securely as with a pair of blacksmith's pincers, and called out: ‘Ready, ready, go!' The crane took him and showed him the lake, and then turned off toward the varana-tree. ‘My dear uncle!' cried the lobster, “The lake lies that way, but you are taking me this other way.' Answered the crane: ‘Think so? Am I your dear uncle? You want me to understand, I suppose, that I am your slave, who has to lift you up and carry you about with him, where you please! Now cast your eye on that heap of fish-bones at the root of yonder varana-tree. Just as I have eaten those fish, every one of them, just so will I devour you also!'

“‘Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity, answered the lobster, ‘but I am not going to let you kill me. On the contrary, it is you that I am going to destroy. For you, in your folly, have not seen that I have outwitted you. If we die, we both die together; for I will cut off this head of yours and cast it to the ground!' So saying, he gave the crane's neck a pinch with his claws as with a vise.

“Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and trembling with the fear of death, the crane besought the lobster, saying: ‘O, my Lord! Indeed I did not intend to eat you. Grant me my life!' ‘Very well! fly down and put me into the lake,' replied the lobster. And the crane turned round and stepped down into the lake, to place the lobster on the mud at its edge. Then the lobster cut the crane's neck through as clean as one would cut a lotus-stalk with a hunting-knife, and then entered the water!”

When the Teacher had finished this discourse, he added: “Not now only was this man outwitted in this way, but in other existences, too, by his own intrigues.”

The author of this story is unknown and greatly appreciated!

What Is the Spiritual Meaning & Moral of the “Cruel Crane Outwitted” Story?”

At its core, the story of the cruel crane that gets outwitted speaks to the intricate dance of karma, the eternal law of cause and effect woven into the fabric of our lives. The tailor, a figure draped in greed and deception, found himself entangled in a cycle of loss and suffering. His past actions echoed through lifetimes, echoing the repercussions of his deceit.

The crane, once a deceitful tailor in another form, sought to dupe the innocent fishes with honeyed words, luring them away from safety with promises of a secure future. Yet, karma played its hand, revealing that the past echoes through the present. The crane's dishonesty boomeranged upon itself, leading to its own downfall.

But amidst this tale lies a beacon of wisdom – the lobster. It embodies the resilience of spirit and the power of discernment. Unwilling to fall victim to the crane's deception, the lobster saw through the deceit, holding firm to its integrity. Its astuteness and determination showcase the importance of intuition and discernment in navigating life's intricate paths.

The crane's attempt to manipulate the lobster revealed the futility of deceit in the face of wisdom. The lobster, resolute in its purpose, turned the tables on the crane, showcasing that true power lies not in manipulation but in authenticity and foresight.

The parable of the outwitted cruel crane whispers a profound truth about the interconnectedness of all beings. It invites introspection, urging us to examine our intentions and actions. The consequences of our choices ripple through time, intertwining past, present, and future. Just as the tailor reaped what he sowed across lifetimes, so do we bear the fruits of our deeds, whether virtuous or flawed.

Moreover, it implores us to embody the discernment of the lobster – to see through illusions, to trust our inner wisdom, and to remain steadfast in our truth. By cultivating mindfulness and discernment, we gain the strength to navigate life's twists and turns with grace and authenticity.

The spiritual significance of this parable echoes through the corridors of our existence, beckoning us to tread the path of integrity, wisdom, and compassion. It teaches us that in the intricate dance of life, our actions echo through eternity, shaping not only our present but also the tapestry of our future incarnations.

May we heed the lessons woven within the tale of the cruel crane that gets outwitted, embracing the wisdom of discernment, and sowing seeds of compassion and authenticity in the fabric of our existence. For in the interplay of karma and consciousness, lies the potential for profound transformation and spiritual evolution.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. Reflect on the tailor's initial pride in his cunning and deceitful practices. How does this narrative prompt contemplation on the consequences of dishonesty and the eventual unraveling of schemes built on exploitation?
  2. Contemplate the symbolism of the tailor's past incarnations, particularly as a crane and a lobster. How do these animal allegories invite reflection on the themes of deception, betrayal, and the karmic consequences of one's actions?
  3. Explore the metaphor of the crane's manipulation of the fishes and the lobster's subsequent strategy for self-preservation. How does this narrative inspire reflection on the complexities of trust, discernment, and self-defense in navigating interpersonal relationships and power dynamics?
  4. Reflect on the contrast between the fishes' blind trust in the crane and the lobster's cautious skepticism. How does this narrative prompt contemplation on the importance of critical thinking and discernment in assessing the intentions of others and safeguarding one's own well-being?
  5. Consider the irony of the crane's attempts to deceive the lobster, only to be outwitted by the lobster's cleverness and determination. How does this narrative inspire reflection on the theme of poetic justice and the ways in which deception can ultimately lead to self-destruction?
  6. Contemplate the lobster's final act of retribution and the crane's plea for mercy. How does this narrative prompt reflection on the cyclical nature of karma and the potential for redemption or forgiveness even in the face of wrongdoing?
  7. Reflect on the broader implications of the story's message for ethical conduct and moral responsibility. How does this narrative inspire contemplation on the interconnectedness of actions and their consequences, both in this life and across lifetimes?
  8. Consider the Teacher's closing remarks about the tailor's repeated entanglements in deceitful schemes throughout his existences. How does this narrative prompt reflection on the theme of spiritual evolution and the imperative to learn from past mistakes in order to break free from harmful patterns?
  9. Explore the significance of the animals' roles as moral agents in conveying timeless lessons about integrity, trust, and resilience. How does this narrative inspire contemplation on the wisdom embedded in nature and the universal truths reflected in its diverse forms?
  10. Reflect on the story's overarching message about the folly of deception and the ultimate triumph of truth and integrity. How does this narrative inspire contemplation on the importance of living with honesty, humility, and compassion in order to cultivate positive karma and spiritual growth?