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EVIL-WIT, NO-WIT, AND HONEST-WIT 

Franklin Edgerton 

University op Pennsylvania 

There is a well-known story in the first book of the Paiicatan- 
tra, which is variously called Dustabuddhi and Dharmabuddhi, 
Badheart and Goodheart, or Dustabuddhi and Abuddhi, The 
Treacherous Man and the Simpleton. 1 These variations in title 
ar due to an apparent discrepancy between the catch-verse and 
the prose story. It is the purpose of this paper to explain and 
remove this apparent discrepancy. 

The catch-verse to the fable reads in the Tantrakhyayika 2 as 
follows : 

dustabuddhir abuddhis ca dvdv etdu dhinmatdu mama ' 
tanayend 'tipdnditydt pita dhumena maritdh. 
'I hav a very low opinion of both the evil-minded man (Evil-wit) 
and the fool (No-wit) alike. The son, because he was all too 
clever, caused his father's deth by smoke.' 

I shall consider later the variants of the other versions ; for the 
present let me merely say that there is no dout that T 's version, 
just quoted, is that of the original Paiicatantra in all respects, 
except that possibly in the third pada the synonym putra may hav 
occurd insted of tanaya, 'son'. There is, at any rate, no dout 
that the original Paiicatantra did not mention Dharmabuddhi, 
' Good-heart ' or ' Honest- wit, ' in the stanza, and that it did speak 
of Dustabuddhi and Abuddhi, 'Evil-wit' and 'No-wit', or the 
evil-minded man and the fool. 

The story then begins, virtually in identical language in all 

1 The story is numberd in the several versions as follows (note that after 
the name of each version I enclose in parenthesis the abbreviation of the 
name which I shall use in this paper) : Tantrakhyayika (T) I. 15; Southern 
Paiicatantra (SP) I. 14; Nepalese (N) II. 14; Textus simplicior (Spl), ed. 
Kielhorn-Biihler, I. 19; Purnabhadra (Pn) I. 26; Somadeva (So) I. 11 
(Kathasaritsagara, ed. Durgaprasad and Parab, 60. 211 ff.) ; Ksemendra 
(Ks) I. 14 (givadatta and Parab, Brhatkathamafljarl, 16. 369 ff.; 
Mankowski, I. 116 ff.; references are made first to the former, then, in 
parenthesis, to the latter) ; Old Syriac (Sy) I. 13. The story is not found 
in the Hitopadesa. 

3 T vs I. 167. In the other versions the vs occurs: SP I. 141, N II. 114, 
Spl I. 396, Pn I. 389, Sy I. 101; cf. So 60. 210 (?), Ks 16. 368 (I. 115). 



272 Franklin Edgerton 

Sanskrit versions (except Ks, see below) : 'In a certain locality 
there livd two merchants' sons who wer f rends, and their names 
wer Dustabuddhi and Dharmabuddhi (Evil- wit and Honest-wit) . ' 
It goes on, also in substantially identical fashion : The two went 
on a trip together, and Honest-wit found a purse of money, 
which he shared with his frend. Returning home, they buried 
most of the money in a secret place, agreeing to take equal 
amounts as they needed it. Evil-wit stole it all, and then 
accused his frend of having done so. The case came before the 
court, and Evil-wit volunteerd to call as witness the devata 
(spirit) in the tree at the base of which the money was buried. 
The court adjournd to the next day, when all proceeded to the 
place in order to take the tree-spirit's testimony. But Evil-wit 
had hidden his father, in spite of the latter 's protest, in the trunk 
of the tree; and when they put the question 'Who stole the 
money ? ', the father, impersonating the tree-spirit, replied ' Hon- 
est-wit'. The latter, conscious of innocence, lighted a fire in the 
hollow trunk of the tree, which soon brot Evil-wit's father tum- 
bling down, half-choked and blinded. The truth of course was 
thus revealed. 

Thruout this story no other name than Dharmabuddhi, 'Hon- 
est-wit ', is used for the righteous merchant in any Sanskrit recen- 
sion. Only in the offshoots of the Pahlavi translation is he cald 
'the simpleton' (Schulthess, 'der Einfaltige'), representing, 
apparently, the Sanskrit word Abuddhi. But in view of the 
unanimity of all the Sanskrit versions it can scarcely be douted 
that the Pahlavi is secondary, and that the original had in the 
prose story the name Dharmabuddhi. Evidently the Pahlavi has 
taken the name Abuddhi from the catch-verse and applied it to 
the honest merchant in the prose story. 

The problem that confronts us is then this. In the original 
form of the catch- verse are mentiond only two names or epithets 
— Dustabuddhi,' ' Evil-wit, ' and Abuddhi, ' No-wit. ' In the orig- 
inal of the following prose ar likewise mentiond only two names — 
Dustabuddhi, ' Evil- wit, ' and Dharma-buddhi, ' Honest- wit. ' It 
has always been assumed — not unnaturally — that we must infer 
from this the equation Abuddhi == Dharmabuddhi ; or in other 
words, that the person cald ' No-wit ' in the verse is cald ' Honest- 
wit' in the prose. 

It seems to me, however, that we should hesitate long before 



Evil-wit, No-wit, and Honest-wit 273 

accepting this equation, for several reasons. In the first place, the 
literary harshness assumed is such as could hardly he paralleld 
in the original Paficatantra. The name Honest-wit would be 
substituted baldly for No-wit (the righteous man for the simple- 
ton), without a word of motivation or explanation, with nothing 
to indicate that it is not the simplest and most natural sequence 
in the world ! It almost passes belief that any story-teller could 
be so slovenly; and the story-teller of the original Paficatantra 
was in general anything but slovenly. 

In the second place, is there anything in the story to justify 
calling Dharmabuddhi a 'simpleton'? Hertel (Tantrakhydyika, 
Translation, p. 51, n. 2) says his dullness consists in the 
fact that he entertaind frendly feelings for Dustabuddhi and 
divided his find with him. But a much more prominent place in 
the story is occupied by the scheme by which Dharmabuddhi 
exposes the trick playd upon him by Dustabuddhi; and in this 
incident Dharmabuddhi shows markt cleverness. It seems a 
priori unlikely that a person capable of such shrewdness would 
be cald a 'fool.' 

These considerations suggest that perhaps all previous inter- 
preters may hav been wrong in assuming the identity of Abuddhi, 
the 'No-wit' of the catch-verse, with Dharmabuddhi, the 'Hon- 
est-wit' of the prose story. There is, in fact, not a single par- 
ticle of evidence to show that this identity was felt by the author 
of any Sanskrit recension. More than this : there is clear and 
decisiv evidence to prove that in som Sanskrit recensions, at 
least, just the opposit was tru; it is Dustabuddhi, 'Evil-wit,' 
whom they consider the 'fool', not Dharmabuddhi, 'Honest-wit.' 
And this is, when one thinks about it, just what the story clearly 
means to teach (compare the last paragraf of this article, below). 
The catch-verse and the prose story ar in perfect agreement on 
this point, that Evil-wit proves himself a fool and causes the 
deth of his own father by being too clever and tricky. Let us 
examin the evidence which shows that certain Sanskrit recen- 
sions regard it in this light. 

1. In the prose story of all Sanskrit recensions (I use the term 
'prose' loosely to include the poetic versions of So and Ks, dis- 
tinguishing thus their versions of the story proper from their 
versions of the original catch-verse), the name Dustabuddhi, 
'Evil- wit,' is always used without variant for the villain except 
18 JAOS 140 



274 Franklin Edgerton 

that Spl uses the synonym Papabuddhi (copied also in Pn in one 
or two places where it follows Spl), and except also for Ks, 
which is peculiar and highly interesting. Ks 368 (115) repro- 
duces the original catch-verse thus : 

abuddhiyogad adhamah sarvada, vipaddspadam 
pita dhumena nihatdh sutena 'dharmabuddhina. 
'Because of their folly (no-wit) the base ar always subject to 
disasters. The Dishonest-witted (a-dharma-l)uddhi) son kild his 
father with smoke.' — In the following story, representing the 
original prose, Ks begins with the statement : ' There wer once 
two frends, Honest-wit (Dharmabuddhi) and No-wit (Abuddhi).' 
The name of the villain occurs later on five times more — twice as 
Abuddhi, 'No-wit,' twice as Dustabuddhi, 'Evil-wit,' and once 
as Durbuddhi, a synonym for the latter. It certainly needs no 
argument to show that Ks thot of Abuddhi as a synonym, not of 
Dharmabuddhi, but of Dustabuddhi. 

2. The variants of the catch-verse, quoted abov in its T form, 
in other Sanskrit recensions, show that they too had the same 
understanding. The Jain versions (Pn and Spl) read for the 
first half of the catch verse: dharmabuddhir abuddhis (Spl 
kubuddhis) ca dvav etau viditdu mama. (It is noteworthy that 
one manuscript of T reads just as Pn does in the first pada.) It 
is obvious that to these versions also Abuddhi is the same as 
Dustabuddhi. In SP we find: dustabuddhir dharmabuddhir 
dvav etau vanigatmajau. So the edition ; but several of the best 
mss. (recension a) either agree absolutely with T or point in 
that direction; and N agrees with T. This is sufficient to prove 
that T's reading was that of the tru and original SP text, and 
of the original Pane. However, the readings of the secondary 
SP mss. and of the edited text ar interesting as showing that the 
writers of these codices or their archetype felt averse to a reading 
which seemd to identify Abuddhi with Dharmabuddhi, the sim- 
pleton with the honest man, when the clear intention of the story 
is inconsistent therewith. 

My explanation is that the original catch-verse red like T, 
but that Abuddhi, 'No-wit,' was not intended to refer to Dharma- 
buddhi, 'Honest-wit,' in the following story. On the contrary, 
the meaning of the catch- verse is that Dustabuddhi, ' Evil-wit, ' is 
just as bad as (any, indefinit) Abuddhi, 'No-wit;' in short, that 
'honesty is the best policy.' The catch-verse says : 'I hav just as 



Evil-wit, No-wit, and Honest-wit 275 

low an opinion of Evil-wit as of No- wit ; one is as bad as the other. 
And to prove it, I refer you to the case of Evil-wit who caused 
his father's deth by his excess of cunning, thereby showing him- 
self no better than a fool, or a No-wit.' 

This is the only explanation that does justis to the point of 
the story and avoids the unendurable harshness of naming a 
caracter in the catch-verse by a name wholly inconsistent with 
the name he bears in the actual story. The variations of the sev- 
eral recensions ar due to their failure to see the point of the 
term Abuddhi, 'No-wit,' in the catch- verse. They all, except 
Pahlavi, support my contention that Honest- wit cannot hav been 
identified with No-wit ; and Pahlavi is proved to be secondary by 
the fact that all Sanskrit recensions, without exception, ar unani- 
mous in using the term Dharmabuddhi in the prose story for the 
caracter which Pahlavi calls 'the simpleton'. This confusion of 
Pahlavi is explaind by the same misunderstanding which was 
found, with different results, in various of the Sanskrit recen- 
sions. 

The location of the fable in the frame story of Pane. Book I 
shows that 'honesty is the best policy' is what it intends to 
teach. It is told by the jackal Karataka to warn the evil-minded 
and trecherous Damanaka of the fate that is in store for him if 
he follows in the course he has begun. Damanaka is the proto- 
type of Dustabuddhi, 'Evil-wit,' and Karataka, the teller of the 
story, means to let him see that evil-mindedness is really folly and 
brings one to disaster. To represent Dharmabuddhi, 'Honest- 
wit, ' as foolish would spoil the moral that is obviously intended.