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