Adventures from the Book of Virtues (1996)

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Cast | Notes | Summary - Official | My Summary | My Review


Character Actor
Gatekeeper Malcolm McDowell
  Pam Segall


Summary - Official

From William Bennet's "The Book of Virtues": Yudisthira at Heaven's Gate. This story is from the Mahabharata, which with the Ramayana is one of the two great epic poems of India. Here loyalty is literally the test to gain entrance to heaven.

    Good King Yudisthira had ruled over the Pandava people for many years and had led them in a successful, but very long war against giant forces of evil. At the end of his labors, Yudisthira felt that he had had enough years on earth and it was time to go on to the kingdom of the Immortals. When all his plans were made, he set out for the high Mount Meru to go from there to the Celestial City. His beautiful wife, Drapaudi, went with him and also his four brothers. Very soon, they were joined by a dog which followed quietly behind him.
    But the journey to the mountain was a long and sorrowful one. Yudisthira's four brothers died one by one along the way, and after that his wife, the beautiful Drapaudi. The King was all alone then, except for the dog, which continued to follow him faithfully up and up the steep, long road to the Celestial City.
    At last the two, weak and exhausted, stopped before the gates of Heaven. Yudisthira bowed humbly there as he asked to be admitted.
    Sky and earth were filled with a loud noise as the God Indra, God of a Thousand Eyes, arrived to meet and welcome the King to Paradise. But Yudisthira was not quite ready.
    "Without my brothers and my beloved wife, my innocent Drapaudi, I do not wish to enter Heaven, O Lord of all the deities," he said.
    "Have no fear," Indra answered. "You shall meet them all in Heaven. They came before you and are already there!"
    But Yudisthira had yet another request to make.
    "This dog has come all the way with me. He is devoted to me. Surely for his faithfulness I cannot leave him outside! And besides, my heart is full of love for him!"
    Indra shook his great head and the earth quaked.
    "You yourself may have immortality," he said, "and riches and success and all the joys of Heaven. You have won these by making this hard journey. But you cannot bring a dog into Heaven. Cast off the dog. Yudisthira! It is no sin!"
    "But where would he go?" demanded the king. "And who would go with him? He has given up all the pleasures of earth to be my companion. I cannot desert him now."
    The God was irritated at this.
    "You must be pure to enter Paradise," he said firmly. "Just to touch a dog will take away all the merits of prayer. Consider what you are doing, Yudisthira. Let the dog go!"
    But Yudisthira insisted. "O God of a Thousand Eyes, it is difficult for a person who has always tried to be righteous to do something that he knows is unrighteous - even in order to get into Heaven. I do not wish immortality if it means casting off one that is devoted to me."
    Indra urged him once more.
    "You left on the road behind you your four brothers and your wife. Why can't you also leave the dog?"
    But Yudisthira said, "I abandoned those only because they had died already and I could no longer help them nor bring them back to life. As long as they lived I did not leave them."
    "You are willing to abandon Heaven, then, for this dog's sake?" the God asked him.
    "Great God of all Gods," Yudisthira replied, "I have steadily kept this vow - that I will never desert one that is frightened and seeks my protection, one that is afflicted and destitute, or one that is too weak to protect himself and desires to live. Now I add a fourth. I have promised never to forsake one that is devoted to me. I will not abandon my friend."
    Yudisthira reached down to touch the dog and was about to turn sadly away from Heaven when suddenly before his very eyes a wonder happened. The faithful dog was changed into Dharma, the God of Righteousness and Justice.
    Indra said, "You are a good man, King Yudisthira. You have shown faithfulness to the faithful and compassion to all creatures. You have done this by renouncing the very Gods themselves instead of renouncing this humble dog that was your companion. You shall be honored in heaven, O King Yudisthira, for there is no act which is valued more highly and rewarded more richly than compassion for the humble."
    So Yudisthira entered the Celestial City with the God of Righteousness beside him. He was reunited there with his brothers and his beloved wife to enjoy eternal happiness.

My Summary

    Zach is bird watching with and old man. To get a closer look he climbs on a tree, but accidentally breaks a plaque that was hidden by growth on the tree while doing so. The old man gets mad at him for doing it and Zach leaves all confused. The plaque was for World War II veterans honoring their loyalty. Zach goes back to his friends Annie, Aristotle and Socrates and explains what happened. No one can understand why the guy would get so upset about the plaque. Plato the buffalo asks him to explain what the plaque said. After Zach tells him Plato reads him a story to explain what loyalty means.
    The story is "Yudisthira at Heaven's Gate". Good King Yudisthira had ruled over the Pandava people for many years and decided was time for him to go to the next world. He has to complete a long journey up a mountain road to a temple to get to heaven. Along the way he sees a poor dog and takes compassion on it. He shelters it, gives it warmth and sleeps nearby. As the days go by he becomes very fond of the dog and plays catch with it. They become fast companions. When arrives at the gate to heaven the gatekeeper tells him he is welcome inside, but not his dog. Yudisthira tells the gatekeeper that he won't come in without the dog and turns to leave. Then the dog turns out to be god and he changes into human form. It was a test to see if he was truly a good man. Because he took care of the dog and was loyal to it he was allowed into heaven.
    Zach and the others learn about loyalty to their friends, but it still doesn't explain to them why the man go upset about the sign. Plato then reads him another story called "The Cap That Mother Made". A mother worked very hard to knit a cap for her son and it was very beautiful. The son was proud of it and went out wearing it. He came upon a boy who was carving wood and the boy admired his cap. He wanted it for himself, but the boy said it wasn't for sale. The boy then offered to trade his knife for it, but again he declined. He said he couldn't trade something his mother gave him. The other boy said the knife was one of a kind, his father made it and there are no others like it in the world. The boy told him then he shouldn't be so quick to trade it and leaves. Everyone he sees is impressed with the cap and one girl says it is like something from the palace. He agrees and bets he can get in the palace because of it. He goes to the gate and the guard won't let him in without the proper dress. He goes to send him away, but the princess sees him and says he must be part of the royal court with a cap like that and lets him in. She takes him to the banquet hall and wants his cap, but he resists. She offers him a kiss for it, but he again refuses since his mother made it for him. She then takes off her necklace and puts it on him for the cap. She grabs it, but he grabs it back. The king arrives and is outraged at her behavior. He shoos her away and when he sees the cap he wants it for himself. He offers to buy it, but the boy refuses. He then trades him his crown for it and leaves. But the boy chases after him and grabs his cap back. He leaves the crown and runs out also leaving the necklace. When he gets home and tells his story his sister thinks he is a fool. With the crown he could buy a whole house full of caps. He tells her they could never replace the cap his mother made for him no matter how much money he had. She made it because she loved him.
    Zach understands about loyalty to family now, but it still doesn't explain the loyalty to the plaque. Plato then reads another story which he feels will explain it all. It is called "Queen Esther." The king of Persia calls his court together, but his wife refuses to join them. It is regarded as a sign of weakness by his advisors. If the king cannot even control his own wife then how can he control the kingdom? He has no choice, but to banish her. His advisors then tell him it is also bad for him not to have a queen by his side. Again he agrees and sends his men out to find the most beautiful young girl they can. They come back with a young woman names Esther and her uncle Mordecai who was given a job in the court. Esther is Jewish, but Mordecai says to keep it a secret so that she would remain safe. One day Mordecai is wandering outside and overhears two Jewish men plotting an assassination of the king. He decides the best plan of action is to tell Esther. She in turn tells the king who has the men arrested and killed. The king's right hand man was Haman and he told the king they only way for him to be truly safe was to have all the Jews killed. The king had no choice, but to agree and sign a decree. Haman especially hated Mordecai because he was the only person in the court who didn't bow to him. This made him feel like he wasn't being respected. Therefore he built a special hangman's gallows in the town square for Mordecai. Mordecai went to Esther with the news and she didn't believe it at first. So under penalty of death she went to the king and Haman and said she was to give a banquet in Haman's honor tomorrow for just the three of them and that there was something she wanted to tell him then. They agreed and Haman was happy at winning her favor.  That night the king couldn't sleep and had one of his servants read him the history of his reign. He then realized that he never thanked Mordecai for helping save his life. He asked the servant what he should do and he had no idea. So the king turned to Haman. The king asked him what was the best way to reward a servant for being so loyal to him. Haman figured the king must be talking about him so he said to have him wear one of the king's best robes and have him ride his horse through town with the royal seal, have a nobleman lead him and proclaim this is how the king honors those loyal to him. The king thought it was a splendid idea and then told him to go bestow this on Mordecai. Haman was shocked, but did as he was told and thought at least he'll have the royal banquet which was even more special. That night at the banquet Esther told the king he must cancel his decree to kill the Jews and that Haman built a special gallows for Mordecai. He said it was never his idea and Haman said it must be done. She said then he would have to start with her since she was a Jew. Haman was incredulous and grabbed her. The king was outraged as no one but the king was allowed to touch her. He repealed the decree and said Haman would be hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
    Now Zach understood about loyalty to your people. Since the old man had chosen that tree to honor he fallen comrades it was special to him. He remember seeing a picture of the old man as a young soldier. The old man was now cleaning up the area around the tree and fixing it all up. Zach went to help him and the old man apologized for yelling at him. Zach also apologized for not understanding his loyalty to his friends. The old man then told him about how he and a friend were running next to a tank in France and how a shell hit nearby and killed his friend and how he picked this tree for him so he would never be forgotten.

My Review

    These are three watered down versions of old parables. The first is from the Hindu culture, the second is an old fairytale and and the third is from the Bible. In the original Yudisthira story he has four brothers and a wife with him who all die on the journey. I think all the more gruesome aspects of the first and the last story were removed to make it appeal more to kids. Malcolm had a small role as the gatekeeper of heaven. Nothing fancy or special. It is a bit odd to hear his British voice coming out of a large Hindu man though. I wish he had more of a role in this as he was only there for maybe a minute or two out of the whole episode. Because of this there is no reason to watch this just to catch MM.
    If you have kids though it is a great show on morality without being too heavy handed or preachy.

Rating: 7/10

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