Discretion is the best part of valour
A story from Pananchatantram of Vishnusharma.
A fox named Mahaachathuraka lived in a forest. For him food was scarce and he was roaming aimlessly in search of something to fill his tummy. As if by great fortune, he came across the carcass of a dead elephant.. He ran around it jubilantly but knew he could not eat any meat unless the thick hide covering the body of the elephant was cut open by another beast. As he was pondering ways and means to satiate his hunger, a lion also arrived there as if from nowhere. Immediately on seeing the lion, the fox became all humility.
With feigned solicitousness, the fox said,
" My Lord, Victory to you. I saw this dead elephant a few hours ago, and just from that moment I was standing guard for your Majesty to arrive and have his Royal Dinner.. Please permit me to have the honour of offering this hospitality to your Majesty". With these words the fox prostrated himself before the lion.
Seeing the silly fox and his sillier gimmicks the lion said. " You fool, do not you know that I never eat the flesh of any animal which I have not killed myself? A highborn like me will not eat the leftovers of others, even at the cost of their lives. So I leave this food for you. You can yourself eat it to your heart's content."..
This was what the fox had anticipated. He thought. " It is befitting of a blue-blooded aristocrat. Noble men do not let go of their purity at any time. The conch will remain shiningly white even if it is put in fire"
A tiger came that way immediately after the lion left.
The fox thought. " I could manage to send off the lion by playing upon his vanity and sense of superiority. The tiger is a cruel and crude and mean fellow. Flattery will have no impact on him. I can only use mild deceit on him to keep him away from my food. A fellow who cannot be befriended with nice words or by gift can definitely be won over by deceit.
Having thought like this, the fox addressed the tiger in an well-rehearsed tone of a well-wisher.
" Uncle, why have you come here to jump straight into the mouth of sure death? A lion has killed this elephant just a few minutes ago. He has appointed me as a sentry to guard his food and has gone to the river to have his Royal bath. His instructions are that if a tiger or some such mean creature comes near his food, he should be informed immediately. He has assured that he will take care of the intruder appropriately . He had a bitter experience of a dirty tiger once desecrating his food by eating a part of it while he was away and thus desecrating his lunch. So he is clear in his mind that the next time any tiger comes anywhere near his food, it is sure death for the ugly intruder".
The tiger was frightened for his life.
" Please my nephew, do not even whisper a word to the lion. I want to live. I am off."
Saying this the tiger bolted.
The next visitor was a hyena.
The fox thought. " This fellow has very sharp teeth. He can pry open the hide of the elephant. Once the hide is ripped open, the way for me is clear. It is prudent to allow him also to eat some flesh because my purpose will be served."
Thinking thus, he told the hyena, " Oh my dear nephew, it is a long time since I saw you. You look very thin and hungry. You are my dear guest. Here, you see the body of an elephant killed by a lion. The lion is off for his bath before having his supper. So you please can have the relish of some elephant flesh and go away before the lion comes."
The hyena was reluctant. " Uncle, I really do not need the flesh of a dead elephant. I can get hold of many living creatures and dead carcasses to eat. I am of the view that one should eat only what is easy to get, easy to eat , easy to digest and nutritious to the body.. So I am off."
The fox replied. " you coward, do not try to conceal your fear of the lion by speaking generalities and platitudes . Eat slowly. I shall warn you well in time if the lion is on his way back."
Thus reassured, the hyena sat for his dinner.. And immediately on seeing that the hyena had broken open the hide of the dead elephant, came the warning hiss of the fox, " Sonny, you bolt, the lion is back"..
The hyena bolted leaving no trace at all.
The fox started eating with relish the flesh from the body of the elephant pried open by the hyena.
The final visitor was another fox. This time our here, the fox did not wait for any tricks. He jumped straight on the adversary, attacked him with teeth and nails, defeated him and lived on the food provided by the carcass of the elephant for a very long time.
The lesson of the parable is that if the enemy is noble, surrender to him and deal him with tact. If he is stronger than you, defeat him through some deceitful act. If he is lowly rascal, bribe him and get rid of him. And if the enemy is equal in prowess, attack him and defeat him.