THE SNAKE AND THE SAINT – parables of Sri Ramakrishna:
A group of persons from a village went to a holy man, a Saint, who was meditating in a cave in the mountains. They were very scared and complained to the Saint about large venomous snake who was terrorizing everyone in the village. They asked the saint to help them.
The Saint went to the village, to where the snake lived. The Saint called out to the snake. Mesmerized by the aura and charismatic presence of the Saint, the snake suddenly lost all his ferocity and glided towards the Saint and coiled up meekly at the Saint’s feet in obeisance .
“O you beautiful creature, what is it that I hear about you being the scourge of the village? Leave your destructive ways. Be good. Don’t terrorize the poor villagers needlessly. Stop biting them. Leave them alone,” the Saint said to the snake.
We are taught and expected to be kind, generous, forgive and to forget, non-violent, non-aggressive, etc. In the process of trying to be a good person and presenting a good picture to ourselves or others we may be indirectly practicing passivity like the snake.
The curbed senses are like the inactive snake almost beaten to death- Tamasic quality
The underlying message seems to be one of learning to be assertive when there is a direct threat to our physical, spiritual, moral well-being. Passivity only renders us to be a victim of circumstance, and aggression lends us to be perpetrators of the situation.
The sublimated senses is a balance between too much action and no action- Sattvik quality. Sattvik quality preserves the moral, physical, and spiritual integrity of self.
The snake in this story could also have moved away from the situation if even after hissing, he was continued to be harassed and bullied. When a situation does not promote spiritual well-being our Dharma is to walk away gracefully from there. Turn the other cheek….is an advice to refrain from retaliating and adding fuel to the fire. However God has given us ample ability to preserve our own integrity, using all available God-given resources is our duty.
When we are in any confrontational situation, its best to ask:
“Am I hissing or biting?”
“Am I being bitten or being hissed at?”
If I am hissing……….do it with love………..and gracefully move away if situation does not improve. Sometimes too much hissing can become vicious when ego takes over. Leave well before that.
If I am being hissed at………..receive with love……….and rectify the situation.
If I am biting or being bitten…………stop the act as soon as possible……….use all the God-given resources to improve the situation. Leave if necessary.
Spiritual-Preservation is our Dharma. With active spiritual intuition it will be easy to discriminate between the aggressive snake that bites, and the sublimated snake that hisses.