Monday, April 16, 2012


A Parable - The Snake and The Saint

Deterrence - The prevention from action by fear of the consequences. Deterrence is the act or process of discouraging actions or preventing occurrences by instilling fear or doubt or anxiety. Deterrence is a state of mind brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction. 
Whenever I want to explain the concept of deterrence, I narrate one of my favourite stories from the parables of Sri Ramakrishna called The Snake and The Saint:

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 terrified and complained to the Saint about large venomous snake who was terrorizing everyone in the village.

“This terrible serpent’s hiss can be heard for miles around,” they said, “This terrible creature mercilessly bites everyone. Sir, this snake is extremely dangerous and does not spare anyone. He attacks even our wives, our children, our cattle, our dogs, yes, he viciously bites everyone he sees. Even the bravest among us have become afraid to venture out into the fields, which are dry, parched, uncultivated. Our granaries are depleted and empty. Our numbers are dwindling from death by the snake, and by starvation. Please help us. You are a great Guru and you alone can subdue and vanquish him.”

The Saint, realizing the gravity of the situation, went to the village, and then walked to the place where the snake lived. 

As he approached, the terrible venomous snake moved swiftly toward the saint with upraised hood. 

The terrified villagers ran away, leaving the Saint to deal with the snake. 

The Saint looked at snake, slithering and undulating, his scales shimmering in the sunlight, dark and shining in his majesty, awesome in his length and his beauty.

“Come forth, O Magnificent One,” the Saint called out to the snake and kept looking at him with a benign eye.

The snake was mesmerized by the aura and charismatic presence of the Saint. He suddenly he 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. Please stop biting them. Leave them alone,” the Saint said to the snake.

The snake bowed and nodded assent. He resolved to leave his evil ways and be good and promised the Saint that henceforth he would not bite anyone.

The venomous snake turned a new leaf. He scrupulously kept his promise and stopped attacking and biting anyone. The snake began to live a life of innocence, without attempting to harm anyone.

The villagers were very happy, the fields flourished, the cattle grazed peacefully and the children came out to play fearlessly.

One day, several months later, the Saint passed by the village. He remembered the snake and searched for him everywhere. After a long search the saint found the snake coiled near the root of a tree, lying mangled and half dead. 

The snake was utterly transformed. 

His scales had fallen off; he looked dilapidated, emaciated, innocuous, and badly injured. He had sores all over his body. 

The poor snake seemed to be on the verge of death.

“O My Dear Friend, what happened to you…?” the Saint asked the snake.

“This, O Guru, is the fruit of obedience, of being good. I obeyed you, I gave up my evil ways, I let the villagers alone, I stopped biting them, I stopped attacking them, and do you know what happened to me? Now everyone pelts me with stones, beats me with sticks, even the children tease and torment me and drag me mercilessly by the tail. But I have kept my promise that I made to you…”

The Saint smiled and lovingly said to the snake, “I exhorted you not to attack them, but I did not prohibit you from hissing… yes, my dear friend, I told you not to bite them, but did I ever tell you not to hiss …?”

The snake learned a lesson for life and henceforth got on in life safely.

Moral of the Story:


Effective Deterrence can be achieved by instilling fear as they say that the mere threat of violence is more scary than the violence itself.

My Views on the story:

Well, this strategy may work if you are a snake, but if you are a dog, a bite once in a while works wonders rather than mere barking. 

Therefore I feel that mere HISSING is  not enough. For effective deterrence a BITEonce in a while adds credibility to your HISSING.

Dear Reader, do you agree? Do comment and tell us your views.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

Did you like this story?
This a story from my anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL - stories about relationships, comprising 27 short stories which I am sure you will like. 
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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1 comment:

Deepak S Avasare said...

I suppose this is especially true in India - Pakistan relationship.