Sunday, July 6, 2014


A Parable For You  The Snake and The Saint

A decent individual is often thought of as a weak individual.

I have seen this happening throughout my life, in boarding school, in college, and, more so, in the navy and armed forces, where decency is mistaken for weakness, and decent officers are considered to be soft, whereas bullshitters rule the roost.

Once a very funny thing happened.

There was a formidable officer who was a terror and everyone was terrified of him, especially when he was drunk.

He used to drink heavily, and after a few drinks he became very fearsome and intimidating, sometimes violent too, and fellow officers and sailors were frightened of him and even his seniors were scared of confronting him when he was inebriated.

One day this officer changed his ways.

He turned a new leaf.

He gave up drinking and became very polite, courteous and decent.

The redoubtable officer underwent a total metamorphosis.

At first, no one could believe that this brute had undergone such a transformation and become a gentleman.

Then, after a few days, the very same people who were scared of him earlier, started pushing him around and bullshitting him.

His decency was mistaken for weakness.

One evening, I narrated to him 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. Do not 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. The snake 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 at them.

The Snake looked at the Saint, feeling a bit confused.

On seeing the snake’s confusion, the Saint said lovingly to the Snake: “My dear friend, I told you not to BITE people. But did I ever tell you not to raise your hood and HISS at them…?

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

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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