Meditation Articles Series
An old axiom: The Story of the Snake
Once upon a time, a holy man went from village to village visiting the people and giving assistance wherever he could. One day he came to a town and entered the market place. The people were all looking so unhappy. “What is the matter, good people?” the old man asked. “We are so frightened,” they said. “We can barely do our work for fear of the snake. It bites us all the time. We don’t know when it will appear. We are afraid to go to work in our fields, to let our children play in the streets, to even be here in the market place.” The old man wandered on and soon came upon the snake. “I hear you have been biting the people,” he said, “and I would like you to stop. They are frightened of you and don’t get a moment’s rest.” The snake realizing how much the holy man loved it agreed not to bite anyone again.
The old man continued on his journey and a few months later came back to the same village. When he got to the market place he found the people were laughing and shouting. Everyone was so happy. “What has happened?” he asked. The villagers told him that the snake had stopped biting them, that it came out each day from its hiding place but no longer attacked them. The old man wandered about the village and soon came upon the snake lying in the gutter. It was bleeding, and badly cut and bruised. The old man could see that the snake was dying. He gently picked it up and took it into the forest and laid it down out of the hot sun. “What has happened to you?” he asked the snake. The snake on its last few breaths said to the holy man, “ I did what you told me. I stopped biting the people, but they started attacking me. Wherever I went they would throw stones at me and kick me, and thrash me with sticks.”
The holy man held the snake with great love and tenderness and stroking the snake said to it ever so tenderly, “I told you not to bite, but I never told you not to hiss.”
My dear spiritual mentor recently told me this story. It brought tears to my eyes. I felt such compassion for the snake.
When you are confronted, rather than fall back into your old patterns that keep you disempowered can you hiss, but not bite?