To bite or hiss?
Woods were lovely and wonderful, but it housed dangerous creatures
too. The evil snake kept the whole forest shuddered and frozen with his
dangerous behaviour. No one dared to get closer to him. The whole
community knew his bites to be lethal.
Not that he was proud of himself or his brutal nature. But he just
chose to be cruel to whoever stood in his way. That was his defence
mechanism to be left alone. After a time, life did not bring any
excitement to the snake. He did not feel like sticking to one place for
a long time. He was bored.
Then an idea struck him - to take a creepy walk in the hilly paths.
Creeping in the hills, he could see one clear path. He was interested
in taking that path. That path led to a big cave, a big one followed by
small ones. He could see other creatures too walking in that path
towards the big cave. What can it be, he was curious. Whatever it is, he
was engulfed in jealousy for a moment. Someone must have attracted these
Slowly he approached the cave. It was a large snake, he could see,
but ageing. He was very calm too. I have never seen such a calm
creature, the evil snake thought. Yes, it was a holy snake, living in
the hilly summit.
Ever heard of snakes in disguise? Our friend had to be disguised. He
was afraid others will make him out and run away. He rushed back to his
place and put on make up. He had to make sure it is quite black, as a
portion will fade as he creeps on the ground.
No, he didn’t want to be a good snake. But he wanted to hear some
different talk. Perhaps he can initiate an argument with the holy snake.
No one will ever realize who he is anyway. They will start respecting
him as an intellectual, who knows! This talk might change his destiny,
an intellectual destiny. Sitting at the end of the row, the snake
started concentrating on what he hears.
As he listened he sensed the subject was on loving-kindness.
Loving-kindness, my foot, thought the evil snake. But the holy snake was
smarter. His talk was full of wit and wisdom. The evil snake didn’t
know, but he was converted at the end of the talk. He waited till the
crowd ceased, approached the holy snake and confessed all his sins.
“I won’t be the same one again.”
“That’s great,” holy snake said only that, which was enough
inspiration for the evil snake.
Coming back to his place, the evil snake was feeling fresh. He is no
longer the usual evil snake. He started spreading loving-kindness to
everyone. He would not harm anyone now. But others didn’t know - or it
just took some time to know - his transformation. He had no way of
communicating his newly formed innocence either.
One fine day dawned and a hunter accidentally went over him. The
hunter froze to see he just tripped over a dangerous creature, but a
little while later he felt odd. The creature is there as if nothing had
happened! How is that?
Is it really a snake, or some overgrown worm, the hunter wondered. He
wondered aloud. In two days the evil snake came back to see the holy
snake. The holy snake could read his fellow’s expressions from far, yet
he chose to inquire. The poor snake’s voice was almost a murmur.
“Look what happened to me for following your so-called
“Why, what happened?”
The holy snake’s noncommittal tone made the evil snake even angrier.
“I didn’t harm anyone. Then they called me names. They beat me. With
all that I was silent without doing anything.”
The snake showed the bruises and scars on his body - it had the
colour of freshly baked pork - and continued his sad tale.
“I could have silenced them at once, but I was following your advice
not to bite. And look what happened to me. Your loving-kindness probably
goes right in monasteries. But in the real world, sir, we won’t hear of
The holy snake almost burst into laughter, but he controlled it.
“I asked you not to bite - that’s right.”
“And this is all I’ve got for that?”
“Okay, but did I ask you not to hiss?”
The evil snake felt trapped.
“You don’t have to bite them. In future, friend, hiss and show them
you are a snake. That’s enough to scare them away.”
The evil snake digested the lesson in silence. Even as the story
reached its end, Aravinda noticed his little son was wide awake.
“Have you practised it, father?”
“Well, practise it yourself and see.”
“Then, like Ajahn Brahmavamso added, we must have compassion to
spread loving-kindness. But remember compassion alone won’t do. It has
to go along with wisdom. Like two wings of a bird. If we act only with
compassion, then people will take advantage of us. Don’t bite them
because you have compassion. But use wisdom too and hiss, people will
know you can bite. That’s enough.”
Understood or not, Aravinda’s son listened and asked no more.