2 March 2012

Snake Lesson

I love snakes, not that I go looking for them, but for some reason our paths often cross and there is usually a snake either living inside the house or in the garden. This morning one of my doggies was looking fixedly out of the window at our current snake live-in, a very handsome Rat Snake (which can grow up to 2.5 metres), that was languidly making its way up a tree in the garden. His home is under our verandah, and we often notice him slithering around the garden and up and down the sides of the house.

Rat Snake showing off new skin

Sometime ago a beautiful Rat Snake made its home at the back of the almirah. It stayed for months and then one day it disappeared. The Rat Snake was soon followed by a Cobra. The Cobra who looked to be either a female or a youngster would spend its time either wrapped around the fish tank, pressing its belly against the cool glass, or snoozing comfortably under a bed used by my doggies.

Cobra's tail peeping out
around corner of fish tank

He was with us for nearly a week, and then one day I realised that a long term relationship wasn’t on the cards as the house is too small and the dogs are too many. I called for help and dear snakey was gently and expertly removed from my house and put into the undergrowth outside the compound.

Our friend sadly leaving
the compound

And talking about snakes, below is a very nice story about a snake. The moral of the story illustrates that of all virtues why people prize goodness most of all.

Snake Lesson

Once upon a time, King Brahmadatta of Benares had a very valuable adviser priest. He came from a rich noble family. He was intelligent and full of knowledge. He was generous with all he had, holding nothing back. People thought of him as a kind and good person. By practicing the Five Training Steps, he trained his mind to avoid the five unwholesome actions. He discovered that giving up each unwholesome action made him better off in its own way: destroying life, since you have to kill part of yourself in order to kill someone else; taking what is not given, since this makes the owner angry at you; doing wrong in sexual ways, since this leads to the pain of jealousy and envy; speaking falsely, since you can't be true to yourself and false to another at the same time; losing your mind from alcohol, since then you might hurt yourself by doing the other four.

Seeing how he lived, King Brahmadatta thought, "This is truly a good man." The priest was curious to learn more about the value of goodness. He thought, "The king honours and respects me more than his other priests. But I wonder what it is about me that he really respects most. Is it my nationality, my noble birth or family wealth? Is it my great learning and vast knowledge? Or is it because of my goodness? I must find the answer to this." Therefore, he decided to perform an experiment in order to answer his question. He would pretend to be a thief!

On the next day, when he was leaving the palace, he went by the royal coin maker. The good priest, not intending to keep it, took a coin and continued walking out of the palace. Because the money maker admired the famous priest highly, he remained sitting and said nothing. On the following day the make-believe thief took two gold coins. Again the royal coin maker did not protest. Finally, on the third day, the king's favorite priest grabbed a whole handful of gold coins. This time the money maker didn't care about the priest's position or reputation. He cried out, "This is the third time you have robbed his majesty the king." Holding onto him, he shouted, "I've caught the thief who robs the king!"

Suddenly a crowd of people came running in, yelling, "You pretended to be better than us! An example of goodness!" They slapped him, tied his hands behind his back, and hauled him off to the king. But on their way, they happened to go by some snake charmers. They were entertaining some bystanders from the king's court with a poisonous cobra. They held him by the tail and neck, and coiled him around their necks to show how brave they were. The tied up prisoner said to them, "Please be careful! Don't grab that and don't coil that poisonous snake around your own necks. He may bite you and bring your lives to a sudden end!" The snake charmers said, "You ignorant priest, you don't understand about this cobra. He is well-mannered and very good indeed. He is not bad like you! You are a thief who has stolen from the king. Because of your wickedness and criminal behavior, you are being carried off with your hands tied behind your back. But there's no need to tie up a snake who is good!" The priest thought, "Even a poisonous cobra, who doesn't bite or harm anyone, is given the name "good." In truth, goodness is the quality people admire most in the world!"

When they arrived at the throne room, the king asked, "What is this, my children?" They replied, "This is the thief who stole from your royal treasury." The king said. "Then punish him according to the law." The adviser priest said, "My lord king, I am no thief!" "Then why did you take gold coins from the palace?" asked the king. The priest explained, "I have done this only as an experiment, to test why it is you honour and respect me more than others. Is it because of my family background and wealth, or my great knowledge? Because of those things, I was able to get away with taking one or two gold coins. Or do you respect my goodness most of all? It is clear that by grabbing a handful of coins I no longer had the name 'good'. This alone turned respect into disgrace!"

The king pardoned his most valuable adviser priest. He asked to be allowed to leave the king's service in the ordinary world and become a forest monk. After refusing several times. the king eventually gave his permission. The priest went to the Himalayas and meditated peacefully. When he died he was reborn in a heaven world.
The moral is: People prize goodness most of all.

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