By a Wanderer

(Phew, what a relief! It’s not the same “Snake and Rope”)

In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna tells a parable of a snake to explain how to deal with the wicked.

He says, “A man living in society should make a show of anger to protect himself from evil-minded people. But he should not harm anybody.”
The primary message from this story is clear, “You must hiss at wicked people. You must frighten them, lest they should do you harm. But never inject your venom into them. One must not injure others.”
Interestingly, this short parable also talks about importance of repetition of Holy Name (Japa) as discussed below.

1. The brahmachari said: ‘Look here. Why do you go about doing harm? Come, I will give you a holy word. By repeating it you will learn to love God. Ultimately you will realize Him and so get rid of your violent nature.’

Message: These words are filled with the grace of Guru. As if he is saying, “Come, I will teach you how to mesmerize infinite Brahman. The way I charmed you by a mantra, likewise you can mesmerize the Lord of the universe by chanting His holy name.”

2. The snake bowed before the teacher and said, ‘Revered sir, how shall I practice spiritual discipline?’ ‘Repeat that sacred word’, said the teacher, ‘and do no harm to anybody’. As he was about to depart, the brahmacharisaid, ‘I shall see you again.’

Message: Above conversation gives two instructions “Repeat the Holy Name” and “Do not harm.” And the last one is the assurance from Guru “I shall see you again”

3. About a year later the brahmachari came that way again and asked about the snake. The cowherd boys told him that it was dead. But he couldn’t believe them. He knew that the snake would not die before attaining the fruit of the holy word with which it had been initiated.
Message: By repeating holy name one can attain the final goal before death. It shows the power of Japa.

4. The snake had developed the quality of sattva; it could not be angry with anyone. It had totally forgotten that the cowherd boys had almost killed it.
Message: A simple japa or repetition of a holy name can bring a big change. The snake developed sattva(purity and goodness). Anger and violence lost their control on it. It did not find fault with others (The snake forgot that cowherd boys had hurt him).

5. Snake: ‘Yes, revered sir, now I remember. The boys one day dashed me violently against the ground. They are ignorant, after all. They didn’t realize what a great change had come over my mind. How could they know I wouldn’t bite or harm anyone?’

Message: Instead of harming them, the snake had forgiven them. In return, it could only give love and no hate. This is the power of Holy name.

Emphasizing the redeeming power and efficacy of Japa, the Holy Mother used to say, ‘Japat Siddhi! Japat Siddhi! Japat Siddhi!’ By repeating the holy name alone, one can attain realization.

One Comment

  1. 3. Here the Guru was confident of the power of mantra and also the disciple's sincerity. A Guru cannot be so confident of the attainment of the ultimate fruit by every disciple in this life itself because not everyone is so competent like this snake. The snake was a very rare disciple possessing all those noble qualities whom the Guru recognized early enough and so he was confident about him. For many of us, however, rebirth is probably a very likely scenario.

    5. I always thought it is easy not to get angry on anyone by thinking on these lines: "that person is a ignorant fool". How would you get angry on a dullard? You would naturally be sympathetic towards such a person. This way you can never get angry. However, when Jesus Christ said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing", He said it from a different perspective. He is perceiving the Reality/Self/God and hence His statement is totally different from a person who is arrogant and does not get angry on others on account of thinking others are fools.

    The conclusion of this parable is strange (not presented in the post). The snake was asked to hiss away (not bite) the children so that they would not bother it any more. The snake has achieved such a high state of mind that it gave up even the idea of self-preservation. But the brahmachari asks it to do that minimal self-effort of hissing to protect its own body. Why and for what is unclear. This parable is meant to be a teaching for striving householders who have to self-preserve their families and oneself (hissing). Sri Ramakrishna says a monk should not even hiss. Interestingly, this snake has already gone to a state where it does not even have the idea of its own body, leave alone that of a family dependent on it: many monks and householders are still striving to achieve this state! So why this snake was taught to hiss when it has gone beyond that requirement is strange indeed. Perhaps the snake had to be alive to teach others just as great realized saints preserve their bodies to teach others.

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