A short story: The Cobra


A Parable from the Puranas *

There was once a poisonous cobra which lived with her family in a deserted temple not far from a village. The villagers were all frightened of her and no one dared to behave carelessly near the temple.

One day a sage was passing that way and the cobra came spitting venom at him. The sage remained unmoved and this puzzled the snake. She recognised the greatness of the man and asked him to accept her as his disciple. The sage gave her some advice and also told her that it was wrong on her part to bite and kill people.

The sage went on his way and returned a year later. Just to find the snake almost on the verge of death. She had become so meek and mild that the villagers started to torment her and throw stones at her. She was practicing non-violence and hence refused to catch any mice that now ran all over her and infested the temple she lived in and destroyed its sanctity.

With almost her last breath the cobra laid her head on her master’s feet and asked him to bless her. The sage replied:

“My daughter! I told you not to bite, but I certainly did not tell you not to hiss! You have a duty to protect your family and territory. If out of some mistaken idea of non-violence and tolerance you fail to do your duty, you will have to face the consequences which might even mean death for you and your family and the end of your territory!”

The snake was much relieved to hear this and started once again to assert her rights. Even though she did not bite she would hiss in a very terrifying manner. Soon the villagers started respecting her once again and the mice which used to run all over the temple and made fun of her, now started to run off when she appeared.

Henceforth all of them lived again in perfect harmony with respect for each other’s rights and territories.

The Puranas belong to the most important ancient scriptures of India, which cover a series of topics such as cosmology, medicine, mineralogy, myths, love stories and philosophy.

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