Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Serpent and the rope

This is an old Indian story with the typical Indian philosophy tagged to it.

A young man was going back to his home in the village after a day’s visit to the city. It was neither day nor night. The setting sun has disappeared leaving streaks of red light around. Everything looked dim but not dark.

It was not difficult for him to find his way home, because his feet are familiar with the way paved with rubbles by nature. It was a road to a typical Indian village in old days. He walked through it with his parents in his childhood days and later trod it with his elder brother and uncle. As a young man he walked alone through it.

On the way, he had to cross a bridge across a dancing and singing river. The river was life to the village.  The bridge was older than him and is known for no malice so far. The villagers together used to repair it occasionally. It never failed to carry them across to the city. The bridge too was familiar to his feet.

There used to be little or no passengers through this way after dusk. The villagers had a habit of gathering in their village by dusk, the men smoking hookah and women preparing dinner. Children are not allowed to wander after the sunset, because it was not safe for them. The villagers never appreciated anybody, men or women wandering alone after dusk, for it was a time for the spirits of the dead to move about.

The young man had sufficient education at school not to give an ear to all these superstitions. What else for he studied all those physical science and social sciences? He is proud to be educative, literate, eloquent and as a man who could name the constellations.

As he was nearing the bridge, the pale light of the half moon fell on the bridge. The river reflected the moonlight just enough to make known its presence below. The young man looked far into the bridge. In the middle of the bridge, he saw a serpent laying, as if it is waiting for a prey. A shiver of fever went through his nerves. It was an involuntary response to a danger. The young man stood at the other end of the bridge without stepping into it. He made some sounds, threw some small stones and performed some Indian tricks to frighten the serpent away.

But the serpent came to stay. It did not care for all the tricks the young man performed. It did not even lift its head. It remained there, motionless, challenging the wits of the educated man.

Darkness grew in thickness. Fear also thickened in his mind. The serpent is unmoving. Stories and myths popular in the village about serpents, ghosts and gods, all came to his mind one by one. It made him nervous. He was sweating in the later autumn night. He looked far and found none coming.

He looked back. To his great consolation, a light was approaching. It came nearer. The lantern was held by the old hermit lived in the village. The young man had no high opinion about him, because he was not educated in any school. It seemed to the young man, that this hermit always talked of metaphysical abstractions that had no practical value. But he was careful not to hurt the hermit. The whole village held him in high esteem. The young man tactfully avoided him whenever it is possible. Just as the sun set every day, the hermit chanted prayers and lighted the lantern. After that, if he ever goes out of his holy hut, he carried the lighted lantern with him. It was his teaching that a lighted lantern in the night could protect them from the spirits of the dead people. The young man never shared his teachings.

But then the lantern was the blessing he need. Superstition or not, he needed it then to chase away the serpent or to cross the bridge without getting near to it.

The old hermit came to him and enquired why he was waiting there. The hermit was a kind man. He saw marks of fear in the face of the young man.

The hermit looked far into the bridge and saw the serpent. It was wonderful that the hermit needed no words to understand the reason for the fear on his face. He looked far into the trouble.

The young man could not step forward, because:
He was afraid of the serpent lying far in the middle of the bridge.
He had no light with him for a better vision of the troubles ahead and to plan a way of escape.

His education at school did not teach him to look far into the upcoming danger.
His school days failed to aid him to prepare a plan of action, ahead of the danger, in order to escape from it.

The old hermit had no schooling. But he looked far and saw the seeming danger that lay in the middle of the bridge.
The old Guru (teacher) was equipped with enough preparations to plan a way of escape.

Without fear, the hermit walked forward beckoning the young man to follow.
He followed with trembling feet, fixing his eyes on the serpent.
He stumbled more than once, because his eyes were fixed on the serpent and saw nothing else.

The old Guru (teacher) came to the serpent, stopped there and threw more light on the serpent.
Then he spoke softly, “this is only a rope, not a serpent.” He continued to tell the young man that one needed a lighted lantern to realize that what he feared as serpent is only a harmless rope.

The only good thing about worries is that it never happen in our life.

We are not always travelling with a lighted lantern. The schooling has not equipped us with the insight and capacity to look far into the danger and plan a way out.
Often we sit back reluctant to venture into new projects. We never step forward.
We hesitate to knock at the doors of opportunities, because we lack a lighted lantern to realize that the danger we are afraid of is only a harmless rope.

We need a Guru. We need a mentor.
Who can this be?

He may be:
A spiritual guide; a teacher at school or university, a social leader, our parents or siblings, our spouse, a financial advisor, a motivating speaker, a good counselor, a friend or even a stranger met on our way ….

We need mentors.  We need Gurus.
They hold a lighted lantern that throws light on our fears.
They help us to see better, our fears, our anxieties and our concerns.
They help us to decide whether we should stop worrying or we should plan in ahead a way of escape from our fears.
Sometimes we need to stop worrying.
At other times, we need to plan a way of escape, far ahead.

Wishing you a prosperous new year (2013)

Further reading:
Prof. Jacob Abraham

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