Art of Survival
Maharishi Mandavya was a great scholar of ancient times and had many disciples.
One day, two of his disciples went from his ashram to the nearby riverside to gather flowers and fruits. While doing so, they observed a big scorpion slowly crawling along the riverbank.
Then one of the disciples cautioned the other, "Please keep away from the poisonous creature, as per the advice of our Master, to keep aloof from evil people and things".
In the meanwhile, the scorpion slipped from the bank, fell into the river and was struggling for life. On seeing it, the second disciple immediately bent down, lifted the struggling creature, with his hand and placed it upon the shore.
While doing so, he was stung by the scorpion, causing him much pain.
The first disciple, on seeing sufferings of the savior, rebuked him and said, " You have ignored the teachings of our Master and hence you are in pain".
"No", said the other fellow, “I was only following the teachings of our Master and how can they be wrong?"
While they were debating about the dictums of the Master and its effects, the unfortunate scorpion again slipped and fell into the water, prompting the second disciple to lift it again from the water. In the process, he was again stung by
the poisonous creature.
Even though in pain, the second disciple explained the reasons for his action. "Our Master has taught us not to forsake our helping nature, but serve everyone, even though others may not appreciate or reciprocate it. While it is the scorpion's nature to sting, it is my nature to serve".
"But our Master has also taught us to keep aloof from evil people and things, to protect and preserve our own safety. You have violated it and hence you are suffering".
As they could not solve the apparent contradictions in the teachings of the Master, they both went back to him and explained their misgivings.
The Maharishi heard them with a smile and calmly said, "Both of you are partially right and partially wrong, in understanding my words. There is no contradiction in them".
"When I taught you to keep aloof from Bad people and things" continued the Master, "It was to save you from pollution by contact with evil. Any sensible person will do the same, unless he is strong and confident of reforming the evil doers".
When I taught you, not to forsake your helping attitude, it was only to strengthen your basic human nature to serve. You should be like a true doctor who does not distinguish friend and foe, in relieving or reducing pain.
"In the present case, the second disciple should have combined both teaching of aloofness and service. It was his duty to save a struggling creature, but he should have used a stick to lift the scorpion and not his bare hands. By such action, he would save the poisonous creature's life and also saved himself from its sting."
"But what to do if the bad thing is big and strong", questioned another disciple. "Then", said the Master, "your first duty is self preservation as the instinct of survival is the basic fact of Life.
Later immobilise it, by using your spiritual or material powers if you can".
This interesting tale, reveals how we should help others, without hurting ourselves, by carefully following the guidelines of service, as enumerated by our ancient masters.
Source: Acharya Ratnananda, Tales for the young and the old
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