Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Perils of attachment - a little story

A man was on his deathbed. Then a monk came and said, 'Be ready to leave. I will take you to the heaven.' The man was not yet ready to die. He said, 'Bless me with some more time on this earth, please.' The monk was surprised. 'Here I am showing him the path to the heaven and the liberation from this painful 'Samsara' and this man wants to prolong painful life on the earth,' he thought. But, as wished by the man, he gave him some more time and left.

After some months the monk returned. He was surprised to find that the man had in fact died but had chosen to be reborn as a cow. He asked why he had chosen to be born as a cow. The man said, 'My sons became parents. A lot of grand kids in the house. They all need milk badly. I could not see them going without adequate supply of milk. So, I became a cow.' The monk shook his head in disbelief and went away. He had come to take the man to heaven but instead had to grant the cow some more time so that it could get the satisfaction of feeding all the kids. 'Attachment! Attachment! This is one hard attachment to give up,' so saying the monk left.

The monk showed up once again after sometime. This time the man, who had become a cow, had died but had chosen to be born as a dog. 'What happened this time? Why have you become a dog?' the monk asked in surprise. The man said,'There is so much crime everywhere. I am concerned about the safety of my children, grand children, their property etc. Somebody needs to guard them and protect them. So, I became a dog this time. I know my time has come to die and go to heaven. But, I want to live some more time as a dog to complete my guard duty.' Once again monk left shaking his head muttering 'Attachment! Attachment! This is one hard attachment to give up.'

The monk returned for the third time to enable the man to reach the heaven. To his big surprise the man who was a dog last time had chosen to be born as a snake this time. The snake had chosen a corner to live and was guarding something zealously. 'What's up this time my man? Why one more rebirth rather than taking up the best offer of going to heaven and being liberated from this endless cycle of rebirths? Why one more rebirth? That too as a snake?' The man, now in the form of a snake, answered, 'I earned so much of money in my lifetime. I am not sure if my children and grandchildren can manage it properly. So I chose to be reborn as a snake. Who can guard the money better than a snake? I know. I know. I know it's time for me to go heaven and become one with the Lord. But, I want some more time on this earth as a snake. I just can't let all this money get squandered. Hard earned money. You know?'

The monk shook his head in utter disgust. 'Here is a man who, because of his good deeds, has the good fortune of making into heaven and be with the Lord. But, look at him and his attachment to his worldly life. He has extended his life three times now. That too choosing to be born as lower and more lower creatures. He needs some strong medication and that too a heavy dose,' so thinking, he came up with a idea.

He screamed at the top of his voice, 'Snake! Snake! I just saw a big snake here!' Everyone came out and started looking for the snake. They were all scared that there was a snake in the vicinity and had to find it and get rid of it for their own safety and peace of mind.

The snake hid itself. But they searched everywhere and found it. They thrashed it mercilessly. They did not know that it was their father, grand father which had donned the forms of a cow, a dog and now a snake. They did not know nor did they care that the snake was guarding their vast fortune. They just wanted to kill the snake. Somehow the snake managed to escape. It had been thrashed black and blue. It hid somewhere. The children were super happy when they found the treasure the snake was guarding. As soon as they found so much money hidden they forgot about the snake and everything else and got busy with making plans about how to spend all that money.

The injured snake saw all this and it finally realized, 'How stupid I was being so much attached to my family and to this worldly life. It was fair and expected out of me that I had to take care of my family and provide for them in my life. But when the time came to die and go to the Lord, it was time to shed all those attachments and move on. I wasted that opportunity not once but three times. I was so mired in all these worldly attachments that I did not even mind being reborn not once but three times as lower and still lower creatures. And what did I get for all this trouble? Almost got killed by own folks. It is time go,' so thinking the man prayed for the monk. The monk appeared smiling and no words were necessary this time. The man was finally ready to join him to be lead to the heaven. The snake shed its body finally. Since the man's ignorance (Ajnana) had been finally cured, he did not choose to or have to be reborn again. He joyfully left with monk and became one with the Lord.


Swami Sukhabodhananda told this story in his book - Adi Shankaracharya's Bhaja Govindam by Swami Sukhabodhananda. I was so impressed by it that I had to write it up in my own words and in the way I understood. Excellent little book. Highly recommended.


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