This is a long story, but one I thought worth sharing:
Once upon a time, on his way to the Himalayas, was a saint, a wandering ascetic. He came across a shallow river he had to cross. Just when he was about to wet his feet, he saw a scorpion helplessly treading the water, trying to come out of the river. It was almost touching the bank but not enough to gain hold of the ground. The sage saw scorpion’s struggle and decided to save it.
He picked up the scorpion in his right palm with the intention to place it on the dry surface. No sooner did he do that than the scorpion stung and rushed off the palm in frenzy, landing in the water again. It resumed its struggle to come out of water. The sage caressed his ailing right hand with his left. His body was in pain but his mind, calm.
Seeing that the scorpion could lose its life, the sage used left hand this time to lift the scorpion out of water. However, it panicked and stung again. Once again, it sped off the hand and fell in water resuming its struggle to come out. The saint was left with both hands singed with excruciating pain. He was not the one to give up either.
He tried again. This time, he cupped his hands together and lifted the scorpion in one swift movement. Before it could react, he safely dropped it on the land. The scorpion disappeared into the pebbles that lay near the bank. The sage felt elated, for, he succeeded in carrying out his resolve, for saving another life, in holding his forte. It was worth the pain he thought.
At a distance, oblivious to the saint, a man, surprised and shocked, had watched the whole episode. He promptly approached the sage and said, “Pray, can I ask you a question please?”
“Yes, you may.”
“First of all, there was no need to save a scorpion. It does no good to anybody. Secondly, if must you save him out of compassion, you could have simply tried once. I’m surprised that even after it stung you so ungratefully, you persisted with your efforts. Why? How come you did not just stomp on it after it stung you?”
“Oh! That’s pretty simple,” the sage replied softly rubbing his stung hands against each other. “This was a scorpion, someone really low on the food chain, a creature whose nature is to sting, to panic, to harm. It is known for not exhibiting any compassion. It is supposed to be weak. Whereas, I am supposed to be a saint, a person whose job is to love everybody, to only offer unconditional love and compassion. I am supposed to be the strong one, the one higher up on the food chain. With my principles and lifestyle, my philosophy and practice, my elevated emotional and mental state, I am supposed to cleanse and transform the other individual. Right?”
The man nodded.
“Well then, a creature as lowly and weak as a scorpion does not change its basic nature, its traits, reactions in the presence of a holy man. Should I, the one who’s supposed to be a saint, let go off my righteous conduct, my demeanor in the presence of a scorpion? Am I now so weak to allow a measly creature change me, throw me off my principles and virtues? It did what it is designed for and I did what I’m designed for. It retained its behavior, and I, mine.”
The man prostrated at the feet of the sage and expressed his gratitude for the profound wisdom.
Living in this world, disagreements are normal, in fact, natural. You will meet people ranging from scorpions to saints, thankful to thankless, from weak to wild, and so forth. If they are able to provoke you, put you off, throw you off balance, they are stronger than you. When in any conflict, if you retain your goodness, you will emerge a winner. If you stoop down to their level, treating them the way they treated you, that invariably means they have won, that means you have become like them. Rarely worth it, if you ask me.
It is often not possible for a person to be one or the other at all times. Sometimes circumstances force you to sting like a scorpion, perhaps you may even repent later on; forgive yourself. A lot more important is to make a serious attempt to act like a saint. Whether you are a sage or a scorpion, it is a matter of choice, an independent choice. You have the option to retain your individuality. Strength comes naturally from such stance.
So, if you are willing, write in the comments below, whether you are:
- (a) a sage;
- (b) a scorpion;
- (c) or you can be either depending on the situation.
If you wish to be a sage under all circumstances, you can. It requires mindfulness and a conscious effort. Nothing will ever bother you thereafter.
Montaine wrote: “No man is more monster or miracle than myself” – unfortunately that’s true for me! I’d have answer with letter C right now, but as I’m thinking of the scorpions in my life, I don’t want to give up my power to be response-able and join them. “Am I now so weak to allow a measly creature change me, throw me off my principles and virtues?” If I am, my principles and virtues aren’t worth much, are they?
One more thought; imho the sage in this story isn’t quite so sagey as he comes out in the end. Think before you engage a scorpion! Perhaps his last action — quickly picking up the scorpion and setting it on the bank — should have been his first. Especially when “a creature as lowly and weak as a scorpion does not change its basic nature, its traits, reactions in the presence of a holy man”…