The informant is a 19 year old Occupational Therapy student at USC. She was born in Calcutta, as were her parents. She moved to California when she was young and has lived here ever since. Her family is originally from Gujarat, an area in Western India, and she suspects that her family stories are from her Gujarati heritage.
“Lord Mahavir Swami Bhagwan is one of our main gods and he was traveling through the country going from village to village. And the way they travel is they just kind of walk everywhere and they just go from home to home and visit. And so he was walking through the forest one day and he saw a snake that was badly bruised. The snake was actually a Sadhu, or a Saint, who in his previous life used to get very angry, and that’s not right, that’s not correct for a saint to be so angry – he used to curse people and used to get upset very easily and so he was reborn, reincarnated as a snake, a lower form of life.
“And so he asked the snake, “Why are you covered in bruises?”. The snake said, “When the villagers pass by, they always throw rocks at me and hit me.”.
“So Mahavir Swami Bhagwan told him, “Well, humans are very mean so next time, why don’t you just hiss at them to scare them.” So he gave him this advice and Mahavir Swami Bhagwan continued on his journey.
“So the snake, Chandra Mukher Nag*, tried out his advice and he hissed at the villagers the next few times and so this continued. And on his journey back, Mahavir Swami Bhagwan passed through the same jungle and he came upon Chandra Mukher Nag – I want to say – and he was extremely bruised and beaten.
“And so he asked him what happened. And the snake said, “Well I hissed at them but then a group of villagers came and they beat me up very badly.
“So what happened was the snake died but he reached Moksha or Enlightenment and he essentially became a god. And that’s because he didn’t act on his anger and he essentially sacrificed himself. And so through his good Karma that he accumulated he was able to reach Enlightenment or Moksha.”
*The informant thinks this is the correct name but is not sure
The informant explains the significance of the story for her:
“I think it is just another type of parable. It just says, don’t get angry, don’t get upset. Others may hurt you but don’t retaliate because nothing good can come from that. I think it’s another example of, another idea of that non-violence sort of concept.”
This is, in many ways, a typical story of redemption. The protagonist was put in his current situation as a snake because of his anger in a previous life. In this life, he redeems himself by not acting on his anger and not striking back at the villagers and instead hissing at them (using his words instead of violence, in a way). Although he suffers and dies because of his non-violence, despite, and in fact, because of this, he is rewarded with the highest reward: Moksha. Because he was willing to sacrifice himself instead of being violent, he cancelled out the bad Karma he accumulated in his past life and reached the highest state of being.
This parable teaches a few lessons: 1. Humans can be spiteful and mean and the world will often hurt you for no reason. Mahavir Swami Bhagwan himself says, “humans are very mean”. 2. Use your words (hiss), instead of your anger and violence when faced with these struggles, even if it hurts you in the end. 3. Personal suffering and even death is better than causing others pain. 4. We can learn things from animals as they could have once been humans. Follow the snake’s example and hiss (speak) instead of biting (getting angry).