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A Snake in a Man’s Stomach – A Parable on Human Condition


A great Sufi saint Rumi told one parable which is very important to understand as it provides great inspiration to stick to the path of pure spirituality. This can be sometimes hard to do because the ego is very successful in making us believe that some distractions from the path are okay.

Let me tell you this parable, along with its explanation. The explanation is in bold, so if you wish, first read the parable, think about it yourself, and then you can read the explanation.

Rumi told how a snake got into the mouth of a sleeping man and was swallowed. The man, of course, was unaware of what happened, because he was asleep. This illustrates how dark forces took the possession of humans when they lost consciousness of God.

A wise man was riding past on a horse, and saw what happened. He knew that if he would tell a sleeping man about what had happened to him, the man would be too scared to do anything. Like prophet Mohammed told, if people really knew what’s in them, they would be so frozen with fear that they wouldn’t even be able to pray.

So the wise man decided to get the snake out of him without telling about the snake. He started beating the sleeping man and ordering him to eat many rotten apples.

The frightened man ate so many apples successively that some of them even fell out of his mouth. He was absolutely shocked at the treatment of the sage. He did nothing to the sage, so why the sage was being so cruel to him? That’s how people feel about strict spiritual practices, not understanding the absolute importance of them. Only simple food? What’s wrong with being the explorer of different cuisines? No sex? What’s wrong with moderation?

The man was so upset about what the sage was doing to him that he even started cursing the wise one. The sage started beating the man more, and ordered him to run to the desert. Thus he ran, with blood spilling from his mouth, until he could run no longer, and fell, totally lifeless.

The sage only stopped beating him when the man started vomiting. Strict spiritual practices will be required as long as the dark force is in a human being.

Everything consumed came out of the man, together with the snake and the rotten apples. When the man saw the snake, he fell on his face to worship the sage. Now instead of cursing him, he had immense gratitude for the sage’s kindness.

He said to the sage :

I was dead when you saw me, and you gave me life. You were helping me like a mother, but I was running away like a fool.

The donkey, too, doesn’t understand its masters good heart, and runs away from him because of its nature. But the master, being kind and loving, searches and finds the donkey, so that wild animals wouldn’t snatch it away.

The saved man deeply regretted having cursed the sage. He said that it wasn’t him, but his ignorance who said the hateful words. He excused himself by reasoning that if he even knew a little about his real condition, he would have never used such harsh words.

The wise one replied :

If I would have told you about your condition, you would be frozen in fear and wouldn’t be able to take any action. So you would surely die.

If I would have told you about the qualities of the snake you had in your stomach, you would be so afraid that naturally the life breath would leave your body.

If I would have told you about the qualities of that snake, you would have never been able to eat a single apple and you would have never been able to force yourself to vomit.

I had no permission to talk about the snake, nor could I leave you with it. I just prayed to God for you to overcome this easier.  I kept praying for your guidance, because I knew your ignorant condition.

This story illustrates how the life of austerities is disgusting to the sensual ones, yet only such a life opens one’s eyes to the forces of nature that control unconscious humans. The sensual ones are like children angrily cursing parents who don’t allow them to play with fire.

It’s indeed very painful to say no to sex or food delicacies, but without such bitter medicine the “snake” wouldn’t come out. You cannot see its nature when you keep it in the belly feeding it and slowly destroying yourself. You can only see it face to face when you expel it through spiritual practices. And when you see its face, you realize why difficult spiritual practices were an absolute must. And you also understand why you weren’t allowed to see this dark force before it was expelled from you.

So persevere, dear one, in your spiritual practices. Sensual life is the life of death. It feeds the force that feeds through you and is killing you slowly. It doesn’t feed you, although it wants you to believe it does. It starves you and feeds its own unfeedable vacuum.

Don’t take action from the consciousness of lack. Don’t self-will actions; keep centered within always, with your mind dwelling on God, and be very aware lest you fall into numerous ego traps that keep you away from your true nature.

What seems bitter now, will seem sweet later, like celibacy. What’s sweet now, will seem bitter later, like lust. Do not choose the easy road if you don’t want to end up like the majority.


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About Shiva Sai Teja

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