Whenever I need to take the train to get to the office, I pass by an area that is home for snails. Yes, the slow and slimy little fellows with the shell.
For some reason, at around sunrise, many of them decide to cross the paved path that leads to the train station, out from their grassy home onto the bare asphalt. I took the time to pick them and put them back into the grass. Fortunately I didn’t miss my train. One famous so-called spiritual leader called that “stupid compassion”. I then learned that even though he is Buddhist, he eats meat. He lost my respect as a spiritual leader at that time, and now I see him as a mere social and political leader.
For people walking, running, or dashing to catch the train, these snails are practically invisible, to some they are a game “crunch, crunch, crunch”. Crushed under someone’s foot. I feel tremendous sorrow to see those that were crushed.
Imagine getting crushed to death! No need to imagine… we have indeed been crushed many times. The only reason we don’t remember is because otherwise we would be down with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder! As spirit souls, we have wandered around many many times in practically every one of the 8.4 million species of life. Yes Eight Million Four Hundred Thousand species.
We are all coming from the same eternal source. A genuine spiritualist feels oneness with all living entities. Not that all of us “are one” or that there is no individuality, but we are “of the One”. In other words, all of us have the same Original father and mother.
When we have that vision and realization, how can we possibly crush our own brothers and sisters under our feet? Would we not want to watch out for them? If you had a weak little sibling, would you crush him under your feet when he was in your way? Would you crush your little baby under your foot when she was crawling across the living room floor? Why then would one not extend the same kindness to an ant or a snail?
Unavoidable accidents are one thing, but any human should do their best to watch out for the little fellows in our way. In some cases, such as in fighting disease or pestilence, it may be necessary to kill other living creatures, indeed, we can’t even breathe without killing so many micro-organisms. But how can we transform ourselves to being more compassionate towards the little ones?
The famous example of this is Mrgari, the hunter – and here is an instructive lesson from the Chaitanya Charitamrita. A hunter, who once took pleasure in half-killing animals was inspired to become a great saint. Here is the entire incident in brief, if you would like to read… here is a beautiful summary for your pleasure…
Once upon a time the great saint Nārada, after visiting Lord Nārāyaṇa in the Vaikuṇṭhas, went to Prayāga to bathe at the confluence of three rivers — the Ganges, Yamunā and Sarasvatī.
Nārada Muni saw that a deer was lying on the path through the forest and that it was pierced by an arrow. It had broken legs and was twisting due to much pain.
Farther ahead, Nārada Muni saw a boar pierced by an arrow. Its legs were also broken, and it was twisting in pain.
When he went farther, he saw a rabbit that was also suffering. Nārada Muni was greatly pained at heart to see living entities suffer so.
When Nārada Muni advanced farther, he saw a hunter behind a tree. This hunter was holding arrows, and he was ready to kill more animals.
The hunter’s body was blackish. He had reddish eyes, and he appeared fierce. It was as if the superintendent of death, Yamarāja, were standing there with a bow and arrows in his hands.
When Nārada Muni left the forest path and went to the hunter, all the animals immediately saw him and fled.
When all the animals fled, the hunter wanted to chastise Nārada with abusive language, but due to Nārada’s presence, he could not utter anything abusive.
The hunter addressed Nārada Muni: ‘O gosvāmī! O great saintly person! Why have you left the general path through the forest to come to me? Simply by seeing you, all the animals I was hunting have now fled.’
Nārada Muni replied, ‘Leaving the path, I have come to you to settle a doubt that is in my mind.
‘I was wondering whether all the boars and other animals that are half-killed belong to you.’
Nārada Muni then inquired, ‘Why did you not kill the animals completely? Why did you half-kill them by piercing their bodies with arrows?’
The hunter replied, ‘My dear saintly person, my name is Mṛgāri, enemy of animals. My father taught me to kill them in that way.
‘When I see half-killed animals suffer, I feel great pleasure.’
Nārada Muni then told the hunter, ‘I have one thing to beg of you.’
‘I have many skins, if you would like them. I shall give you either a deerskin or a tiger skin.’
Nārada Muni said, ‘I do not want any of the skins. I am asking only one thing from you in charity.
‘I beg you that from this day on you will kill animals completely and not leave them half-dead.’
The hunter replied, ‘My dear sir, what are you asking of me? What is wrong with the animals’ lying there half-killed? Will you please explain this to me?’
Nārada Muni replied, ‘If you leave the animals half-dead, you are purposefully giving them pain. Therefore you will have to suffer in retaliation.’
Nārada Muni continued, ‘My dear hunter, your business is killing animals. That is a slight offense on your part. But when you consciously give them unnecessary pain by leaving them half-dead, you incur very great sins.’
Nārada Muni continued, ‘All the animals that you have killed and given unnecessary pain will kill you one after the other in your next life and in life after life.’
In this way, through the association of the great sage Nārada Muni, the hunter was a little convinced of his sinful activity. He therefore became somewhat afraid due to his offenses.
The hunter then admitted that he was convinced of his sinful activity, and he said, ‘I have been taught this business from my very childhood. Now I am wondering how I can become freed from these unlimited volumes of sinful activity.’
The hunter continued, ‘My dear sir, please tell me how I can be relieved from the reactions of my sinful life. Now I fully surrender unto you and fall down at your lotus feet. Please deliver me from sinful reactions.’
Nārada Muni assured the hunter, ‘If you listen to my instructions, I shall find the way you can be liberated.’
The hunter then said, ‘My dear sir, whatever you say I shall do.’
The hunter replied, ‘If I break my bow, how shall I maintain myself?’
Being thus assured by the great sage Nārada Muni, the hunter broke his bow, immediately fell down at the saint’s lotus feet and fully surrendered. After this, Nārada Muni raised him with his hand and gave him instructions for spiritual advancement.
Nārada Muni then advised the hunter, ‘Return home and distribute whatever riches you have to the pure brāhmaṇas who know the Absolute Truth. After you have distributed all your riches to the brāhmaṇas, you and your wife should leave home, each of you taking only one cloth to wear.’
Nārada Muni continued, ‘Leave your home and go to the river. There you should construct a small cottage, and in front of the cottage you should grow a tulasī plant on a raised platform.
‘After planting the tulasī tree before your house, you should daily circumambulate that tulasī plant, serve her by giving her water and other things, and continuously chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.’
Nārada Muni continued, ‘Every day I shall send sufficient food to you both. You can take as much food as you want.’
The three animals that were half-killed were then brought to their consciousness by the sage Nārada. Indeed, the animals got up and swiftly fled.
When the hunter saw the half-killed animals flee, he was certainly struck with wonder. He then offered his respectful obeisances to the sage Nārada and returned home.
After all this, Nārada Muni went to his destination. After the hunter returned home, he exactly followed the instructions of his spiritual master, Nārada.
The news that the hunter had become a Vaiṣṇava spread all over the village. Indeed, all the villagers brought alms and presented them to the Vaiṣṇava who had formerly been a hunter.
In one day enough food was brought for ten or twenty people, but the hunter and his wife would accept only as much as they could eat.
One day, while speaking to his friend Parvata Muni, Nārada Muni requested him to go with him to see his disciple the hunter.
As the saintly sages approached the hunter’s place, the hunter could see them from a distance.
With great alacrity the hunter began to run toward his spiritual master, but he could not fall down and offer obeisances because ants were running hither and thither around his feet.
Seeing the ants, the hunter whisked them away with a piece of cloth. After thus clearing the ants from the ground, he fell down flat to offer his obeisances.
Nārada Muni said, ‘My dear hunter, such behavior is not at all astonishing. A man in devotional service is automatically nonviolent. He is the best of gentlemen.
‘O hunter, good qualities like nonviolence, which you have developed, are not very astonishing, for those engaged in the Lord’s devotional service are never inclined to give pain to others because of envy.’
The hunter then received the two great sages in the courtyard of his house. He spread out a straw mat for them to sit upon, and with great devotion he begged them to sit down.
He then fetched water and washed the sages’ feet with great devotion. Then both husband and wife drank that water and sprinkled it on their heads.
When the hunter chanted the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra before his spiritual master, his body trembled and tears welled up in his eyes. Filled with ecstatic love, he raised his hands and began to dance, waving his garments up and down.
When Parvata Muni saw the ecstatic loving symptoms of the hunter, he told Nārada, ‘Certainly you are a touchstone.’
Parvata Muni continued, ‘My dear friend Nārada Muni, you are glorified as the sage among the demigods. By your mercy, even a lowborn person like this hunter can immediately become attached to Lord Kṛṣṇa.’
Nārada Muni then asked the hunter, ‘My dear Vaiṣṇava, do you have some income for your maintenance?’
The former hunter said, ‘Please do not send so much grain. Only send what is sufficient for two people, no more.’
Nārada Muni approved his not wanting more than a daily supply of food, and he blessed him, saying, ‘You are fortunate.’ Nārada Muni and Parvata Muni then disappeared from that place.
Thus I have narrated the incident of the hunter. By hearing this narration, one can understand the influence of association with devotees
Compared to all the other living entities, the “littleness” is only in the external covering, otherwise, as spirit souls, all of us are the same size. The crusher becomes the crushed, and the crushed becomes the crusher. So, compassion is in our own best self-interest, first and foremost. The only stupidity is to be devoid of compassion.
Your freedom ends where my nose begins. Your freedom ends where the ant’s body begins. Your freedom ends where the snail lies across the road. Take note dear spiritualists, and try your best to tread lightly in this world, and watch out for those brothers and sisters everywhere around us.
This can be taken literally as well as figuratively. You may be a big businessperson, famous artist, some big shot in a religious organization, or just more powerful than others in some way.
If we don’t see those little ones around us or if we don’t feel compassion, then what can we do? We can hang out with those who do feel compassion. We can receive their association. The pure Vaishnavas are most compassionate, they wouldn’t hurt an ant or snail, let alone bigger animals. We can accept their instructions. And this we can be eligible for spiritual advancement. Please let me know how I may assist you? I know a lot of compassionate saints!