ZEN STORIES: “The monk and the scorpion” (about forgiveness & compassion)


“The monk and the scorpion”

One day two monks were walking by the river. While doing so, one of them noticed a scorpion struggling in the water. Knowing that scorpions can’t swim, the monk knew if he did not save the scorpion, it would drown. Thus, carefully picking up the scorpion, the monk rescued it from drowning. And as he was just about to set it down, the scorpion stung his finger. In pain, the monk drew back his hand and the scorpion went flying, back into the river. As soon as the monk regained his composure, he again lifted him out of the water, this time with a stronger grip, out of the water. Again, before he could set the scorpion down, the creature stung him. This drama lasted for several minutes.

The other monk was observing this, wherein the monk would carefully and gingerly lift the creature out of the water to yet again fling it back in the water again. While at the same time also convulsing from the pain unleashed by each fresh sting. Eventually, unable to remain quiet the observing monk said to the other one, “Brother, why do you keep trying to save the scorpion? It stings you every time you come near it”

To this the monk replied: “My dear brother, the scorpion is not stinging me out of malice or evil intent. Just as it is the water’s nature to make me wet, so it is the scorpion’s nature to sting. He doesn’t understand that I am getting him to safety. Quite simply, there is a level of conscious comprehension greater than what his brain can accomplish. But, just as it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, so it is my nature to save him. Just as he is not leaving his nature, why should I leave my nature? My dharma is to help every creature – human or animal. Soon, I will stop feeling the pain of the sting and he will be saved, or he will stopped being afraid and be saved. Compassion cannot be stopped so easily.

Sometimes we may get hurt by others, due to ignorance , lack of understanding, selfishness,or indifference. However,  instead of letting our thoughts, words and actions to get influenced by anger or pain, (a process that only injures ourselves more deeply), we should not allow the darkness to overwhelm the light in our hearts and minds.



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