Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai, Hsihu, Formosa,
July 12, 1992 (originally in Chinese) Videotape No.268
This story is called "The Farmer and the Snake." Every day, a farmer went to the city to sell his flowers and farm produce and then went home after selling all his things. One day, he left home very early, so early that when he arrived at the city, the gate was still closed. So he lay down to take a nap, when he awoke he found that the storage bin containing his farm produce had become empty except that there was a gold coin inside. Although all the things in the bin had vanished, the gold was much more valuable so he was still very happy. He thought most probably someone had taken his things and left the payment there, and went home happily with the money.
The next day, the farmer again went out to sell his things but again arrived too early so he slept outside the city gate just like he had done the day before. And the incident repeated itself. All the produce that the farmer had brought disappeared, and there was a gold coin in the bin! At that time, gold was very valuable. One gold coin had a value many times higher than the farmer's produce.
Then one day some time later, the farmer's father asked him, "Where have you gotten so many gold coins lately? Where did the money come from?" So the farmer revealed to his father what had happened. After listening to his story, the father thought, "One day I'll follow my son as he goes out, and see who's been consuming his things and leaving the money in the bin."
So one day, when the farmer went out to do business, his father quietly followed him. While the farmer was sleeping near the city gate, his father saw a snake crawl up to his bin and eat his produce. Having finished eating, the snake once again spat a gold coin into the bin as payment to the farmer before leaving. Seeing this, the farmer's father thought, "If I kill the snake, I'll be able to seize all its gold coins!" He then picked up a stone and cut the snake into two parts.
At that time, the head and trunk of the snake were already in its den, and only the tail was outside. The father thought that there must be a big treasure in the den so he told his son to reach inside for it. But unexpectedly, when the farmer reached his hand into the den, the snake bit and killed him! Even though it had been cut into two, the snake could still bite! I understand how this could have happened because that was how I got bitten when I was small. At that time, I saw a centipede that had been beaten and squashed by someone, leaving only the head intact. I thought it was dead, and to make sure, I poked it with my foot. It bit me hard and I cried for three days. (Laughter) I was really dumb! Remember! Don't play with a centipede even if it looks dead. Sometimes it just fakes death; it's not really dead.
Perhaps that was what happened to the snake in the story. Its head wasn't dead yet. Thus, it bit the farmer, who subsequently died. Seeing his son killed, the farmer's father cried brokenheartedly next to the son's dead body and asked the snake, "You snake! Why did you kill my son? Why did you bite my son and kill him?" Instead of answering him, the snake asked, "Why did you break my back with the stone? There was no animosity between us. I had never done anything bad to you, nor had I done you any harm. If you had been more patient and waited, I would have given the entire treasure here to you. However, because you struck me, I bit and killed your son. Had I killed you instead, you would not be in such deep sorrow. I killed your son so that you'd live the rest of your life in agony." This snake was venomously wise! Instead of biting the man who tried to kill it, it bit his son so that the father would be in agony for the rest of his life. It was truly amazing!
We can also learn something from this story. Sometimes you may ask me, "Why don't You take me to the Fifth Realm immediately? As such I'll be liberated from suffering and promptly become a Buddha. Wouldn't it be better? Why do You tell me to meditate for two and a half hours each day, and observe the Five Precepts and a vegetarian diet? This is too slow, way too slow!" Actually, this isn't slow! You can digest it only in this way. If I gave you too much at one time, you'd be filled to death! Because you're too greedy, in the end you get nothing at all.
Sometimes we spiritual practitioners have no obstacles. We understand very well why we're pursuing this spiritual path. Every day we meditate diligently without any doubts and never create obstacles for ourselves. However, when Maya can't hinder us from practicing spirituality, it annoys our relatives, using them to obstruct us and cause us harm. Shakyamuni Buddha once said that when Maya couldn't attack the Buddha, it would attack His disciples. So when the disciples sometimes encounter many troubles, the Master is also involved and affected. It's because the Master can't look on without doing anything when the disciples are in danger. This is like when parents see something happen to their children. They don't have the heart to just stand there watching so they're definitely affected.
In the course of spiritual practice, it's inevitable that you'll sometimes have friction with relatives and friends. We all have such experiences. Just try your best to endure, explain to them, neglect them, leave them, ignore them or be as cordial as you can. We should react depending on the situation. Each person has different situations; there's no way that I can set an exact example for you. You have to apply your wisdom to handle problems to reach a satisfactory result as best you can. Nonetheless, you mustn't give in too much and sacrifice your spiritual progress.