Learning to Hiss: The Cobra Story

In a village, there once lived a cobra whose bite had taken the lives of many of the people. The leader of the community went to a wise man and said, “We can’t go on like this. The snake is killing off all the villagers. Won’t you please do something about it?” The wise man agreed to help. He went to the cobra and said, “Look here, you must not go on killing these people. It is unnecessary and wrong. Leave them alone.”

The cobra said, “All right, I will follow your advice. I will practice nonviolence.”

A year went by. The wise man was passing through the village again and wondered what had happened about the cobra. He went to look for the snake, but it was not in its regular nest. He finally found the hapless creature, its lacerated body stretched out in the sun, just about to breathe its last.

“What on earth happened to you?” the wise man asked.

The cobra answered, “This, Mister Wise Man, is the result of following your teaching of nonviolence. Look what the villagers have done to me. I lie here quietly, and because they no longer have cause to fear me, they come and stone me!”

The wise man said, “You didn’t understand. I told you not to bite, but I didn’t tell you not to hiss!”

From: Finding the Joy Within You