By Sam Ervin
Agnes Baron (1907-1994) was a founder and the caretaker of Meher Mount, Ojai, California from 1946 until her death in 1994.
Before learning of Avatar Meher Baba, she lived the life of a Vedanta nun for one year at the Vedanta Temple in Montecito near Santa Barbara, California.
There she learned to love the Vedanta stories that impart spiritual and practical life lessons. One of her favorite stories, whose lesson she tried to incorporate into her own life was "Hiss, But Don't Bite."
THE VILLAGE WAS TERRORIZED BY A HUGE COBRA
The village was terrorized by a huge cobra. The snake would lie in wait, hidden by the grasses and reeds, along the paths leading to and from the village, sometimes on one side and sometimes on another.
As the villagers would pass near where the cobra was hiding, it would raise its giant hooded head as high as the shoulder of a man, hiss horribly, and lunge forward, sinking its fangs into its victim to release its terrible poison. The person bitten would often die, or take a long time to recover.
The snake instilled great fear in the villagers whenever they needed to leave the village. This state of affairs went on for years, while the villagers grew ever more anxious and suffered greatly.
THE COBRA BEGAN TO FEEL REPENTANT
Then eventually, the cobra began to feel repentant for the suffering he caused, and felt he needed guidance on how to behave. He sought out the local holy man, considered a guru to many, who lived simply in the forest.
The snake said, “O guru, for these many years I have been biting the people who live in this village, and I fear I have brought untold suffering upon them. What can I do to remedy the situation?”
The guru responded, “Simple. You can stop biting them, though I know this is not easy for you, as it goes against your nature.”
The cobra thanked the holy man and promised that he would stop biting the villagers.
THE COBRA WOULD LIE QUIETLY
Some time passed and some of the villagers noticed that the cobra would just lie there quietly as they passed him on the paths and would not be aggressive or try to bite them.
One day, some of them said, “That snake is not biting anymore, but we don’t trust him. We don’t want him hanging around our pathways. Let’s go and kill him or drive him away.”
With large sticks, they went out and scoured the pathways until they came upon the cobra.
UNDER ORDERS NOT TO BITE, THE COBRA DID NOTHING
Under orders not to bite, he just lay there. The villagers beat him with their sticks until he was bloody and terribly bruised. When he looked dead, the villagers tired of beating him and went away.
But the snake was not dead. He crawled slowly in great pain to the feet of the guru, and said, “You told me not to bite, and I have followed your order, but look at what it has gotten me: a terrible beating that could have killed me.”
The guru said, “I told you not to bite, but I didn’t tell you not to hiss!”
From that day, the cobra would hiss at the villagers, and they would keep their distance, while safely going about their business.