Story of Monk and Snail

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Integral Studies, Pedagogy & Education, Philosophical Debris

From a recent Facebook post by friend John:

A monk was walking by a river, and he saw a scorpion struggling not to drown in a pool. He went over to try and free it, but every time he pulled it out, the scorpion would sting him and fall back into the puddle.

At this time, a man was passing by and saw what was happening; He yelled out, “You crazy monk, why do you keep trying to help it when all it does is sting you?”.

The monk replied:
“The scorpion is not stinging me out of malice or evil intent. It is simply his nature to sting just as it is the water’s nature to make me wet. He doesn’t realize that I am carrying him to safety…. That is a level of conscious comprehension greater than what his brain can achieve. But, just as it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, so it is my nature to save. Just as he is not leaving his nature, why should I leave my own? Should I let a small scorpion rob me of my good nature just because it does not think on the way I do?”

I love this story as it has multiple layers of meaning and insight.  Everyone acts according to their own nature, just as water acts according to its own nature.  Water does not refrain from making you wet because you don’t want it to, nor do we blame the water for a drowning.  Similarly, when we truly understand other people, we cannot expect them not to act according to their nature, nor blame them when they do.  We approach water and the scorpion with an awareness of the nature and, if we are aware, of the consequences, and act accordingly.  We should do the same when approaching people.

And that just scratches the surface.  Stories and parables are so important in communicating difficult concepts and values.  Good stories can be vehicles of teaching no matter what level of development is needed.

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