“The saint helped the scorpion over and over again and the scorpion each time returned a sting. Some said, ‘Do you not know it is the nature of the scorpion to sting?’ and the saint replied, ‘It is my nature to save.'”
The above is attributed to Kabir – someone who was a 15th century Indian mystic who influenced two of the world’s major religions – Hinduism and Sikhism. In fact, verses from Kabir are not only inspirational they are also to be found in the holy text of the Sikhs, namely the Adi Granth.
This quote is one I found not long ago but it has really been on my mind. There are two reasons for why it has stayed with me. One is that the saint is aware of the scorpion’s nature – something that’s actually very telling. The other thing causing this quote to stick with me is that the saint pretty much self-identified as a saint to another human. Let’s look at the first part.
The saint was well aware of the scorpion’s tendency to sting, even when being helped. The shortest assessment, probably, of the saint’s behavior in this context is that he simply didn’t care. At a bare minimum, he simply didn’t care that the scorpion had stung him and would continue to sting him. But why didn’t that matter? We have a modern saying that goes something like, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fooll me twice, shame on me.” We don’t like feeling like fools and most people would agree that, excluding all masochistic tendencies, to continue to do something that seems to be a source of pain (like suffering a scorpion’s sting) is foolish. However, that doesn’t really seem to be on the saint’s radar. There are two things I can say ARE on the saint’s radar: Awareness of the scorpion’s nature, and awareness of his own.
The saint seems to be saying that it simply doesn’t matter if it’s painful to help. He knows (by recognizing the scorpion’s nature) that pain is likely. Since he’s helped more than once already, he probably recognizes that the scorpion will continue to need help. And he recognizes (by being aware of his own nature) that he will likely be stung again… and again. Seems like a bad combo, right?
Why would anyone continue to place themselves in the position to be stung when all they are doing for the one stinging is helping? It doesn’t make sense… Unless you’re a so-called saint.
The saint in our little story accepts the nature of the scorpion. He not only sees that the scorpion will sting him, but also knows that the scorpion, in all it’s scorpion-ness, will continue to need help. When most people come across the various kinds of scorpion-humans in the world, they do what they can to stay away. The opposite of help. Most think to themselves, “Why would any fool help someone else who is just going to sting them as repayment?” But the saint isn’t concerned with those kinds of thoughts or that mudane level of operating in the world… Because the saint knows his own nature.
The saint knows he’s here to help. Period. The saint knows lots of other things too: That his needs will always be met, that things aren’t often the way they seem, that the Big Picture is REALLY fucking big, that there are reasons behind happenings which aren’t always apparent and often are never known on the surface level. But the most important and useful thing understood by the saint is that he’s here to do what he’s supposed to do when he’s supposed to do it, and never really to care about whether his payment is sainthood or stings. This is why he responds to his questioner with the simple statement, “It is my nature to save.”
The second part of the story that has stayed with me is that the saint self-identified himself as someone who saves. Today, a statement like that would probably strike most people as pretty arrogant. The first thing that pops into my head when I chew on this is that the humility of someone who says, “I’m a humble person” is often questioned before they can put a period on the end of that statement. So wouldn’t the sainthood of someone who tells others, “I’m a saint” likewise come into question? Maybe, but maybe not.
I suppose on some level this is no different than some teachers and guides and gurus saying they are beggars or a “servant of the servant,” something I’ve heard a lot. I know even within Heartfulness / Sahaj Marg our Masters or guides have made very clear that they are nobody to exalt, that they are here to serve.
Somebody can say they are a beggar or – as we often see in Hinduism – that the guru’s padukas are all we’re worthy to touch. It’s all the same and it’s all a form of the person speaking about their own humility – and yet we’re okay with that, in that form. So this leaves me wondering a bit about other different-but-similar self-proclamations. When the person asked the saint if he wasn’t aware of the scorpion’s tendency toward stinging and was met with a response akin to “I save people,” how did that person respond? Are we supposed to question a saint’s assertion or just stay out of the way and let him or her keep sainting?
Either way, I’m not convinced it matters much. What seems to be the real lesson of the short story this post started with is that some of us are here and have evolved in such a way so as to help – in whatever way we’re supposed to, at whichever time we’re supposed to – even if we know the scorpion is a selfish kind of idiot and seemingly undeserving.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti