The old path connecting the two towns was perfectly safe. People used to travel anytime during the day or even at night without fear.
One day, a traveler was shocked to see a black cobra blocking his path. Frightened for his life, he dropped his belonging and ran. Others were not so fortunate. One or two were even bitten by the serpent. The old route was no longer safe. People now chose a longer route to avoid the cobra.
With no one coming to that side, the cobra was bored. “What happened to all those people?” he said to himself, aloud.
“It’s because of you,” said a voice.
The cobra saw a Sadhu standing close to him. He showed no fear. He showed no dislike for the cobra either.
“It is wrong to bite people passing by. Non-injury is the greatest Dharma,” said the Sadhu.
The black cobra bowed to the Sadhu and assured him he would stop biting people.
The Sadhu blessed the serpent and went his way.
Months passed by. One day, the Sadhu came by the same route. He remembered his old friend, the black cobra. It was nowhere to be seen. “Nag, my friend Nag, where are you?” the Sadhu shouted.
Hearing his voice, the serpent crawled out of a hole where he was hiding.
The Sadhu was shocked to see the serpent covered with blood, wounds all over its body.
“What happened, my friend? Who did this to you?” the Sadhu asked.
The serpent spoke in a weak voice.
“I followed your advice and stopped troubling people. I allowed them to pass. Slowly, they lost fear for me. They became bolder. Yesterday, a young man threw a stone at me. Another came after me with a stick. They gave me a sound thrashing.”
“Why didn’t you defend yourself?” asked the Sadhu.
“You asked me not to bite anyone, didn’t you?” asked the serpent.
“Yes, I had asked you not to bite,” admitted the Sadhu. ”Did I ask you not to hiss?”
The Sadhu nursed the serpent for a couple of days and made sure it was alright. Then he left.
A few days later, villagers passing by decided to have some fun. “Here is an old toothless cobra. Let’s have some fun with it,” said a young man, picking up a stick.
As he approached the cobra and raised the stick, the serpent opened its hood and hissed.
The ruffians dropped the sticks and ran for their lives.
The cobra smiled.
“Yes, no need to bite and harm others. But it’s alright to hiss and frighten them so that they won’t trouble me.”
Adapted from a tale told by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa