The Hunter Who Became a Saint
A cruel hunter marauded the jungles of Bengal, India, ruthlessly killing birds just for the fun of killing. Since there were no hunting restrictions in those days, this hunter, Mr. Nishada, killed many birds and littered the forest with dead and dying birds.
Because of this wholesale murder of birds, the remaining birds, having eluded the hunter’s evil-eyed guns, became so intuitively wise that they flew away at the faintest sound of his approach. When the hunter realized that he had so scared the birds that they now avoided him, he became beside himself with wrath and began shooting at random through the thick foliage of the jungle.
His wrath spent, and completely dejected, he walked for a long time and finally emerged from the jungle. The spectacle that greeted him stirred fresh hope in his breast. To his amazement, he saw an orange-robed saint standing knee-deep in the lake on the outskirts of the jungle, with all kinds of game birds trustingly perched on his head, shoulders, and hands, and peacefully flying around him.
A sudden idea flashed across the hunter’s mind: “If I put on an orange robe every day and pose as a harmless saint, then I can create enough trust in the birds that they will perch on me, and swarm all around me. Then, at my convenience, I can club quite a few of them to death. In that way, I can get even with the birds for flying away at my approach.”
The hunter watched motionless from behind a tree to see how the saint, like St. Francis of Assisi of yore, fed and sang a sermon to the birds. After the saint finished his bath in the lake and began to move away, only with difficulty did he get away from the birds, who kept flying after him.
The next day the hunter concealed several guns and knives on his body and dressed himself in an orange robe, as is customary among the saints of India. So attired, he calmly walked into the same lake. To his great glee, and scarcely believing his eyes, the very same birds that used to fly away at the sight of him now trustingly, like little children, perched all over his body and swarmed around him.
The hunter was happy beyond dreams. But as often as he made up his mind to pounce suddenly on the birds and choke them to death, his hands froze. He could not do it. He did not have the heart to betray the birds that so innocently and trustingly found shelter with him.
He began to sermonize within himself: “I have been a hateful hunter shunned by all the birds. But behold the magic of a saint’s outward orange robe. Even though it covers a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it has caused the birds to trust even my very hateful self. Just think,” the hunter reflected, “if the mere outward garb of a saint can create so much trust and confidence in dumb animals, how much more trust and wholesome influence could a real saint create in people.”
Thinking this, the hunter threw his knives and guns into the water and walked away, determined to become a genuine, full-fledged saint. As he did so, the trusting birds followed him as long as they could, and finally parted from him reluctantly.
After the hunter became a saint, he was known to wade daily into the lake and to feed the birds and sing to them. He made so many bird friends that all the watery seats of the lake were fully occupied by an audience of feathery folks. After making friends with the birds, the hunter-saint became a great spiritual teacher who attracted all kinds of human friends, whom he served with the song of Truth from the core of his heart.
We find that the hunter, just by imitating the garb of goodness, ultimately became good. Never forget that even though you cannot overcome your inner weaknesses all at once, it is all right to wear the garb of goodness if you are sincerely trying to be good. It is better to imitate goodness than to imitate wickedness. One who imitates good actions, even outwardly, gets a chance to smell the alluring fragrance of goodness, whereas, one who imitates evil, no matter what the reason, smells the repulsing odor of the polecat of evil.
Of course, to deliberately use goodness to deceive people is the greatest blasphemy against God and yourself. But if you are sincerely trying to be good, don’t let it bother you if people call you a hypocrite on account of a few failings. Why should those who are sincerely trying to be good be labeled as hypocrites when they are discovered doing wrong? To do so is a great blasphemy against God and His children.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Naughty or good—all are equally loved by God. God rejoices when His good children come back to His home of wisdom, but it gladdens Him most when He finds His naughty, prodigal children returning home from their truant wanderings.
From the Praecepta Lessons, 1934.
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