The Monk and the Scorpion- Beliefs, Repetition and Compassion

Yoga’s influence on my life view and understanding of the world has been immense.  Not only have I received the physical and emotional benefits of practicing, I also have carried some of the stories into my work with clients.  One of my favorites stories that was shared in a yoga class was about two monks and a scorpion…

The Monk and the Scorpion

Once in a monastery two monks walked about doing their morning duties. As they passed a small bowl, filled with rain, they saw a scorpion was drowning in the water. One monk reached in to save the creature. As soon as his fingers touched the panicking Scorpion, it stung him and the monk dropped the Scorpion back into the water. The monk sighed, and reached back in. This time he got his grip a little firmer, but still dropped the Scorpion when he was stung. He kept reaching in, as his friend looked on in confusion. After dozens of attempts, the other monk spoke up saying “Brother, why do you keep trying to save that scorpion? It stings you every time you come near it. The monk paused before reaching in again and smiled. As another sting bit into his hand, he took a fallen leaf from the ground and pulled the scorpion out to safety. He finally said: “Because it is his nature to sting, and my nature to save. Don’t forget brother, soon either I’ll stop feeling the pain of the sting and he will be saved, or he will stop being afraid and be saved.’ Compassion cannot be stopped so easily.’  Taken from Buddhist Reflections online

When I first heard this story I was conflicted by the desire “to save” and the confusion and frustration of seeing someone repetitively behave in a way that leads to self harm.  This can be a struggle for many therapists, family members, friends, teachers, individuals…

Hearing the end of the story about it being the monks nature to save was powerful for me.  Helping those you care for/or simply other beings can be difficult and painful but is part of who I am.  The reward is sometimes in the results but always in being true to my beliefs.

The friend monk although initially blinded by his own view, was critical in this story.  Sometimes a question to open a dialogue can make all the difference.  The friend monk gained a greater understanding of why his friend behaved in a way that did not make sense to him.  Perhaps the friend monk could then apply it to looking at his own beliefs.

In the original story I heard there was no leaf.  I do like how the compassionate monk was able to take in what his friend inquired about and make a slight change to achieve the same goal with less suffering.

There are many ways to look at this story and I would love to hear some feedback and responses…

With this story in mind, I will be attending a 3-day workshop at Ananda Ashram on “Yoga for Depression and Anxiety” this weekend.  I look forward to the experience and will share in upcoming blogs!

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