There was once a poisonous snake who terrorized a tiny village. Women, children, adored family pets– he bit them all, without a moment’s contemplation or modicum of sensitivity.
One day, a Buddhist monk visited the village. He observed the snake’s behavior and committed to teaching the snake the principle of ahimsa, which translates to mean non-violence or non-harming. It’s one of the core tenets of yogic philosophy. As it turns out, the snake had a penchant for self-improvement and thoroughly absorbed the monk’s teachings. He loved the concept of ahimsa and accepted it wholeheartedly.
Alas, once the snake refused to bite the villagers, they, in turn, exploited his newly discovered vulnerability. They threw dirt and rocks at him, poked at him with sticks, and, generally, made his life miserable. One year later, the monk returned to find the snake bruised, beaten, and starving.
“What happened to you!” exclaimed the gentle, little monk. Clearly, it pained him to see his former student in such a predicament. Indeed, the adage proved true that the predator had become the prey.
Sad and slightly exasperated, the snake replied, “You taught me the principle of non-violence . . . You taught me not to bite people!”
The snake had a point. The monk taught him “to harm no living thing” and show unconditional care and compassion at all times. Under no circumstances was he to create more hostility and violence in a world so fraught with both already. How would the monk respond? The snake was only being a good and noble student.
“Ahhh, my friend, I did teach you not to bite people,” the monk conceded. Then, he lowered his voice to indicate the sharing of a very important secret, “But I never said that you couldn’t HISS.”
In other words . . . you can be a compassionate yogi AND still maintain your convictions, protect yourself and others, and, most importantly, be REAL. (Disclaimer: Om Gal warns against flaky, New Age yoga drones. Be authentic and honest; anything else is a waste of your one, beautiful life).