Once there lived a noble king who ruled over a great city. He was kind and fair, though also a little short-tempered. He carried out his royal duties with the help of a trusty minister who was always by his side. This minister was wise, patient and an ardent believer of God.
The king and minister were best friends even though they disagreed on certain things. The king believed destiny was in his own hands and that he could make anything happen while the minister felt that a person had to be responsible but ultimately God was in charge.
One day both men went out to the forests with a party of soldiers. Riding ahead, the king was suddenly checked by a hissing cobra across his path. The frightened horse jerked violently sending the king flying through the air. Crashing to the ground, the king cried out in shock and pain as the vicious cobra sunk its fangs into one of his fingers.
The minister and soldiers rushed to assist the king. In the meantime, the snake had slithered away and the king quickly understood that its poison would soon pulse with his blood throughout his body and cause death. Without any hesitation, the king administered the only remedy available. He unsheathed his sword and sliced off his throbbing finger.
The king was saved. He had contained the poison before it could spread all over his body. The minister bandaged his hand, offering solace and comfort. “Dear king, the Lord has been merciful, it could have been much worse. This is somehow part of his plan.”
Shaken and upset, the king’s temper roused at the minister’s words.
“Be quiet!” he demanded.
But the minister, so relieved that the king was alive, continued his reasoning. “God is always trying to protect us and teach us lessons in the things that happen. It is good and necessary that you acted so quickly but it is also his kindness that you survived.”
Irked, the king called impulsively to his soldiers, “Take this foolish minister back to the city and throw him into the dungeon.”
Feeling satisfied, the king looked towards the forest. His hand was well-bandaged and he wanted to prove his valour so he decided to continue hunting alone. He had ridden a short way when he was unexpectedly ambushed by bandits who tied him up in ropes.
“This is most lucky. We are making a special sacrifice today and can do so with royal blood,” boomed the leader of the gang. “Wash and clean the man,” he commanded.
Amid preparations, a dacoit shouted, “Look, look, this king has a finger missing.”
Inspecting the king’s blood soaked bandage, the disappointed leader lashed out, “You fools, release him immediately. We cannot sacrifice a man who does not have all his body parts. Find someone else – fast!”
Relieved, the king scrambled onto his horse and raced back to his palace. He went straight to the dungeon and ordered the release of his minister. Embracing him, the king apologized.
“You were right dear friend, by the kindness of the Lord I lost a finger and as a result my life was spared.”
The king narrated his frightening experience in more detail. At the end, he paused in reflection, “Friend, I’m still a little puzzled. You say the Lord lets us make our choices and sanctions the most appropriate reactions for the good of everyone. Well, what was the purpose of you being thrown into prison? You didn’t deserve that.”
The minister chuckled.
“Well, let’s see, if you hadn’t sent me to the dungeon I would have travelled with you to the forest and been present when the bandits assailed you. And when they spared you because of your missing finger, they would have used me instead!”
Both men laughed. For once they agreed on the lessons of the day; that they always had to do their best to make good decisions but also needed to depend on the mercy of the Lord and see all happenings as his kindness.
Getting the lessons straight:
-Know that there is reaction to every decision and choice.
-Krsna sanctions the whole process from afar. For those not interested to know him, the reaction is administered by his agents. For devotees, Krsna gets involved personally. Sometimes he reduces or rearranges the reactions, whatever the case, he ensures the situation is the best possible way to help the devotee come closer to him.
For all, reactions are opportunities to learn, grow, rectify, accept responsibility and transform. In this way they are the Lord’s mercy.