Mr. Ant-hill(Valmiki)

In ancient India there lived a robber whose name we do not know, because, as you will see, he got a new one. It is by this new name that he got famous. Young and strong, he could easily attack and overcome travelers going by lonely roads. Then he would take their money and all the valuables they had with them. Many were his victims. This man knew better, but he thought it was the only way he could make his livelihood. Moreover, his father, mother and wife were there at home, depending on him.

One day the robber caught hold of a traveler who had nothing. Angry, he asked him how he could wander around like that. “I am the sage Narada,” said he. “I travel freely even between heaven and earth. I am one of the ‘immortals’.” As we said, the robber had a sense of right and wrong, and he felt some respect for the sage.

“Don’t you know it is a great sin to rob and kill human beings?” asked Narada; “Why do you do all this?”

“I want to support my family,” the robber replied.

“All right,” said Narada, “you tie me up here securely and then go ask your family if they will share in your sin, the way they share your money.”

The robber agreed, tied Narada to a tree, and went to find his father.

“Do you know how I support you?” he asked.

“No, I have always wondered,” the father replied.

“I am a highwayman — I rob — and sometimes I have to kill.”

“What! Horrible!” the father exclaimed, “Get away from me.”

“So will you not share in my guilt, in the eyes of God?”

“No! Why should I?” answered his father.

In the same way he told his mother and his wife, asking if they would share in his sin, help to bear his karma. The mother said, “Why should I? I never stole anything in my life!” And his wife said, “Of course not! It is your duty to support me.”

The robber’s eyes were opened. Going back to the tree where Narada was tied, he told the sage what had happened. “Now I see that each of us travels a lonely road, a single track in life. Even my nearest and dearest, who live by my plunder, do not agree to share in my guilt! Tell me, O sage, what can I do?”

“Give up your life-style, foolish one. The ‘love’ of your loved ones is fair-weather love: it lasts while riches last, and leaves when riches leave. Learn to love and worship Him who is the only one who stands by us, in our good and in our evil.”

Narada taught the young man to worship and told him to go into the forest. He went into solitude and began to practice meditation and prayer. He kept this up for many years, living at first on fruits and roots. Eventually he became totally absorbed in meditation and forgot himself, losing awareness of his body. As a result, ants even came and made ant-hills around him, heaped up high, so that he looked like a mountain of ants.

After many years a divine voice came to him. “Arise, O Sage.” it said. “Sage?” he exclaimed; “I am a robber.”

“No more robber,” the voice went on, “you are a purified soul. Your guilt has been erased; you have had a new birth, and you now have a new name: Valmiki — meaning, he that was born in an ant-hill.”

One day when he went to the river Ganges to take his bath, Valmiki saw a pair of doves whirling around and around and kissing each other. They were about to make a nest. Valmiki felt happy at the sight. The next moment an arrow whizzed past his ear and brought down the male dove. Hunters were near. The female dove went on whirling around her dying companion with cries of shock and anguish. Valmiki, now enlightened, filled with compassion, could at once feel her distress. He turned around and saw the hunter.

“You are a wretch” he cried, “without an ounce of mercy! Your slaying hand would not stop even for love!”

Valmiki was surprised. The words that had come from his mouth were strange. “I have never spoken in this way before,” he thought to himself. Then he heard the divine voice again: “Do not be alarmed. What is coming out of your mouth is poetry; your true nature is that of a poet. Write now the life of Lord Rama in poetry for the benefit of the world.” When the former robber discovered what was hidden within him, he began to write the book called Ramayana.

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