In the thick, green, lush jungles of Dandakavan (a forest), there lived beautiful, happy and chirpy birds. They flew about delightfully in joy. Once a mahatma (sage) wandered into this forest, took in the sights and sounds and began to find his way ahead, when he witnessed a game catcher who had arrived with just a net and a bag of grains. Spreading the net he scattered the grains on it and waited. Lured by the easy food, these lovely birds quickly descended on the feast that tempted them. Unmindful of the dangerous and cruel intent of the hunter, they became busy pecking the grains. Soon they were trapped and then carried away to be slaughtered by the hunter.
Very disturbed by the plight of these innocent creatures, the mahatma wanted to caution them against being lured and trapped. “Beware of the hunter. He will spread a net, scatter the grains and trap you.” To make sure that they had understood, he made them repeat the sermon. Surely they repeated the whole verbatim, chanting in unison. The mahatma was assured of their safety now.
Next day when the hunter arrived he was surprised to hear the birds chanting together: “Beware of the hunter, he will cast his net, scatter the grains, and trap you.” Disappointed, the hunter threw down his net and threw the grains on it and slept.
When he awoke, to his surprise, all the birds were pecking grains in the net and continuously chanting what the mahatma had taught! Only to be trapped again.
Thus, merely repeating mechanically what a mahatma teaches, without understanding or adhering to the advice, is as foolish as the act of the birds. The benefit of scriptural advice is not in the faithful chanting but the faithful living of the words of wisdom.
Prarthna Saran, President Delhi Chinmaya Mission.