It’s an indisputable fact that one’s thoughts, inclinations, tastes, liking’s and actions are predisposed by one’s past conditioning’s. If one has a good upbringing and moral training since childhood, he could contribute positively to the society. But what if someone’s early life is one of folly and tainted with insanity? It’s natural to expect that such a person could pose serious damage to his community, the society, and of course to his own self. Especially if he has power at his disposal, with vicious thoughts, he could be the cause of great destruction. What is the hope for such a person? Who can save him and the people affected by his absurdity? Great Indian history presents several examples of eccentric rogues turned into saints of spotless character by dint of their association with righteous men. The following is a description of an encounter of a great saint with a serial killer, which is recorded in the pages of our rich Vedic literature’s.
Mrigari, an uncivilized hunter has the habit of half killing the animals in the forest. He was taught by his father since his childhood to kill them that way. He derives great pleasure seeing the suffering of a half-dead animal. Once, the great saint Narada Muni entered the forest, and as he walked down, he saw a deer, and then a boar and later a rabbit lying down half dead. After moving little further, he found the ruthless hunter Mrigari holding his bow and arrow in his hands like the superintendent of death. Greatly pained at heart by seeing the suffering animals, Narada muni told Mrigari that it is an offence on his part to kill animals, and he would have to suffer in retaliation by half killing them and thus purposefully giving them unnecessary pain. The hunter, though cruel by nature, was slowly convinced of his sinful behaviour and inquired Narada muni of how to be freed from the reactions. Narada muni instructed the surrendered hunter to break his bow, distribute all the wealth he earned to the poor brahmanas, and live in a simple cottage on the bank of a river serving Tulsi plant, and chanting the holy names of the Lord. When Mrigari expressed his doubt of how to survive, Narada assured him that he would receive enough food every day. Mrigari, after returning home, exactly followed the instructions of Narada and started to live a simple life. The news that Mrigari became a devotee spread all over the village, and the villagers brought alms and presented to him. One day, Narada muni came to see Mrigari with his friend Parvata muni. Eager to receive them, Mrigari moved forward, but was stopped by some ants moving hither and thither around his legs. Fearing that they would be hurt, he quickly whisked them away, and offered the saints his respectful obeisances. Narada muni and Parvata muni were pleased to see the transformation of the hunter. Here we see that the same hunter, who used to seek delight in witnessing the suffering half dead animals, is being careful not to step on an ant. Such is the power of association with people of noble character.
The prostitute, who tried to entice the saint Tukaram with ill motives, turned to a great devotee in her later life. The great epic ‘Ramayana’ which we read with high reverence was written by the sage Valmiki who was actually a robber and killer in his early life. But his coming in contact with a saintly person made him saintly too. Nobody is a born corrupt. Mrigari has been trained up since his childhood by his father to kill animals. Similarly every crook has a tragic childhood that made him unholy. The way one is brought up has a major influence on one’s present mental disposition. Do the past inglorious actions of a person, who developed a noble character by dint of his association with saintly people, really matter? The haunting past of a criminal can be of no relevance if he absorbs wholeheartedly the good teachings of a person whose life is centred on sacred principles. The association of a saintly person can give even a criminal promising future. A broadminded person does not condemn a transformed person owing to his tainted past, but rather acts responsibly for a promising future of the younger generation. Every criminal has a future, every saint has a past!
By Gauranga Darshan Das