ASSOCIATION MAKES A PERSON – STORY
(As said by Sri Caitanya Maha Prabhu to Sanatana Gosvami)
Once there was a hunter in the forest of Prayaga who was fortunate enough to meet Narada Muni when the great sage was returning from Vaikuntha after visiting Lord Narayana.
Narada came to Prayaga to bathe in the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna.
While passing through the forest, Narada saw a bird lying on the ground. The bird was half-killed, being pierced by an arrow, and it was chirping pitifully.
Further on, Narada saw a deer flopping about in agony. Further, he saw that a boar was also suffering, and, in another place, he saw a rabbit twitching in pain.
All this made him very compassionate, and he began to think, “Who is the foolish man who has committed such sins?”
Devotees of the Lord are generally compassionate upon the miseries of living entities, and what to speak of the great sage Narada? He became very much aggrieved by this scene, and after proceeding a few steps, he saw the hunter engaged in hunting with bow and arrows.
The hunter’s complexion was very dark, and his eyes were red. It appeared to be dangerous just to see him standing there with his bow and arrows, looking just like an associate of Yamaraja, death.
Seeing him, Narada Muni entered deeper into the forest to approach him.
As Narada Muni passed through the forest, all the animals who were caught in the hunter’s traps fled away.
The hunter became very angry at this, and he was just about to call Narada vile names, but, due to the influence of saintly Narada, the hunter could not utter such blasphemies.
Rather, with gentle behavior, he asked Narada: “My dear sir, why have you come here while I am hunting? Have you strayed from the general path? Because you have come here, all the animals in my traps have fled.”
“Yes, I am sorry,” Narada replied. “I have come to you to find my own path and to inquire from you. I have seen that there are many boars, deer and rabbits on the path. They are lying on the forest floor half-dead and flopping about. Who has committed these sinful acts?”
“What you have seen is all right,” the hunter replied. “It was done by me.”
“If you are hunting all these poor animals, why don’t you kill them at once?” Narada asked.
“You half-kill them, and they are suffering in their death pangs. This is a great sin. If you want to kill an animal, why don’t you kill it completely? Why do you leave it half-killed and allow it to die flopping around?”
“My dear Lord,” the hunter replied. “My name is Mrigari, enemy of animals. I am simply following the teachings of my father who taught me to half-kill animals and leave them flopping about. When a half-dead animals suffers, I take great pleasure in it.”
“I beg one thing from you only,” Narada implored. “Please accept it.”
“Oh, yes sir, I shall give you whatever you like,” the hunter said. “If you want some animal skins, come to my house. I have many skins of animals, including tigers and deer. I shall give you whatever you like.”
“I do not want such things,” Narada replied. “However, I do want something else. If you kindly grant it to me, I shall tell you. Please, henceforth from tomorrow, whenever you kill an animal, please kill it completely. Don’t leave it half-dead.”
“My dear sir, what are you asking of me? What is the difference between half-killing an animal and killing it completely?”
“If you half-kill the animals, they suffer great pain,” Narada explained. “And if you give too much pain to other living entities, you commit great sin. There is a great offense committed when you kill an animal completely, but the offense is much greater when you half-kill it. Indeed, the pain which you give half-dead animals will have to be accepted by you in a future birth.”
Although the hunter was very sinful, his heart became softened, and he became afraid of his sins by virtue of his association with a great devotee like Narada. Those who are grossly sinful are not at all afraid of committing sins, but here we can see that because his purification began in the association of a great devotee like Narada, the hunter became afraid of his sinful activities.
The hunter therefore replied: “My dear sir, from my very childhood I have been taught to kill animals in
this way. Please tell me how I can get rid of all the offenses and sinful activities which I have accumulated. I am surrendering unto your feet. Please save me from all the reactions of my sinful activities which I have committed in the past, and please direct me to the proper path so that I can be free.”
“If you actually want to follow my directions, I can tell you the real path by which you can be freed from sinful reactions.”
“I shall follow whatever you say without hesitation,” the hunter agreed.
Narada then told him to first break his bow; only then would he disclose the path of liberation.
“You are asking me to break my bow,” the hunter protested, “but if I break it, what will be the means of my livelihood?”
“Don’t worry about your livelihood,” Narada said. “I shall send you sufficient grains in order to live.’
The hunter then broke his bow and fell down at the feet of Narada. Narada got him to stand up, and he instructed him: “Just go to your home and distribute whatever money and valuables you have to the devotees and the brahmanas. Then just come out and follow me wearing only one cloth. Construct a small thatched house on the river bank and sow a tulasi plant by that house. Just circumambulate the tulasi tree, and every day taste one fallen leaf. Above all, always chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. As far as your livelihood is concerned, I shall send you grains, but you will only accept as much grain as you require for yourself and your wife.”
Narada then relieved the half-dead animals, and, getting freed from their dreadful condition, they fled away. Upon seeing Narada execute this miracle, the dark hunter was struck with wonder. After taking Narada to his home, he bowed down again at his feet.
Narada returned to his place, and the hunter, after returning home, began to execute the instructions Narada had given him.
In the meantime, news spread amongst all the villages that the hunter had become a devotee. Consequently the residents of the villages came to see the new Vaishnava. It is the Vedic custom to bring grains and fruits whenever one goes to see a saintly person, and since all the villagers saw that the hunter had turned into a great devotee, they brought eatables with them.
Thus every day he was offered grains and fruit, so much so that no less than ten to twenty people could have eaten there. According to Narada’s instructions, he did not accept anything more than what he and his wife required for sustenance.
After some days had passed, Narada told his friend Parvata Muni: “I have a disciple. Let us go to see him and see if he is doing well.”
When the two sages, Narada and Parvata, went to the hunter’s home, the hunter saw his spiritual master coming from the distance, and he began to approach him with great respect. On his way to greet the great sages, the hunter saw that there were ants on the ground before him and that they were hindering his passage. When he reached the sages, he tried to bow down before them, but he saw that there were so many ants that he could not bow down without crushing them. Thus he slowly cleared away the ants with his cloth.
When Narada saw that the hunter was trying to save the lives of the ants in this way, he was reminded of a verse from the Skanda Purana: “Is it not wonderful that a devotee of the Lord is not inclined to give any sort of pain to anyone, not even to an ant?”
Although the hunter formerly took great pleasure in half-killing animals, since he became a great devotee of the Lord, he was not prepared to give pain even to an ant.
The hunter received the two great sages at his home and offered them a sitting place, brought water, washed their feet, took water to them to drink, and finally both he and his wife touched the water with their heads.
After this, they began to feel ecstasy and began to dance and sing Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They raised their hands and danced with their clothes flying. When the two great sages saw this ecstasy of love of Godhead manifest in the body of the hunter, Parvata Muni told Narada: “You are a touchstone, for by your association even a great hunter has turned into a great devotee.”
There is a verse in the Skanda Purana which states: “My dear Devarshi [Narada], you are glorious, and by your mercy, even the lowest creature, a hunter of animals, also became elevated to the path of devotion and attained transcendental attachment for Krishna.”
At length, Narada inquired of the hunter-devotee: “Are you getting your foodstuff regularly?”
“You send so many people,” the hunter replied, “and they bring so many eatables that we cannot begin to eat them.”
“That’s all right,” Narada replied. “Whatever you are getting is all right. Now just continue your devotional service in that way.”
After Narada had spoken this, both Narada and Parvata Muni disappeared from the hunter’s home.
Sri Caitanya Maha Prabhu recited this story in order to show that even a hunter can engage in the devotional service of Krishna by the influence of pure devotees.