254. The Curse that was Welcomed

King Parîkchit said: "I went into the forest to hunt. Many wild animals were sighted but they scattered at our approach and the band of bowmen I had with me also scattered in their pursuit. I found myself alone and I was far away from my retinue and overcome with hunger and thirst. The scorching heat exhausted me.

At last, I discovered the hermitage of a sage. His name, I discover now, was S'amîka. I called out several times to draw the attention of those inside, so that I could get a little drinking water. No answer came; no one came out. So I myself went in. I saw a hermit sitting unconcerned, lost in what, for him, was meditation and what for me was utter disregard of my status and needs. I felt something soft under my feet. I found it was a dead cobra. My intelligence was poisoned. A foul thought came into me - I placed the dead cobra round the neck of that sage, and chuckled within myself that it was some punishment for neglecting me. I came away to my city and palace.

But, the son of the sage [S'ringi] saw his father with the dead cobra around his neck! He knew I had done it. So he cursed me: "May the King die of a snake bite seven days from today". Seven days! How kind of him! He could have cursed me to meet death the very instant. He has given me seven days, to dwell on God and prepare myself to reality so that I can reach the Ultimate! What a great mercy! Few people get this week's notice when Death threatens" [see also S.B. 1.18].