Story of the Jackal and the Vulture “Faith or Works”
A family of poor farmers were blessed to have a baby boy. They had prayed together for three years to have such a blessing. God graced them with a wonderful child. The boy unexpectedly died while asleep in his crib. Early the next morning, the mother and father discovered the dead boy. They were overwhelmed with grief. They carried the child’s body to a field where the dead were buried. They sat together looking at the lifeless boy and cried their eyes out.
A vulture that lived nearby approached them and said, “Everyone in this world has a share of happiness and distress. You should not consider your grief as unique. All of us are born with a mixed destiny that is a result of the choices and activities of our previous lives. We suffer or enjoy today due to our actions in past lives. There is not much we can do to change that. Man is the architect of his destiny. But, we can act now to secure and improve our future. What we do now determines who we will be in the future life. Don’t waste a minute lamenting for the dead. You cannot bring your dead child back to life. The child’s destiny was to die today. You cannot change it. Leave the child for burial and go home to work for a brighter future. Learn to forbear your present and future in this life. But, act in such a way as to construct a better destiny for your next life. No one can restore life for one who has died. Go home now and renounce your love for this dead child that you only knew for a very short time.”
The grief of the poor couple abated with the sobering words of the vulture. They heeded the advice and left the child’s dead body in the field. As they walked toward their cottage a jackal appeared and began to speak.
“God is all merciful. You are a poor family with an only son. Alas, he has died unexpectedly. Your love for him has no bounds. Stay with him and grieve. The tears of love will fall on the earth and purify it. God will hear your sincere pleas to bring him back to life. The sun is shining brilliantly and can heal even the worst of illnesses. Pray to God for mercy. Pray under the light of the healing sun. Your child may regain his life. The power of faith and prayer can move God to spare your child from cold death. God hears the prayers of His faithful servants.”
The jackal’s words touched the hearts of the parents and gave them new hope to renew their faith and offer prayers for the child’s recovery from death by the intervention of a miracle from God.
As the couple walked back to the burial ground, the vulture appeared again and spoke.
“Why are you listening to this treacherous jackal. Learned persons with spiritual knowledge lament neither for the living or the dead. They know that the temporary body is destined to die, but the soul lives forever. Therefore, we should preoccupy ourselves during life to doing work for the benefit of God and all beings. Such meritorious work will help us to always remember God in our daily lives. We purify our life and thought by pious activities. We should live in such a way as to minimize our material needs and maximize our unselfish service to God. Go home now and engage in acts of goodness. At the same time, in your personal life, perform acts of penance because by voluntary self sacrifice one can attain all desirable things in life and at the time of death remember God. We suffer or enjoy because of our own actions either good or bad. We are all subject to the laws of karma that reward or punish us. Concentrate now on making a bright future by your present acts. Don’t waste a moment here lamenting.”
As the couple turned to leave, the jackal spoke up with passion. “How can you leave your beloved son when hope is not exhausted? God can reverse the destiny of anyone. His mercy and will are all powerful. Put your faith entirely in God and pray for His mercy. He can work a miracle by His will.”
The vulture spoke again. “Don’t be misled by that dull-witted jackal! He has a hidden purpose behind his innocent sounding words. For all my years, I have never seen a person revive from death. Our lifespan is determined before our birth in this world by higher authorities such as the superintendent of death. You can not do anything to bring this child back to life. But you can act effectively to work for your salvation while you have heat and breathe in your bodies. This child’s fate is sealed but yours is still to be determined by your works.”
The mother and father became convinced by the words of the vulture and turned to leave.
The jackal spoke loud and clear again. “The vulture is purposely trying to dishearten you about the possibility of a miraculous revival of your son through faith and prayer. Don’t be fooled by him. Faith can move mountains. Faith in God is the foundation of holy life. Your love for your son and your faith in God should go hand in hand. Didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus back from the dead? Jesus is the one who gives life. We must put our faith in God’s love, even in the midst of adversity that we must endure by our sincere prayers and patience. Lord Krishna saved his friend Arjuna from certain death by helping him bring back from the dead the eight sons of the brahmana-priest. Never forsake your faith and hope in the mercy of God.”
The mother held her dead child in her arms and prayed with ardent tears along with her husband. The jackal and the vulture continued expressing their contrary points of view. They both based their statements on scripture. The vulture resorted to trying to scare the parents by talking of the wild, carnivorous beasts that would infest the burial ground after the fall of darkness to feast on any dead bodies not yet buried.
God heard the sincere prayers of the frightened mother and father. He took pity on them by bringing their son back from the dead and blessing him with long life. The parents were thrilled to see their boy open his eyes. They praised God and hurriedly left the burial ground.
The jackal was one of the carnivorous beasts who wanted to feast on the boy’s dead body after sunset. With the darkness of night the vulture would be obliged to leave. But as long as there was light, the vulture could feast on the dead body if the parents left. Both the vulture and the jackal were disappointed when the boy came back to life. They both spoke truthful words backed by scripture but for attaining their selfish purpose of eating the dead body of the boy. Sometimes good counsel is given with selfish motives. How can we know who is genuine and who is false?
It is said that the “The devil can cite scripture for his own purpose! An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek.” (Shakespeare) But there must be a way to know if someone is speaking the truth for a vested interest rather than the pure purpose of helping others? There is a Vedic aphorism that says, phalena paricyate – judge from the result. This is a full proof method but if we wait for the result the damage will be done. Can we discern before it is too late if someone is genuine or not when speaking truthful statements?
The most trustworthy criterion for testing someone is the Vedic triangle of verification. There are three points of the Vedic triangle of verification: the sastra (scripture), previous recognized saints (Sadhu) and the present bona fide teacher (guru). Sastra refers to the original statements of God or His prophets in the holy scriptures. Sadhus refers to the recognized saints in the line of parampara or disciplic succession coming from Lord Krishna. Guru refers to the present teacher in the disciplic succession who repeats the words of sastra and sadhu without any change.
If the present teacher such as the vulture or the jackal contradicts the statements of the previous authorities or the scriptures then they can be rejected. However, they may sometimes repeat the words correctly but for a vested interest like the vulture and the jackal. We must also consider the qualifications of the bona fide teacher that we may accept in the present. They are the following.
The bona fide teacher simply repeats without any change to the original words of Lord Krishna spoken to Arjuna. His purpose as a teacher is to enlighten the disciple in the original words of Krishna so that the disciple can use the Vedic triangle of verification (statements of Guru, Sadhu and Sastras) to validate every point of knowledge.
The bona fide teacher strictly follows the teaching himself. He cannot say “don’t smoke” and then smoke himself. Just as in Christianity there are the Ten Commandments that every good Christian must follow. In the Vedic path, there are four regulative principles: no intoxication, no meat eating, no gambling or philosophical speculation and no illicit sex. Every teacher of the Vedas must follow these basic rules in order to have the purity to teach properly. Beside the four things one should not do, there are four things one should do which are also regulative principles for daily practice. They are: chant and meditate a prescribed number of names of God, read and discuss the revealed word of God in the holy scriptures, eat only sanctified food that has first been offered to God and visit a temple of worship and offer unselfish prayer and service in the company of other rightfully striving devotees.
Using the above criterion we can understand that the vulture and jackal were meat eaters. They spoke the truth, but did not visibly practice the truth as described above. Therefore, they did not back their words up with genuine practice of the teaching, nor did they have sincere and unmotivated faith in the teaching. They were adept at using the teaching to achieve a selfish purpose.
What is interesting in this story is that the mother and father listened carefully to the words of the vulture and jackal with faith. They became convinced that they should pray ardently for their son. Their sincere prayers were heard by God and by a miraculous intervention the son came back to life. Although the vulture and jackal were impure in their motives, they still were instrumental in helping the parents. By accepting the words of scripture with faith and sincerely praying, the parents were blessed by God. The vulture and jackal, however, were disappointed in achieving their selfish purpose. Therefore, faith in God’s words and working with the unique intent to please God is the best course for the genuine seeker. Even if one is surrounded by insincere individuals like the vulture and the jackal, God will protect and deliver his sincere devotee.
The man who always said Glory to God and His Wisdom
The man who always said, “Glory to God and His Wisdom,
Pahrk kehz Der Ahstvahdz yehv ko eemahstoutioun.”
There was and there wasn’t a humble man whose faith in God was staunch. He was never bewildered or shaken in his faith regardless of what happened to him or his family. He had a wife and two children. They lived in a small cottage. He earned his living by transporting goods on his donkey. He took good care of the donkey treating it like a member of the family.
Whatever he did, he first would give praise to God:
“Pahrk kez Der Ahstvahdz yehv ko eemahstoutioun.”
After completing his work he would repeat the same. When someone said hello to him, he would give praise to God. In fact, he would repeat his praise of God every opportunity he had. It was second nature for him to praise God.
He was a happy man who was satisfied with what God gave him. He never forgot to thank God for his meager existence with his family. His wife and children were poor but happy. They always had their minimum needs and enjoyed their family life.
The friends and co-workers of the humble man decided to test his sincerity. One day they stole his donkey and took it deep into the forest. They tied the animal near a basin of water and left him. When they returned, it was time to work. They all assembled with their donkeys. The humble man came on foot. They asked:
“Where is your donkey, brother? The humble man said:
“Pahrk kehz Der Ahstvahdz yehv ko eemahstoutioun – Glory to God and His Wisdom, I think someone has stolen my donkey.”
His friends said:”Ask your God to find the donkey!” They went on their way toward a neighboring village where there was work. The humble man prayed that day and stayed with his family.
That evening there were loud cries and noises coming from the village. The humble man went toward the commotion. He saw his friends who had returned from the day’s work. But, they were very distraught. He asked one of them, “What happened?”
“On the way to the next village, we were stopped by a large group of bandits. They made us dismount our donkeys. They whipped us and took whatever possession we had along with all our donkeys.”
“Parhk kehz Der Ahstvahdz yehv ko eemahstoutioun, Glory to God and His wisdom.”
“tzahvut dahnem, May I take your suffering on me,” said the humble man.
“Ahstvahdzuh vohghohrmeh tzehz muhgheetahroutian yehv bahstbahnoutian meechohtznehrov uhntmeest, May God bless you by consoling you and protecting you always,” he added.
The victims looked at the humble man and said: “You have nothing to worry about because Your God has blessed and protected you. We stole your donkey and hid it in the forest as a joke. We’ll show you where it is. The joke is on us.”
Bring your faith to tolerate the suffering
hokeen havad pehr vor teemanaas
This proverb is used when there is a time of great suffering. The only thing that may mitigate the suffering is spiritual knowledge and faith in God. Due to the severity of the situation nothing else will help. In other words, the situation is hopeless and only one’s faith in God will help.
The preliminary spiritual teaching is about the impermanence of material existence. The body of a person is impermanent and will be destroyed in time without any compromise. One needs to know about their personal existence beyond the impermanent body. In Armenian, hokee means the soul. Knowledge of the soul’s existence beyond the body and its eternal nature is the beginning of knowledge. There are three crucial points to be understood for entry into spiritual life. First, the fundamental difference between the material body and the eternal soul of the individual. Second, one needs to understand the difference between the individual soul and the supreme individual soul or God. We are always subordinate to God and never equal. Third, one needs to understand how to eternally serve God with love and devotion. Lord Jesus Christ is an example of the success attained by understanding and practicing these three steps of knowledge. He explained the difference between the the body and the soul, man and God, and explained about the kingdom of God and how to get entry.
Only by such knowledge and practice can one mitigate and transcend the miseries of material existence.