Skip to content

The Snake Who Wanted to Become a Monk, a Parable from G.I. Gurdjieff

December 19, 2009

G.I. Gurdjieff

G.I. Gurdjieff

During one meal, Monsieur Gurdjieff told us the story of a snake who wanted to take religious vows:

In the middle of a forest a man-eating snake saw a monk coming along a path. He went to meet the monk to ask if it was possible for him to take religious vows.

After listening to him, the monk said, “Yes, but if you take religious vows, you will no longer be able to eat men, or attack them!”

The snake promised to obey his instructions.

So, the monk gave the snake some advice, told him how to pray, and said to him, “In one year I will come this way again, and we’ll see how you are getting on,” and he went on his way.

One year later, the monk came back through the same forest. He saw the snake coming towards him. But the snake was emaciated, and covered in wounds. The monk asked him what had happened.

The snake replied that having kept to his promise of no longer attacking men, these men and children had started to throw stones at him.

“I see!” said the monk. “Yes! yes! I certainly asked you not to attack people, but I didn’t forbid you to hiss!”

I’ve seen this story in several places, but the original source, I believe, is from an excellent book by Solange Claustres, entitled Becoming Conscious with G.I. Gurdjieff, published by Eureka Editions.

For me this story touches, among other things, on what it means to take part in life, to play a role doing what is necessary and appropriate, while remaining inwardly free.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: