Ajahn Chah and his King Cobra friend

From Stillness Flowing by Ajahn Jayasaro

An elderly maechee (nun), recalls the occasion that a huge king cobra[1] appeared in Wat Pah Pong. Seeing its tail ended in a stump, Ajahn Chah gave it the name ‘Stumpy’. As he made his way on alms-round to Bahn Peung every day, Stumpy would slither along behind him.

landscape photo of pathway between green leaf trees

One day, a villager setting off to his fields noticed that Luang Por’s footprints had been obscured by the marks of a large snake. Seeing this, he ran back into the village shouting, ‘The Ajahn brought a snake with him on alms-round!’ The frightened villagers followed the tracks which overlay Ajahn Chah’s all the way back to the monastery. The next morning, they spoke with him angrily:

Villagers: Ajahn, why do you bring a snake with you on alms-round? We won’t put food in your bowl any more. We’re afraid.

Ajahn Chah: It’s nothing to do with me. I didn’t bring any snake.

Villagers: What do you mean? We’ve seen its marks. They completely obscure your footprints.

After Ajahn Chah insisted that he had simply walked on alms-round as usual, a group of villagers went out to investigate. They discovered that the snake had followed Ajahn Chah from the forest, entered the spirit house at the entrance to the village, waited for Ajahn Chah to emerge and then followed him back to the monastery.

Ajahn Chah had not seen the snake itself but had observed the marks it had left. The next morning as he left on alms-round, he stood at the edge of the forest and said loudly, “Stumpy, don’t follow me on alms-round. The villagers are afraid of you. Go and find a place to live deep in the forest. Don’t let people see you again. In the future, there will be a lot of people coming to the monastery, and they’ll be afraid”.

After that, the big king cobra was never seen again.

 

[1] A class of deities called nāgas are found throughout the Buddhist texts. They appear in the world as unusually large snakes, particularly king cobras. After his enlightenment, it is said that the Buddha was sheltered from the elements by the great nāga Mucalinda.

 

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