|A cruel hunter marauded the jungles of Bengal, India, ruthlessly killing birds just for the fun of killing.
Since there were no hunting restrictions in those days as to how many birds one might kill, this hunter, Mr. Nishada, littered the forest with dying and dead birds.
Due to his unscrupulous wholesale murder of the birds, those that were left, having eluded the gorgon gaze of his evil-eyed guns, became so intuitively wise that they flew away at even the faintest noisy approach of the stealthy hunter seeking to kill them.
The hunter became beside himself with wrath. When he found that he had so scared the birds that he could not even approach them, he began shooting at random through the thick foliage of the dark jungle.
At last, with his wrath spent, and completely dejected, and after the loss of many cartridges,he walked for a long time and finally emerged from the jungle. He was stupefied at the spectacle which greeted his vision, which stirred fresh hope in his breast.
To his amazement he saw an orange-robed Saint standing knee-deep in the nearby lake on the outskirts of the jungle, with all kinds of game birds trustingly perching on his head, shoulders, and hands, and peacefully floating in a circle around him.
A sudden idea flashed across the mind of the hunter:
“If I put on an orange robe every day and pose as a harmless Saint, then I can create enough trust in the birds so that they will perch on me and swarm all around me. And then, at my convenience, I can club to death quite a few. In that way I can get even with the birds for flying away at sight of me.”
The hunter watched motionless from behind a tree to see how the Saint, like St. Francis of Assisi of yore, fed and sang a sermon to the birds, and then, after finishing his bath in the lake, with difficulty he got away from the birds, who kept flying after him as he retired.
The next day the hunter concealed several clubs, knives, and daggers on his body, and dressing in an orange robe, as is customary among the Saints of India, he calmly walked into the selfsame lake.
To his great glee, scarcely believing his eyes, the very same game birds who used to fly away at sight of him, now trustingly, like little children, perched all over his body and swarmed around him.
He was happy beyond dreams, but as often as he made up his mind to suddenly pounce upon the birds and choke them to death, he found his hands frozen upon him. He could not do it. He did not have the heart to betray the innocent eyes of the birds who so trustingly found shelter with him.
Then he began to sermonize within himself:
“I have been a hateful hunter, whose very sight is shunned by the birds, but behold, the magic of even an outward orange robe of a Saint, though it covers a wolf in sheep’s clothing, still has led the birds to trust even my very hateful self.”
“I wonder,” the hunter thought, “if simply the outward garb of a Saint can create so much trust and confidence in even dumb animals, how much wholesome influence and trust a real Saint, plus the orange robe, could exert and create in all people.”
Thinking this, the hunter, threw his clubs, knives, and guns into the water, and walked away, determined to become a real, full-fledged Saint, amidst the clamor of the trusting birds, who followed him as long as they could, and finally reluctantly parted from him.
This hunter-Saint was known to wade daily into the lake and feed the birds and sing to them, and he made so many bird friends that all the watery seats of the lake used to be occupied by all kinds of feathery folks for an audience.
After delivering his sermons of peace, he was happy to see the difference between the life of a hunter and that of a Saint. As a hunter, he repulsed all the peace-loving birds, but as a Saint he gathered together all the love of the birds.
After making friends with the birds, he became a great teacher, who attracted all kinds of human friends, whom he served with the song of Truth from the core of his heart.
Now we find that the hunter, even by imitating the garb of goodness, ultimately became good. Do not forget that even though you cannot overcome your inner weakness all at once, it is all right for you to wear the garb of goodness if you really are sincerely trying to be good.
It is better even to imitate goodness than to imitate wickedness. One who imitates good actions, even outwardly, gets a chance to smell the alluring fragrance of goodness, whereas, one who even hypocritically imitates evil, contacts the odor of the polecat of evil.
Of course, to deliberately use goodness to deceive people is the greatest blasphemy against God and yourself, but do not care if people call you a hypocrite on account of a few of your discovered failings if you are sincerely trying to be really good.
We should not expect too much goodness from anyone who is trying to be good, nor should we expect nothing but goodness from one who has done his best to be good. Even if one falls down from the grace of goodness, he is safe if he tries his utmost to become good again.
Such people are far better than those who use goodness outwardly to deceive people. Why should those who are trying to be good, once they are discovered doing wrong, be labeled as hypocrites?
“Judge not, that ye be not judged”, because, to label anybody as bad or as a hypocrite, when he is really trying to be good, in spite of his failings, is the greatest blasphemy against God and all His children. Naughty or good – all are equally loved by God.
God not only rejoices when His good children come back to His home of wisdom, but it gladdens Him most when He finds His naughty, prodigal children returning home from their truant wanderings.