In Kandahar, the people greeted me warmly. One man in particular, Hariz, took a special interest in me. Tall and well groomed, he was an educated man who had acquired wealth and respect in the trading business. After guiding me on a tour of Kandahar, he invited me into his spacious house.
One night while we sat on his roof-top terrace engaged in a philosophical discussion, he calmly said, “Mr.Richard, please excuse me for a brief moment, I have an obligation to attend to.” Suddenly, he jumped up from his chair, cocked his head to the moon and began to howl like a wolf.
What was going on?
Had this distinguished gentleman gone mad?
He grabbed a long rope with a loop at the end, raced to the edge of his rooftop and hurled it down to the road. What in the world was he doing?
With rapt attention, he slowly reeled the rope in. To my amazement, he had fished up a wriggling rodent the size and shape of a ferret. I watched in wonder. This was a mongoose, which, it turned out, wandered the town by day, and each evening, responded to Hariz’s howl, by crawling into the loop of the rope.
As my friend and I resumed speaking, I felt the mongoose scaling up my back with his sharp pointed claws. He crawled under my long hair until he reached my head. There, he burrowed himself in my thick locks, making his nest, and went to sleep. Feeling his warm body deeply breathing on my head, I experienced a culture shock.
I looked at my host for help. “What do I do now?”
My friend laughed. “Mr.Richard, he found a good nest in your hair.”
My neck felt as if it were breaking from its weight. “Please take him off.”
Hariz become serious. Under the starlit night, he sipped his tea and narrowed his eyes, warning me,”There Is an ancient truth: Never wake a sleeping mongoose. The mongoose is a ferocious killer when angered. In battle, a mongoose will slay the cobra, the deadliest of serpents and symbol of death.” Hariz sipped his tea and leaned back, “If you suddenly wake him up, he may tear your head to shreds. Mr.Richard, do not even move slightly until he leaves on his own.”
Hours passed as I sat motionless, fearing for my life. That dark sleepless night in Kandahar never seemed to end. My neck throbbed with pain, but I was too terrified to move. The mongoose on my head was like a time bomb that could explode any second. I tried to console myself. Ravenous insects started biting into my scalp, obliterating these noble thoughts.
Why was this happening to me?
Feeling my vulnerability, I strained to control my emotions. Then contemplating, I tried to make sense of it all. I realized that our free will could convert a curse into a blessing or a blessing into a curse. Yes, ludicrous as it was, this mongoose may have been sent to teach me the sacred virtue of patience and forbearance. To bear difficulty and turn to God was a priceless blessing. To transform a crisis into an opportunity was true wisdom.
The rest of the night was spent in an unusual state of gratitude. Little did I know what the mongoose taught me about crisis would give me strength in the hard times that awaited me. By the time the sun finally rose, my uninvited guest had enjoyed a good six hours of sound sleep. He awoke, crawled down my back, and jumped to the floor. He then did something that moved my heart…
The mongoose stared at me with an innocent affection as if thanking me for my hospitality. Turning from me, he crawled into the loop of the rope where Hariz, who had just awakened, lowered him down to the street for another day.
Radhanath Swami is a spiritual and humanitarian leader, author, and public speaker. A practitioner of bhakti-yoga for almost 40 years, he helps individuals find greater inner fulfillment through devotional service. You can learn more about him at his website http://radhanathswami.com
As a young countercultural American teenager, he left a promising career behind and hitchhiked all the way across the world. Convinced from his world travels that the fundamental problems of the society are simply caused by basic human frailties irrespective of race, nationality, sex or economic status, he decided to dedicate his life to the exploration of solutions to the world’s problems through advancement of human consciousness.
With no bank account nor a single penny to his name, Radhanath Swami, together with his highly-energetic team of professionals, has built a visionary hospital in Mumbai that provides low-cost and free holistic healthcare, a midday meal program that feeds 200,000 meals a day for students, an eco-village, an orphanage for underprivileged children, a children’s school that provides holistic education in a loving and fun atmosphere, free eye camps that have removed cataract for 33,000 patients to date, and an hospice for terminally ill patients.