Thursday, October 8, 2009


A country had a cruel but compulsory custom. Every man who attains the age of seventy five years was to be sent to the forest where he would spend the remaining years of his life practicing renunciation of all pleasures and meditation to attain salvation. As the custom prevailed for centuries, no one dared to question it or disobey it. It was deemed to be a divine decision.

An old man celebrated his 75th birthday and tearfully bid farewell to his family. His eldest son accompanied him in the long and arduous journey to the forest. The old man carried a knife with him and he was carefully cutting down the thorny bushes on either side of the narrow path. Finally they reached the forest and while departing, the son asked him why he was cutting the thorns on the way. The loving father replied, “It was to make your return journey safe and comfortable.”

The son was deeply moved by the tender care his father was showing to him even when he was abandoning the old father in the forest to lead a painful life in a dangerous jungle with uncertain future. The incident opened his eyes. Returning home, he talked to his friends and relatives about the desperate plight of the old people they abandoned for the sake of complying with a cruel custom. Gradually, his mission found results. The people began to think about the cruelty of their traditional ritual. The matter was discussed in the king’s court and respecting the opinion of the majority, the king proclaimed that the custom shall not continue. He sent his troops to bring the abandoned old men back to their homes. The citizens gladly followed the army and they could trace many old men from different parts of the dense forest. But the loving old man could not be found anywhere. At last, his son spotted parts of his clothes near a cave. He rushed to examine the clothes but they were found to be stained with blood. It was obvious that the old man had fallen prey to some wild carnivore. The sad citizens returned to their country in silence, but enlightened in spirit.

God commanded, “Respect your father and your mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you” {Exodus 20: 12}. This is a commandment written by God for man. This commandment is special in that it is associated with a reward.

St. Paul teaches, “Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Respect your father and mother’ is the first commandment that has a promise added,’ so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land” {Ephesians 6:1-3}.

“God’s curse on anyone who dishonours his father or mother” {Deuteronomy 27:16}. “Any one who makes fun of his father or despises his mother in her old age ought to be eaten by vultures or have his eyes picked out by wild ravens” {Proverbs 30: 17}.

“Honour your father with all your heart, and never forget how your mother suffered when you were born. Remember that you owe your life to them. How can you ever repay them for all they have done for you?” {Sirach 7: 27, 28}.


By: Dr. Babu Philip, Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India.

This is Story No. 163 in this site. Please click ‘Older Posts’ at the bottom of a page to read previous stories and click 'Newer Posts' at the bottom of a page to read newer stories in this site. Please click on a word in the 'Story Themes' to read stories on that theme.

No comments: