Once there was a barber who was going here and there
giving out invitations. In previous times barbers performed
this task for families. If there was to be a marriage or a festival,
he would go and distribute the invitations to everyone,
and for doing this he would earn a little extra money.
But he would not go anywhere without his instruments such
as a razor, scissors and a comb.
Starting on his way, this barber entered a jungle where he
saw a lion resting on the path. The lion did not attack him,
but instead was merely lifting up its paw and licking it. At
first the barber was frightened, but then he thought, “It
seems that there is something stuck in his foot, and that is
why he is not attacking.” So the barber went a little nearer
and saw that a very large thorn was stuck in very deeply, and
due to this the lion was suffering greatly. Therefore, with
the help of his instruments, the barber manipulated the
thorn a little and carefully removed it. Some blood had
been coming from the wound, so he also applied some antiseptic,
wrapped the lion’s paw in some medicinal leaves, and
then left.
Three or four years went by. Then one day that same
barber was mistakenly arrested for some very serious crime
such as murder. His case was brought before the king, who
said, “Several days ago in the jungle we captured a lion.
Throw the criminal into the lion’s compartment. The lion
will eat him – finished. For him there can be no other punishment.
Throw him in!”
The barber was thrown into the lion’s cage, and at once
the lion got up, roaring. But as he came near the barber, he
began to purr and sat down. This was the same lion from
which the barber had removed the thorn, and after so many
years the lion recognised the barber and therefore did not
attack him. The king said, “This fierce animal is not attacking
him? What is this?” Then he thought, “Now I understand.
Because I have made a mistake in arresting this man,
the lion is not killing him. If the lion is not carrying out this
punishment, then I also should not punish him.” The king
released the barber, showed him respect and asked for
For one minute that barber removed a thorn from the lion, and
for so many years the lion remained grateful.
In this world, even an animal will remain indebted for its
entire life to someone who removes a thorn from it. In the
same way, we are indebted to our guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.
How can we be ungrateful to those who have tried to
remove the thorn of material attachment from us, and have
tried to entice us to drink bhakti-rasa? Towards such gurus
and Vaiṣṇavas we should always be grateful. If on one day
gurudeva is a little harsh with us and in one minute we
become ungrateful, thinking, “Oh, he no longer has affection
for me,” what ill fortune that is. We will always remain
indebted to gurudeva and the Vaiṣṇavas, and we can never
repay this debt.

―Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja


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