Once there was a king, and he went hunting. By chance he
became separated from his soldiers, at which time a tiger began
chasing after him and he became frantic to save his life. There was
a tall tree, which he could not climb, but then he saw a blind-well
and a small tree. He held onto two branches of that tree and lowered
himself into the well. As soon as he somewhat descended into the
well, he saw some black serpents at the bottom, hissing with a desire
to immediately bite him.
The king thought, “My God, there are so many cobras. But just
outside the well a tiger is roaring loudly.” Now he was in a dilemma
regarding what to do. Hanging from the two branches of that tree, he
noticed that two rats came out of the blind well, one black and one
white, which started to bite the branches on which he was hanging.
And he noticed more. A beehive rested on the branches, and
from the beehive some honey dropped in front of him. Seeing the
honey, he could not control himself. He forgot that death waited
downward, death waited upward in the form of the tiger, and death
waited also in the form of the rats cutting the branches he held.
Licking the honey, he thought, “How sweet this honey is; how sweet.”
What is the symbolism regarding the black and white rats cutting
the branches? What is the tree? The tree may be compared to our
lifetime, and the rats symbolize day and night. Days and nights cut
down our lifetime: day and night, one week, a fortnight, a month,
a year; cutting our lifetime. What does the tiger represent? He is
the symbol of death. What are the snakes? They are symbols of the
problems in this world. What is the honey which is dropping down
in front of the king? It is the happiness of this material world. This
is our situation.
One day you will become old. Perhaps you will
not be able to walk at that time, and you will be attacked by many
diseases. These are cobras. And what is the honey? Suppose a man
and woman coming home from outside [where they were besieged by
problems] now see their children. Those children jump onto their
laps and say, “What have you brought for me?” By this exchange, the
parents forget all their problems.

―Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
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