Once, during the time of India’s ancient Vedic culture, there were
two brothers, named Śaṅka and Liket. Sanka was elder and Liket was
younger. When the boys were about five years old, they were admitted
in the gurukula of a very high-class devotee. They were trained there
until they reached the age of about twenty-five, and when they finished
their studies they returned to their village.
The two brothers never married. Rather they each made separate
bhajana-kuṭīras just outside their village. They had so much love
and affection for each other. They were very qualified, especially in
etiquette and friendly behaviour. They knew how to behave towards
others according to the laws and regulations of Vedic culture.
One day Liket, the younger brother, went to take darśana of his
elder brother at his bhajana-kuṭīra. The hut was very simple, but it
was situated in a beautiful garden with a river flowing by. It was a
very charming bhajana-kuṭīra, enclosed in an atmosphere surcharged
with the mode of goodness. In such an atmosphere purity manifests,
automatically purifying the thoughts and the heart.
When Liket entered the garden to offer praṇāma to his brother,
he was overcome by the very lovely flowers there, such as belī, cāmeli,
and jūhī. Unable to check his greed, he plucked and smelled a fragrant
yellow campaka flower.
He immediately became very worried and thought, “Why did I do
this? I am guilty of theft. I did not ask my brother’s permission for
this flower.” No one should take even an insignificant thing without
permission of the owner. He realized that he should not have done it,
for he knew all the rules and regulations of Vedic culture.
Upset, he took that flower to his brother, where he offered sāṣṭāṅga-praṇāma
to him and began weeping loudly. His brother asked, “Why
are you weeping?” Liket wanted to embrace his brother, but ridden by
guilt he could not bring himself to do so. He said, “Oh, brother, I have
done something wrong, I’ve committed a theft. I’ve taken something
without your permission. First purify me, and then I will be qualified
to be your brother. I don’t feel pure, so please give me punishment.
Punish me to purify me. Otherwise I will simply be overwhelmed with
“What have you done brother?”
“Oh, when I entered your garden I saw so many beautiful flowers.
Unable to check my heart, I took this flower without your permission.
I plucked it and smelled it for my own sense gratification and
enjoyment. I have done wrong, so please punish me.” Śaṅka began to
smile and, putting his hands on his brother’s shoulders, told him, “This
is nothing. If I can punish you, I can also excuse you. So, I am excusing
you, because it was nothing. Please come, and we will talk.”
Liket continued to weep, and said, “No brother, I want you to punish
me. Please don’t excuse me.”
Sometimes, if there is no punishment, there is no purification.
That is why governments throughout the world have made jails for
punishment. In ancient times the punishment for stealing was to cut
off a thief’s hands. In this way the thief would always remember his sin,
and the rest of the citizens would fear sinning.
Liket repeatedly requested Śaṅka to punish him, even though Śaṅka
repeatedly said, “I have excused you.” Thinking, “I must become pure,”
Liket insisted that he should be ideal and take some punishment.
Finally, Śaṅka asked him, “Which hand did you use to take the
flower?” and then cut off both hands, because both had touched the
flower. Liket was now happy, even though blood flowed profusely from
his wrists. After his brother medically treated him, he returned to his
bhajana-kuṭīra and continued doing bhajana.
After some time, Liket decided to visit his elder brother again. He
became worried, however, because he could not offer sāṣṭāṅga-praṇāma
as he had no hands. His brother came at that time, sprinkled some
water on him, and said, “Why are you worried? Your hands will come
back.” At once his hands appeared, and then he embraced his brother.
In India’s ancient Vedic culture there are very, very strict laws.
Śaṅka and Liket each wrote two of the eighteen Smṛtis concerning
all the rules and regulations of Vedic culture, and so we find Manu-smṛti,
Yajyavalkya-smṛti, and Śaṅka- and Liket-smṛti. Śrī Rāmacandra
and Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja followed all the principles therein, and
that is why everyone used to fear them. Nowadays no one cares for
law and order, rules and regulations. Anyone can do anything without
permission, without fear of admonishment.

―Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja

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