Once in a field near a river, there gathered a large crowd of people. Terrified but fascinated, they had come to look at the monster that had been discovered there. Never had such a creature been seen before - its skin was green, smooth and shining and it was so fat that it seemed to have no separate head or limbs. It looked like a single, huge belly and from the navel came a thick, brown snake that had buried its head in the earth. Although it did not move, the people were too frightened to come closer and see if it were alive, and they whispered among themselves about how to be rid of this demon. Then someone saw a holy man coming along the road and ran to ask his help.
- Baba, we have never seen such a monster before and we are so very afraid that it will kill us all. You must know some mantra or sign that will protect us from this evil.
The sadhu agreed to look at the monster, but when he came to the field he saw nothing to be afraid of at all - only an extraordinarily large and luscious watermelon. He tried to tell the people there was no danger, but they only cried:
- Rid us of this monster, Baba, and this land is yours.
Now this sadhu had been travelling many years in many lands and he thought to himself:
- It's time I settled down to complete my sadhana, and this place looks as good as any. There is water from the river, and these melons make good, sweet eating. I will have everything at hand so I'll be able to concentrate on my practices. If these fools offer me land, why should I refuse?
So the sadhu took out his knife, and while the people looked on in terror, he boldly cut the melon from the vine, plunged in his knife, cut himself a large slice and promptly began to eat. The crowd fled.
After several years the sadhu completed his sadhana and attained enlightenment and, as things happen, there were even a few brave souls who came to learn from him and stayed on as his disciples. However, right to the end of his days, this saint was renowned not so much for his holiness but as the 'mahatma who devoured the melon monster'. Even his disciples made the mistake of thinking their master's achievements depended on this. They forgot the discrimination that enabled him to see the melon for what it really was; they forgot the years of wandering that teach wisdom and compassion; they forgot the master's continual application to his yogic practices.
Instead, where the master had eaten wild melon simply because it happened to be close at hand, his disciples worked long and hard to cultivate whole fields of melons, neglecting their sadhana to do so. Melons were eaten three times a day with great ritual and ceremony, and all new aspirants were tested to see if they knew how to slice melons in the appropriate manner. To sadhus of other sects who would pass by, the melon-eaters would recommend:
- Sacrifice a melon, it will help you as it did our Babaji.
So they built and followed the tradition of eating melons in the hope of attaining supreme enlightenment like their master - but they never did.
Vegetarianism is a simple and practical way to live. Once it becomes a cult it also becomes an attachment and a distraction, blinding us to the true purpose of the life we are trying to sustain.