For some, the sight of a snake strikes intense fear within. For others, snake symbols are interwoven with spiritual traditions. We have all seen snakes in our ashrams. A fork stick is always kept handy to catch the snakes and move them to the forests nearby. Of the almost 4000 species of snakes in earth only 15% are poisonous. The chances of us encountering a truly poisonous snake during our lifetime is miniscule.
More people die in car accidents than of snake bites — but we still get into cars, drive them, don’t we? So, our fear of snakes is unreasonable. Our knowledge about snakes and fear of snakes are inversely proportional. The more we know about them, the less we fear them. The less we know about them, the more we fear them.
This is the only creature in the world where even if it is in the wild, if we keep ourselves in a certain way, we can just take it in our hand — simply like that. It will come into our hand without resistance. It will not do anything to us. But if we just change our thought process, it could bite us. If we are meditative, it will just come and snuggle up to us, and there will be no problem at all. But if we are in a state of agitation, it will not be able to stand us — and this could lead it to bite us!
Most of the Indian snakes are non-poisonous. And they are among the most beautiful creatures on the planet. Most snakes do not even have fangs. They just have a saw-like cartilage which cannot bite anyone for nuts. Fear of snakes is just absurd. Except a handful of snakes, they cannot do anything to us. They are terrified of us. The moment they see us, they run. But we are terrified of them too. This fear is absurd and exaggerated.
Medical organisations often have two snakes entwined around a staff as a symbol. This is also a yogic symbol: two snakes meeting at six different places, and at the top is a symbol for Ida (Left Meridian) and Pingala (Right Meridian) going through the Sushumna (Central Meridian).
The symbolism of snakes and the spiritual process in India are deeply intertwined. It is actually so in every part of the world, because wherever people became aware, they naturally recognised the sensitivity of the snake to a certain type of energy, to meditativeness. It is just that priests and pandits have given a lot of bad press to the snake for ages.
Only if we are anti-life, we think the snake is an agent of the devil. If we are pro-life, the snake is definitely an agent of the Divine. Someone who induced life on this planet, would we call him an agent of the devil or of the Divine?
Anybody with a little sense, with some zest for life, would naturally say it must be Divine. Only somebody who is making the very life process into an evil process would make a snake into an agent of the devil.