Protection from bad company
Once a man went to a great Saint and started crying about his problems, "Swamiji, please save me from bad company! I live in a bad area of town and the bad qualities of people there are rubbing off on me. It is making me do bad things, too!" The Saint just nodded in understanding and took the man for a walk in a nearby garden.
After some distance they saw a gardener mixing fertilizer for the trees. The fertilizer smelled quite bad, so the man tied a handkerchief to his nose.
Seeing this Saint just smiled, but did not say anything. Further in their walk, they came across many plants bearing beautiful, fragrant flowers. The man, who had by now removed the cloth covering his nose, was quite enjoying this walk by the fragrant flowers, but noticed that the Saint was only smiling in silence.
The man thought, "Has this man gone mad? I came to him with such a big problem and all he does is take me for a walk smiling silently all throughout. I hope he is not making fun of me." Finally, he could not bear the Saint's silence anymore and asked, "Swamiji, why are you smiling? Did I do something wrong?"
The Saint replied, "I was smiling thinking about how humans react to bad things and how differently nature reacts. These plants are nourished by fertilizers that are nothing like the delicious food we humans eat. But the plants transform the smelly fertilizer into fragrant flowers. The flowers do not leave their quality of fragrance whether we crush them, pluck them, or tear off their petals. But we humans, who are supposedly scientifically advanced compared to any other species, are quick to leave our good qualities and pick up bad ones in bad company or adverse situations!"
Hearing the Saint's words, the man realized his fault and went back wiser, determined to do spiritual practice to prevent the effects of bad company.
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