This parable is taken from a book called Upākhyāne Upadeśa, a compilation of instructive stories by the great Ācārya — His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. He often used simple parables to drive home difficult or sensitive spiritual concepts or issues.
A dull-headed boy was once happily flying a kite from an unwalled rooftop. He became so engrossed in playing that he lost his awareness. His playmates were also encouraging him very much. The boy got so carried away that he failed to notice that one of his legs was hanging over the edge of the roof. None of the other boys alerted him to this peril; rather they simply continued to encourage him to fly the kite.
At that critical moment, a wise man happened to pass by. He saw that the boy was in imminent danger of falling from the roof. He immediately rushed up to save the boy although the others saw no danger. He pulled the boy away from the edge, tore off the thread of the kite and took away the spool of thread.
But the foolish boy and his friends, rather than feeling thankful, began to curse the well-meaning gentleman. They called him a thief, rascal, trespasser, hooligan, ruffian and other such names. They even threatened to take the gentleman to court after complaining to their overindulgent parents. Some even tried to physically assault him. Bearing all this, the kind-hearted gentleman saved the boy from imminent death.
Materialistic persons, symbolized by the kite-player, are so busy in their pursuits that they are totally oblivious to the suicidal future that they are building up by neglecting the spiritual truth of life. They do not see the impending inevitable destruction of all their acquisitions at death and their entrance into hellish life owing to their activities blind towards self-realization.
Other similarly spiritually blind men in the shape of friends, family, greedy capitalists, political leaders and even pseudo-spiritual gurus, symbolized by the friends of the kite-player, encourage the materialistic man in his pursuits without warning him of the impending danger. Many of them are not even aware of the danger. Some want to be in the good books of the kite-player and so do not agitate him by discouraging him in his meaningless childish endeavors. All of them want to be happy by way of “ignorance-is-bliss”. But that does not make the danger disappear.
The wise man who sees the grave reality denotes a Vaiṣṇava saint. A Vaiṣṇava is a devotee of Lord Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. One of the chief symptoms of a Vaiṣṇava is that he is para-duḥkha-duḥkhi — he cannot bear to see others suffering. He therefore takes all risk to save the materialist. He frankly exposes the foolishness and danger of his childplay and instructs him to become aware of the imminent danger at death.
A sādhu preaches out of his sheer mercy some real truths although in an unpleasantly stern exposition (like a dose of strong medicine) in spite of our unwillingness to accept it. The materialist and his friends become agitated by the words of the sādhu (saint) and they harass him in so many ways. By no means are they prepared to accept anything which is apparently bitter but ultimately pleasant. Being blind to self-realization, they rebuke him with so many ill-names and may even conjure allegations against him in court and may even physically assault him or even kill him.
We find so many examples in history. Prahlada Maharaja was harassed by his own father Hiranyakasipu; Haridasa Thakura was beaten in twenty two public market places; even in the Western world, Jesus was crucified for preaching about God. The materialistic world fails to appreciate the thankless service of the sādhu. But the sādhu, being extremely tolerant and merciful, tries to enlighten them just as a tree which withstands climatic extremes and still provides shade, fruit and flowers to ungrateful people who may take wood from the tree, make an axe and cut the same tree.
A serious point to be noted here however is that the sādhu, though harassed regularly, knows that he will be saved by Kṛṣṇa, who will very soon take him back to His own eternal abode. On the other hand, if the materialist, who is already on the royal road to hell, commits such a grave offence at the feet of a Vaiṣṇava, he accelerates and amplifies manifold the punishments that await him in this life and in the next.
Therefore one is advised to accept all good sermons from saintly persons delivered in the cause of our eternal welfare, even if those words appear utterly bitter and heart-rending. [End]