Tilottama had the most beautiful orchard in the Srivelliput, a small village along the lagoons on the south Indian coast. She grew all sorts of vegetables, fruits, herbs in her orchard. People came to her for medicines that she made with those plants and gave them away for free. Flowers, fruits, vegetables, green leaves, wood, herbs –all were freely available to all the visitors. All they had to do was to ask.
She considered her orchard to be santum sanctorium of her temple. She had no children, sibling, or relatives. Only the orchard, and a house that her husband left for her. She looked after the orchard with love and great care. She talked to plants and always took permission from them before using any parts for herself or the villagers. Taking permission from Tilottama before taking anything from the orchard was an unwritten rule. For Tilottama those plants and herbs and even a tiny blade of grass represented god in living form.
One day a local tradesman was passing by. His elephant was thirsty. He knew Tilottama wouldn’t mind if elephants drank from her pond. The elephant quenched his thirst and moved on to ravage the cluster of ripe bananas hanging in the thicket next to the pond. Before the tradesman could stop the elephant, he had destroyed the cluster and started devouring the bananas. Tilottama was in her prayer room. At once she understood something was wrong. She rushed out to see the elephant happily munching the bananas and an uneasy tradesman sitting on the elephant’s back with an apologetic grin. Tilottama’s anger grew thousand fold when she saw how savagely the banana trees were ambushed by the elephant. Ignoring the subtle rule of asking the plants and causing the minimum harm while removing the fruits, instead, these two not only blatantly broke the rule of the nature but also the sanctity of the holy orchard.
Anger diminished her reasoning and compassion. She cursed the tradesman and the elephant to get sick and die for their heinous acts. Tradesman begged and pleaded but Tilottama was beyond reproach. That very night elephant had severe pain due to indigestion and collapsed by the next morning. The tradesman in attempt to help the elephant cracked and broke his back. Now there was nothing that could be done to reverse the damage. An innocent animal had died and the man turned into an invalid because of her curse. No amount of wishing to undo her curse and to change the outcome would work. She lamented her self for days but she found no respite from her overbearing guilt. Finally, she went to tradesman’s place and brought the invalid in her own house to look after him.
The tradesman did not protest because he had no one to look after him. But he never spoke to her; she fed, washed, bathed and kept him clean. She took every bit of care. But tradesman only saw guilt behind her acts. He talked to her in a rude manner and nods. He looked at her with anger and contempt. Tilottama felt she deserved his wrath; she quietly looked after him and silently begged him to forgive her.
One day tradesman got really sick and was breathing his last breath. Tilottama rushed in; it had been 20 years since the incident. She genuinely cared for him. She went close to hold his hand but he snatched it away and told her, ‘you are not forgiven; you are the cause of my suffering.’ And he passed away. Tilottama felt sad but she knew she made a grave mistake but her repentance was sincere. She calmly went on with her life. In subsequent lifetimes, Tilottama’s being endured pain and hardship as repentance for killing an innocent animal. But Tilottama and tradesman met again many centuries later in different lifetimes as relatives.
The tradesman’s being was still constantly angry at her and he still treated her wrathfully. He felt the urge to hurt her for no apparent reason. On the other hand, Tilottama carried no guilt on her being because of her sincere repentance. She silently endured tradesman’s misgivings and finally distanced herself and moved on to new experiences. Tradesman in several subsequent lives suffered from the poison that brewed from the hatred and anger stored in the core of his being.