Once upon a time, a cow went out to graze in the jungle. Suddenly, she noticed a tiger racing towards her. She turned and fled, fearing that at any moment the tiger would sink his claws into her. The cow desperately looked for some place to escape and at last saw a shallow pond. Barely evading the tiger’s reach, she jumped into the pond, and in the heat of the chase, the tiger blindly leaped after her.
To the surprise of them both, the pond was extremely shallow yet filled with deep recesses of mud. After toppling over each other, the cow and the tiger found themselves a short distance apart, stuck in the mud up to their necks. Both had their heads above water but were unable to free themselves no matter how much they writhed.
The tiger repeatedly snarled at the cow and roared, “I am going to enjoy the sound of crunching your bones between my teeth!”
He thrashed about in a fury but soon became fretful as he found no prospect of escape.
The cow thoughtfully laughed as the tiger struggled to free himself and asked him, “Do you have a master?”
The tiger disdainfully replied, “I am the king of the jungle. Why do you ask me if I have a master? I myself am the master!”
The cow said, “You may be the king of the jungle, but here all your power has failed to save your life.”
“And what about you?” Retorted the tiger. “You are going to die here in this mud too!”’
The cow smiled mildly and said, “No, I am not.”
“If even I the king of the jungle cannot free myself from this mud”, snapped the tiger, “Then how can you, an ordinary cow?”
The cow gently replied, “I cannot free myself from this mud, but my master can. When the sun sets and he finds me absent at home, he will come looking for me. Once he finds me, he will raise me up and escort me home sweet home.”
The tiger fell silent and coldly glared at the cow.
Soon enough, the sun set, and the cow’s master arrived. He immediately recognised the plight she was in and lifted her to safety. As they walked home, the cow and the master both felt renewed gratitude for one another and pitied the tiger they both would have been happy to save if only the tiger had allowed them.
The cow represents a surrendered soul, the tiger represents an proud person, and the master represents Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is known as Gopāl and Govinda, the loving protector of the cows and the world. The mud represents the material world, and the chase represents the struggle for existence therein.
The surrendered soul relies upon the Lord rather than themselves for all the necessities of life. No matter how many troubles appeared to be created by the proud persons of the world who reject the guardianship of the Lord out of the false ego of considering themselves capable of fending for themselves, the surrendered souls know that everything is really in the hands of the Lord, the all-loving Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. They are fully confident in His protection, though they know sometimes they just need to wait a little while until sundown.