Once upon a time, the great sage Narada Muni was on his way to bathe at Triveni, the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati Rivers. While travelling through the forest, he saw a deer lying on the ground. It was wounded by an arrow, it legs were broken, and it was writhing in pain. Some distance ahead, he saw a boar and then a rabbit in the same condition. Narada was pained at heart to see the animals suffering.
Farther ahead, Narada saw a hunter hiding behind a tree aiming his bow at another deer. The hunter appeared fearsome. He had a dark complexion, red eyes, and resembled Death himself.
Narada Muni walked over to the hunter, and all the deer nearby fled. Seeing this, the hunter was angry, but when Narada came into his presence, he couldn’t utter an angry word. He could feel that Narada was an elevated sage. So, he asked, “O Sage, why did you come over here and scare away all the deer I was hunting?”
Narada replied, “I came to ask you a question: I want to know if the deer, the boar, and the rabbit on this path are yours.”
The hunter replied, “Yes, they are.”
Narada said, “Why do you wound these animals, break their legs, and leave them writhing in pain? Why don’t you put them out of their misery?”
The hunter replied, “I am a hunter, and I was taught to hunt in this way by my father. When I see animals wounded, crippled, and writhing about, I feel pleasure.”
Narada said, “I beg one thing of you.”
The hunter replied, “Take one of those animals or whatever else you wish. If you want a skin, come to my home. I will give you a deerskin, a tigerskin, or whatever you want.”
Narada said, “I do not want anything like that. I beg of you something else: from tomorrow on, please do not torture these animals. Just kill them outright as is necessary for your sustenance.”
The hunter replied, “Why are you asking me for this? Is there something wrong with half-killing animals and letting them die slowly?”
Narada replied, ‘When you slowly kill animals, you subject them to terrible suffering, and as a result of doing so you will have to undergo such suffering in the future.
“You have been born into a family of hunters who have been living from hunting for many generations and you have been taught that it is right to hunt from your childhood. So, for you the karmic reactions of hunting for your livelihood are not so heavy. Nevertheless, torturing animals as you have been taught causes extremely severe karmic reactions. For every animal that you torture and kill in this life, you will have to be tortured and killed in the same way in a future life.”
Hearing thus about the law of karma from the great sage Narada, the hunter suddenly understood the consequences of his actions and repented. He became stricken with fear at that thought of all the suffering he had incurred for himself by torturing animals. He said, “I have acted this way since childhood. So, I have created a great amount of future suffering for myself. Is there any way I can be saved from this? Please help me. I beg you.”
Narada replied, “If you follow my advice, then I can save you.”
The hunter said, “I will do just as you say.”
Narada replied, “Break your bow. Then I will advise you.”
The hunter replied, “If I break my bow, how will I live?”
Narada replied, “I will send you food every day. You don’t need to hunt any more.”
The hunter broke his bow and fell at Narada’s feet. Narada raised him and then instructed him: “Go home and give away all your wealth. Take only your most basic necessities and build a cottage on the bank of the river. Make a raised mound in front of the cottage and plant Tulasī there. Circumambulate Tulasī and worship Tulasī every day, and most importantly, constantly chant the Holy Name of Krishna. I will send you plenty of food every day, and you will have nothing else to worry about.”
With his supernatural power, Narada Muni restored the suffering animals to health, and they ran off into the forest. Seeing this, the hunter was astonished. He offered his obeisance to his Guru and went home.
Narada travelled on to Triveni, and the hunter went home and told his wife everything that had happened. He then did everything Narada advised. He became completely fulfilled in his new life of simplicity and devotion, and he realised it was divine grace that had brought Narada to him and saved him from both the suffering he was creating for himself in the future and the miserable life of violence he was living at present.
News soon spread throughout the nearby village that the hunter and his wife had become Vaisnavas, and all the villagers started to visit their cottage on the riverbank and bring them food. In one day, villagers brought enough food for ten or twenty people to eat, but the couple accepted only as much as they could eat that day.
Sometime later, Narada Muni was travelling back through this forest with another illustrious sage, Parvat Muni. Narada said, “I have a disciple in this forest. Let us go and check on him.”
The two sages approached the abode of the hunter, and from afar, the hunter saw his Guru coming. The hunter quickly got up and came over to offer obeisance to Narada, but he saw that there were ants running all over the ground. So, the hunter gently swept all the ants away with his cloth, and then bowed down to his Guru.
Narada Muni observed this complete transformation in his disciple. He had gone from taking pleasure at animals writhing in the pain to being hesitant to hurt even an ant. Narada said to him, “O hunter, this is natural. Anyone who develops devotion to the Lord automatically become non-violent and virtuous. Devotees never wish to cause any harm to anyone.”
The hunter brought the sages over to his cottage and with devotion invited them to be seated on kusha grass mats. He washed their feet with water and then drank this water and sprinkled it on his head. As he chanted Krishna’s Holy Name in the presence of his Guru, he became overwhelmed with emotion. He wept and began to dance.
Seeing the wonderful behaviour of the hunter, Parvat Muni said to Narada Muni, “Amazing! You are a most glorious divine sage, a touchstone in person! By your grace, even this hunter is ecstatic and has developed devotion to the Lord.”
Narada Muni acknowledged the transformation in the hunter and addressed him accordingly, “O Vaisnava, do you get enough to eat? Is there food being brought to you?”
The hunter replied, ‘Yes! So many people come and offer me alms, and I know they are all sent to me by your grace. But please don’t send quite so much food. We have no need for it. We just need enough for two people to eat.”
Narada was very pleased with his disciple and blessed him, “You are fortunate. Continue to serve the Lord in this way.”
Narada Muni and Parvat Muni then continued on their journey, and the hunter spent the rest of his life joyfully engaged in the loving service of the Lord.
This story was narrated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to Srila Sanatan Goswami to illustrate the power of association with sadhus. It is found in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, Madhya-lila, Chapter Twenty-four, verses 223–276 and was first recorded in the Skanda-purana.