Scorpion and the Frog


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Eastern United States
One day a scorpion was walking along the riverbank trying to find a way to get across the river that separated him from his desired location when he came across a frog sitting alongside the riverbank. The scorpion walked up to the frog and asked the frog if he would take him across the river by giving him a ride on his back. The frog quickly replied, "no he would not give the scorpion a ride." The scorpion then asked him why he would not give the ride. The frog replied, "because Mr. Scorpion if I were to give you a ride on my back we would only get half the way across and you would sting me and then I would drown." Quickly the scorpion replied, "but Mr. Frog, if I stung you then you would drown and if you drown then I would drown also. The frog thought for a minute and then said, "I guess you're right, then I will give you a ride." The scorpion jumps on the frogs back and they start crossing the river. Half way across the river the scorpion just drills the frog with his stinger. The frog immediately starts to panic as he feels the venom race through his veins and he quickly begins to become paralyzed. Just as he is taking his last breath and about to go down, the frog looks at the scorpion and asks "but why?" The scorpion replies, "because that is my nature".


For years, my hubby has called me "his little scorpion" probably because I react so badly to it. And traditional recountings of the story use the scorpion as a warning against dangerous persons.

My retort has been that the frog is foolish. He knows the scorpion's nature but carries him anyway. Both frog and scorpion are acting according to their nature.

I was thinking about how to interpret this story in terms of Buddhist philosophy. Are the frog's actions lovingkindness or selflessness? Or is he just plain foolish? Is Buddhism about overcoming our innate scorpion nature to get to the other shore without sinking our own raft?

Something to think about (for me too).

Humans don't have scorpion nature or frog nature, but human nature. :) I believe, though, that our innate human nature is much more closely aligned to the frog's than the scorpion's; if someone's nature seems closer to the scorpion's, then I would tend to think that that is something learned from culture or perhaps family; probably both.

Is Buddhism about overcoming our innate scorpion nature to get to the other shore without sinking our own raft?
I think it's more about overcoming that learned scorpion nature to suddenly discover ourselves on the "other shore." Suddenly it strikes us that there was no other shore. We were there all along, but simply didn't recognize it because that scorpion nature--or even frog nature--was there, instead of our pure, innate human nature. The fear that drove us to sting, or the fear that kept us from assisting others because we were afraid to get stung, was what kept us separate all along.