When I said to one snake charmer, “Either you tell me or else I am going to try on my own; if I die you will be responsible” – he knew me because for days I had been bothering him, and bugging him – he said, “Wait, I will teach you.”
He took me outside the town and started to teach me how to catch snakes; how to teach them to dance when you play the flute. It was he who told me for the first time that snakes don’t have ears. They cannot hear, and almost everybody believes that they are influenced by the snake charmer’s flute.
He told me, “The truth is they can’t hear at all.”
I then asked him, “But how do they start swaying then when you play your flute?”
He said, “It is nothing but training. When I play my flute, have you ever noticed that I sway my head? That is the trick. I sway my head and the snake starts swaying, and unless he sways he remains hungry. So the sooner he starts swaying, the better. Hunger is the secret, not the music.”
I learned from these snake charmers how to catch snakes. In the first place, ninety-seven percent of snakes are harmless, nonpoisonous. You can catch them without any problem. Of course they will bite, but because they don’t have any poison it will just be a bite, you will not die. Ninety-seven percent don’t have poison glands, and the three percent who do have a strange habit: they bite just enough to make a place available for their poison, then they turn over. The poison gland is upside down in their throat, so first they make the wound, then they turn over and pour in the poison. You can catch them either before they make the wound…and the best way is to grasp their mouth really tight.
I had not known that you need to grasp the mouth, but that has to be the first thing. If you miss, and they make a wound in you, don’t be worried: keep tight hold and just don’t let them turn over. The wound will heal and you won’t die.
I was learning, and this is just an example. Unfortunately all those snake charmers had to leave India. There were magicians doing all kinds of unbelievable things, and I was certainly more interested in the magicians than in my poor teacher and his geography or history. I followed these magicians like a servant. I would not leave them unless they taught me a little trick.
I was continuously amazed that what appeared so unbelievable was nothing but a small trick. But unless you knew the trick you had to accept the greatness of the phenomenon. Once you knew the trick – it is like a balloon losing its air – it becomes smaller and smaller, just a punctured balloon. Soon you have just a little piece of rubber in your hand and nothing else. That great balloon was simply hot air.
I was learning in my own ways things which were really going to help me. That’s why I can say that Satya Sai Baba and people like him are just street magicians – and not even very good ones, just ordinary. But these magicians have disappeared from the streets of India because they also were Mohammedans.