The Power of Endurance
All of us, especially in this modern world, are quick to react at the slightest provocation – whether it’s someone arriving late or the food not meeting our expectations or someone being critical of us in some way. We have a deeply embedded attitude of pointing out the faults of others, which makes us believe that it is they who must change.
If we are to make any progress on the spiritual path, we must become free of this convenient, automatic attitude of pointing out another person’s faults . And to be able to work towards this freedom, we must first increase our power of enduring other people’s negative manifestations. Only then will we stop reacting and not give in to the mechanical attitude of finding fault elsewhere. By starving this attitude of its food, one day we can be free of it. This is a type of moksha or freedom.
One of the tasks of the teacher is to constantly challenge his students so that they may build their power of endurance. Indeed, one of the signs that we are progressing on the spiritual path is when we can bear the unpleasant manifestations of others without even the slightest expression of irritation – externally and internally.
I spent seven years under the guidance of Swami Ramdulare Bapu. Though extremely loving as a Master, as a guru he was not only strict but also a hard taskmaster. He had this art of creating immense tension out of nowhere. This was no ordinary tension. He would build it up to a point where we, his students, would be convinced that any more would drive us over the edge!
And when he would see that we had reached the limits of our endurance, he would quietly walk away and leave us in that state of extreme anger, irritation and on the verge of hysterics.
I remember I once drove Bapu to many places during an extended road trip over several days. I was very happy that I had driven him well and looked after him too. Now this feeling of ‘I have done something good’ is a feeling of meritoriousness. It’s the nursery school child within us that says ‘What a good boy am I’. The teacher aims to destroy this feeling completely.
After having driven him for over 3000 miles, Bapu casually invited a young boy who had only just learned how to drive a car to teach me, saying, “Rajen, you do not know how to change gears properly. Why don’t you learn from him?”
I remember another incident at the railway station in Puri, where we had made reservations for a train headed to Kolkata. When the train arrived, Bapu had vanished. We were on tenterhooks, searching for him everywhere. Once the train had departed, he suddenly appeared carrying a large packet of pani puri. We had to spend seven hours at the station waiting for the local night train. It was completely packed with people and Bapu pushed us all in, one by one. After rearranging the luggage and people’s shoes under a wooden bench to make a little space, he instructed me to crawl in and go to sleep.
It also wasn’t unusual for Bapu to wake us up at 2am, place a digging iron in our hands and say, “Let us dig holes to plant trees for the ashram.”
Yes, the teacher prepares the disciple to bear negativity and unpleasant situations in life without any outer or inner reaction. After all, the aim is to be free of reaction.