Marathi saint, Eknath [loving called Sant Eknath] was considered a picture of patience, always unruffled and serene—a man who never lost his temper.
His reputation invoked jealousy in some people in the town. They were eager to prove to the people that Sant Eknath, too, had feet of clay. So, they hired a man and promised to reward him richly if he could make Sant Eknath lose his temper.
Every day, early in the morning, Eknath took a dip in the holy waters of a river before beginning his daily worship. One day, as he returned to his cottage, after taking a bath in the sacred waters, this man spat on him. Quietly, the Saint went back to the river and took a dip again. Once again, as he was on his way home the man spat on him. The same thing happened the third time, the fourth time, the fifth time. But it failed to put a dent in the Saint’s composure. Unperturbed, he went to the river to have yet another dip.
Neither the man nor Eknath tired. Lured by the rich reward, the man spat on the Saint every time he passed by him. This went on for as many as 107 times! After having the 108th dip, as the Saint wended his way home, the man finally gave up. His heart was touched. Falling at the feet of the Saint, he pleaded, “Forgive me! I implore you to forgive me! For the sake of God, do forgive me! I have greatly sinned. I was told by some of the wealthy men of the town that if I could make you lose your temper, they would reward me. The temptation of a rich reward made me behave like this. Pray forgive me!”
The Saint smiled as he said, “Forgive you for what? Today is a unique day in my life, when I have had 108 dips in the sacred river! And if you had only told me that if I became angry, you would receive a rich reward, I would have simulated anger.”
On another instance, a man with evil intentions came to test Sant Eknath. He flung invectives at the Saint, abused and cursed him to his heart’s content. The Saint was unperturbed.The man grew tired and the Saint said to him, “My friend, it is time to eat food. You must be feeling hungry after such a long sermon.”
Eknath asked his wife to serve meals. As the wife bent low to place the food before them, the stranger thought of a device that would inflame the temper of the meekest of men. Quickly, he jumped and sat on the back of Eknath’s wife.
Eknath said to her, “My dear, don’t stand erect, else the child will fall off and get hurt.””True,” answered the wife. “Our son played with me in the same way when he was a child.”Hearing this divine conversation, the man was flabbergasted. Sheepishly, he got down the back of the saintly woman, fell at the couple’s feet and, with tear-touched eyes, asked their pardon.”What is there to pardon?” they said to him. “Children always behave thus. Are you not our child?”
Moral of the stories
Anger always wounds the man who is angry. Passion burns up the soul that contains it. Significant are the words of Epictetus, “Whenever you are angry, be assured, that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit, and added fuel to a fire.”