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540. Great Attainments

During the decade in which Subramania Bharathi, our national poet, lived in exile in Pondicherry, there was a swami here who was short. He was known as kullachami, short swami. He would always run on the road. To him, Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo were great souls. The tradition says that going to a place where a great soul lives is punya, a spiritual virtue. So, kullachami used to walk from Pondicherry to Tiruvannamalai where Maharshi was. From there, he would walk back to the door of Sri Aurobindo's house. He himself was a person of great attainments. One day he walked into a house and showed a boy there a dog bite on his thigh and asked for some plaster. The boy came back, but the swami had vanished. A little while later, he came and showed the boy the spot where the dog had torn some flesh away. There was no wound!

He never used to enter Sri Aurobindo's house or meet the Maharshi. One day, he rushed into Sri Aurobindo's room, sat in a chair, took a cup full of tea, poured it on the floor, and turned the cup upside down. He repeated it a few times and ran away. Those who were with Sri Aurobindo asked him for an explanation. He replied, "The swami says only when the being is empty of the present realisations, fresh ones can enter." It is true of all great realisations. Even at our level, unless we give up or overcome our present attainment, it will act as a bar to future endowments. Reading is a great good habit. Not all people read serious books. After some time, the reading habit organises itself into a habit. A personality will preside over it. It has the power to compel one to go on reading. To a scholar like Arnold Toynbee, this is an asset. Suppose he wanted to rise to the level of a thinker. Reading is a bar to original thinking. To a scholar or professor, a good reading habit is a valuable academic asset.

For one who wants to rise further to thinking, original thinking, creative writing and beyond, especially when he has the potential for it, voracious reading will prove to be a horizontal expansion serving as an obstacle to vertical growth. For those who in their college days have not developed a serious reading habit, reading is a boon. What is true of reading is true of any attainment that is otherwise of great value. One has to choose between vertical growth and horizontal expansion. Oliver Goldsmith, writing about historians and politicians, drew our attention to this truth of life. It is not as if reading is in itself something low or unwelcome. Any virtue can become an obstacle when taken to in a greater measure than is helpful to the inner psychological growth. The Gita mentions the principle behind this as the discarding of a well-worn dress.

story | by Dr. Radut