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544. Psychological Accomplishment

An engineering graduate applied to a high school in the London slums for a teaching post, as none was available in his own field. He was given the job. Along with the job he got a sumptuous invisible warning that he was in for an adventure. He was a determined man, undeterred by adversities. He was a Black teacher in a white school. The pupils were not mischievous. They were venomous. They let loose hell in the classroom. His name was Thackeray, but they called him ‘Fackeray'. They broke the legs of his table and enjoyed his discomfiture when he fell down along with the tumbling table on putting his books on it. One can bravely risk his life on the battlefield, but not be publicly humiliated by teenagers who are hoodlums. No amount of mental determination can come to one's rescue in such circumstances, as mind can give way at any time. The Spirit knows no fall.

Sri Aurobindo explains the limitation of mental control. Mental control is discipline. A sannyasi practised such control of his sex impulses. One day while he was bathing, his control broke on seeing a woman in the water. He rushed to her and tightly held her. Mental control achieves many great things, as we witness in the military. They are feats of human endurance. Sri Aurobindo does not believe in mental control or even sublimation of one's urges. He pleads for spiritual education of the nerves, which removes the energy of the urge at its roots. Thackeray was torn between unemployment and a job that was a dangerous experiment. He was resourceful in the extreme, but the pupils were nasty in the extreme. One of their vulgar pranks was too much for him. He raised his voice and commanded them to implicitly obey his ORDERS. They did. It was a supreme moment of victory for the teacher, but he had another view. He had vowed not to lose his temper, but now he had lost it. To him, it was a failure.

It is a spiritual knowledge that considers his greatest triumph as his cardinal failure. The Spirit in him awoke. It was a turning point. He became popular with the boys and girls. It did not mean their pranks were given up. His reputation reached the homes of the children where they constantly spoke, "Sir said this, Sir said that." Even parents came to him for help in their domestic affairs. A Black student's mother died. The boys and girls collected a small subscription for a wreath to be sent to the funeral. But no one would go to deliver it, as they were white children. Thackeray's silent importunities worked. All of them attended the funeral. At the end of the year, the students gave him a gift. "To Sir, with love" was the inscription that accompanied it. When he got a job as an Asst. Engineer, he heaved a sigh of relief. On seeing the transformation in these wretched young people and seeing how eager the next set of students were to enter his class, he gave up the new job offer and remained a teacher.

story | by Dr. Radut