Sep 24, 2013

"The Leper Saint" from Sermons in the Stroms

We of the world who are more used to see things and persons externally and purely from the worldly point of view are generally deprived of the elevating privilege of having a glimpse of the inner evolution of many souls who are leading a detached and dispassionate life.
From Rishikesh in U.P. I was once going to Laxman Jhoola— some 3 miles away. Near the jhoola were many hutments where lepers live and subsist on alms which they receive from the passing pilgrims.
On the roadside near the dwellings was a vendor selling parched rice, fried grams, groundnuts and cheap fruits.
I felt like providing some eatables to those leper brethren of ours. So, I asked the vendor to give an anna worth of grams to each of those lepers—they were 28 of them. Adjacent to the bridge was also a hut and from it emerged another leper. As he was farther off and as I had to go that way, I got a packet for him also, paid up the yonder and proceeded ahead.
On reaching the hut, I found there a dirt coated and emaciated figure of a leper having sun bath. The disease had made way so deep into his body that many parts of it were eaten up.

I went up to him and gave that packet of grams. Accepting the packet, he greeted me with winning smiles and in a sweet tone bade me to sit. I could not decline – I seated myself on a wooden case and was feeling bad.
The leper went into his hut and came out with little jaggery in his disfigured hand and offered that to me. I could not bring myself to accept it from his hands. So I politely said that I didn't want it. The leper thereupon rejoined, ‘you have not as yet overcome the fear of infection,
how then can you make any progress in the spiritual field ?
The way he uttered the Sentence was enough to make me know that he was no common leper but one who was highly learned and was fulfilling his destiny as a cripple.
Yes, he was right – FEAR IS THE ROAD TO REGRESS. Aren’t our multiple miseries mainly due to the fear complex? In this life, fear of diseases, fear of thefts, fear of separation, fear of starvation, fear of insult, fear of ghosts, fear of famine, fear of floods etc. not excluding the great fear of death keep us so much obsessed that what to speak of spiritual progress, even the ordinary worldly happiness is beyond our easy reach.
Few minutes later, he told me that might be I was getting late and that I may go. When I rose to go, extending his hand which held the jiggery he softly interjected ‘at least now take this jaggery and go.’ That is, as much to say that, now that you know that making headway in life is not possible without first ousting the fear instinct, why not make a start right from here?. His appeal was direct and alluring
I accepted it and seated myself once again – now oblivious of the contagious surroundings and began conversing with him. We talked and talked on many subjects of interest — now and then switching on to many different lingos. He proved to be a seeded linguist with a commendable mastery over several languages including English, French and Persian.
Having enjoyed both quantitatively and qualitatively the peace which he radiated, by the end of that unforgettable meeting. I couldn't but conclude that there lay a great Saint—as a mere leper to the outer world— deeply immersed in philosophical piety.

When I had to leave him, I found that even during that short association with him, I had gained in knowledge and change, in mental spirit which was so essential for a growing monk like me.