A Story from the Life of Saint Tukaram

One of the few successful resistances to Muslim Invasions was that of the Maratha Emperor Shivaji. Upon seeing the atrocities selectively inflicted on Hindus, he went on a campaign of battles and guerrilla warfare on the invaders and was successful in containing them and their king – Aurangzeb.

Emperor Shivaji had the highest regard for Saint Tukaram. In fact, the Emperor had wished to become his disciple. When the Emperor approached Tukaram, he politely directed him to Saint Ramdas, who eventually accepted the Emperor as his disciple.

Once when Saint Tukaram was coming out of the Godavari river after having a bath, a Pathan (a Muslim tribesman from the border of Pakistan & Afganistan) sitting on the bank of the river, spat on Tukaram.

Saint Tukaram quietly returned to the river and had another bath. The Pathan spat again on him as he came out and Tukaram returned for yet another bath without any change in his disposition. The Pathan realised that this was not an ordinary human being.

Unlike in many cases where the ruling Muslim class had a upper hand on the local population, wherein the Pathan could throw his weight on Tukaram and get away with it, this was not the case here. The ruler was the much feared Hindu Emperor Shivaji and Tukaram being close to the Emperor, could have easily got the Pathan in serious trouble. But Saint Tukaram did not choose to do so. The Pathan became increasingly disturbed and guilty of his behavior. When he saw Tukaram walk out of the water the 6th time and walked towards him without the slightest hint of anger or ill will in his eyes, the Pathan with moist eyes, asked him why he did not retort back. Tukaram responded that, “while the spit can be cleaned by a single bath, a 1000 baths would not be sufficient to clean the impurity generated by ill will and vengeance.” Hearing this, the Pathan was moved to tears and fell as the feet of the Saint.

The Saint’s apparent meekness was real inner strength born from the understanding of spiritual principles. The Saint did not relinquish his power over to the person he encountered. Instead of creating ill will with the Pathan, who might have carried it in his heart forever, Tukaram awakened the spiritual attributes in the person and initiated his process of transformation into a virtuous human being.

Amma says, “Do not react, but respond”.

Saint Tukaram chose not to react when he was provoked, but responded.

Unmesh Vakil, Mumbai