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Chapter 5: From Emptiness toward Truth

“It is difficult for an ordinary householder to conquer wrath,” said the sannyasin. “You will have to practice self-restraint. If you take sannyas, something can be done.”

The sannyasin was a naked fakir, so the repentant man, in the fervor of his exuberance, stripped himself of all his clothes without a thought and bowing at the feet of the muni, asked for initiation that very moment. The muni was surprised at such a courageous resolve!

“I have yet to see a man of such singular willpower,” he said.

It was no matter of willpower, actually. The fact was that the wrathful man pushed himself into sannyas with the same vigor that he had pushed his wife into the well. The fever of anger was the same, there was no difference, but the muni mistook it as a sign of powerful determination.

Usually people of violent temper become ascetics and hermits, for wrath can bring forth great penance. It is a dangerous energy. Wrath can cause a man to chastise his own person as much as he is capable of chastising others, and with a vengeance! Wrath revels in castigation. Ninety-eight percent of those who practice penance are people of violent temperament. They merely revert their anger from others to themselves and begin tormenting themselves with as much relish.

There are two types of violence in this world. One is directed toward others: this is sadism. And there is another type of violence that is directed toward the person’s own self: this is called masochism. There is as much pleasure in one as there is in the other.

The muni lauded the man and praised his good fortune - what a momentous decision he had made! Proofs started to pour in of the initiate’s earnest resolve. He performed the most arduous penance and soon outdid the others. His guru named him, Shantinath, for he was engaged in conquering anger. As years passed by, his fame spread and people from far and near came to worship him. When other sadhus sat in the shade, he stood in the grueling heat of the sun; when others walked on smooth roads, he walked on thorny footpaths; when others ate once a day, he ate once in three days. His body looked like a veritable skeleton. The more people venerated him, the greater became his enmity toward his own self. He decided a thousand ways of self-torture and his fame increased accordingly.

Then one day, he reached a big town where his fame had reached before him. There lived an old friend of his in this city, who was shocked to hear that his erstwhile comrade of volatile temperament had become a sannyasin. He could not believe it, so he went to see him. The muni was seated on a high seat; and when they are thus installed, be they saints or politicians, they fail to see those seated before them. That is the elation of the ego - the world knows him but he knows no one. The sannyasin saw his friend of bygone years, but pretended not to know him. The friend could also see that he had recognized him, but did not want to acknowledge him. This made him doubt whether he had really conquered anger, for anger and ego are brothers. If one comes, the other is bound to follow.

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