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Chapter 13: Sympathy Is a Dirty Word

But when Jesus was crucified, Judas could not forgive himself. Then repentance overcame him and he started feeling guilty. And do you know, within twenty-four hours he committed suicide. Judas is condemned all over the world by the Christians. Nobody looks into that man’s suicide - why did he commit suicide? He loved Jesus so much, he wanted him to turn back, not to move towards Jerusalem where nothing but the cross was waiting for him.

Jesus did not listen to Judas, and Judas started feeling bad - he should have made more effort, he should have persuaded him. If it was needed, he should even have dragged him away from the cross. On the contrary, he simply proved a Jew, he made a business of it: he sold his own master. The guilt was so much that he committed suicide. The suicide was just to compensate for what he had done.

Nandalal Bose made a beautiful picture of Krishna playing on his flute, beautiful girls dancing around him. When he came to show it to his master - Rabindranath was present there - the master looked at the painting and said, “Nandalal, this kind of third-class painting is not expected from you.” He threw the painting out of the house, and said to Nandalal, “In Bengal, on the birthday ceremony of Krishna, thousands of people paint Krishna’s picture. They are sold very cheap.”

In Bengal there are many painters who paint only Krishna. They are called patias, because on a plate - patia and “plate” you can understand are the same - on a plate of wood, either they carve or they paint. But those patias, those painters, remain anonymous; nobody comes to know about them. They are not thought to be great painters. Just by the side of the road in Calcutta you can find them, selling pictures, paintings, carvings, for almost nothing. They are poor.

The master said to Nandalal, “Listen, your painting is not even equal to the paintings of the patias. Go to the patias and learn how to paint Krishna.” This was so hard. Nandalal touched the feet of the master and disappeared. For three years he was moving from one patia to another patia learning the art, how to paint.

Rabindranath could not tolerate this. He said to his father, “If you want to know the truth, the truth is that his painting is better than the paintings that you have made of Krishna. And your behavior is just insane!”

The master laughed, and he said, “Rabindranath, I have to be very hard on Nandalal. He is my best disciple, and he has much more capacity. Yes, I know you are right - his painting is far better than my own paintings, but he has yet much potential. If I had praised his painting, that potential would have remained just a potential. I want to bring him to his utmost flowering.” And there were tears in the eyes of the master; he said, “The job of a master is not easy, and it is not easy even to understand.”

After three years Nandalal appeared with a new painting of Krishna. The master was thrilled. He said, “Now I can say to you, your first painting was also great, better than my paintings - but this is superb! Now nobody can transcend this painting. Now I am contented. You had potential, but a challenge had to be given to you.”

Man’s potential blossoms only when there are challenges.

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