PRACTISE BEFORE YOU PREACH
The saints teach us only what they themselves have practised. That is why their advice has a power which does us good.
The great Guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had among his disciples a poor woman. One day she came to him with her son and said, “Gurudev, my son wants to eat sweets every day. This habit is spoiling his teeth. As sweets are costly, I too am finding it difficult to buy them every day. My advice, warning, and even beating, have been all in vain. Please give him some advice to stop that habit and also please bless him.”
Ramakrishna looked at the boy; but instead of talking to him, he asked the woman to come with her son again after a fortnight.
The woman brought the boy to him again after two weeks. As both sat down, Shri Ramakrishna looked tenderly at the boy and said, “My dear son, is it true that you trouble your mother to get for you sweets every day?” The boy hung down his head and said, “Yes Sir,” and became silent. “You are an intelligent boy. You know that those sweets are spoiling your teeth. Your mother too is worried about you. If she spends money on sweets every day, how can she buy new books and good clothes for you? Don’t you think you are committing a mistake?”
Ramakrishna’s words touched the boy’s heart. He looked at Ramakrishna and said, “Yes Sir,” and became silent again. “Then will you stop from today asking for sweets?” said Ramakrishna in an appealing tone. The boy smiled this time and said, “Yes Sir, I will stop troubling my mother for sweets from today and stop eating them.”
Ramakrishna was pleased with the boy’s reply. Lovingly he drew the boy close to himself and said, “My son, you are a nice boy. You understand what is good and what is bad for you. You will surely grow into a happy man.” As the boy bowed down, Ramakrishna blessed him and turned to the other devotees.
The boy went out into the garden. His grateful mother asked Ramakrishna, “Gurudev, why did you make us wait for two weeks to give these few words of advice?” Ramakrishna smiled and said, “You see, when you came two weeks ago, I also used to eat, now and then, sweets brought by devotees. How then, could I ask your son not to do something which I myself was doing almost every day? So, from that day I stopped eating sweets. That gave me enough strength and power to advise your son to do what I myself have done. Only when we preach what we practise, will our words acquire a ring of sincerity and appeal to the listener.”
All the devotees in the room felt that they too had learnt a great lesson from the Paramahamsa.
- Why did Ramakrishna make the mother and her son come again after two weeks and not advise the boy immediately to give up sweets?
- What happens if one preaches what one does not practise?
- Describe your own experience of (a) someone advising you to do something without himself or herself doing it and (b) someone advising you to do something because he or she was doing it himself or herself. What was the effect on you in both the cases?