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November 02, 2018 Friday 10:46:38 AM IST



A great soul who would never get angry with anybody for any reason. That was how it was told about the weaver who was selling handmade clothes sitting at the roadside.

“If that is how he is, he must be put to a severe test”, said the much-pampered son of a local merchant, to his unruly friends. They were overjoyed to join him in his misadventure. Together they went to see the weaver who greeted them with a broad smile.

However, they did not greet him back. “What’s the price for this,” asked the merchant’s son after picking up a shawl from the range of merchandise there. “Four coins,” said the weaver with another charming smile.

“I need only half of this shawl”, the young man said, and immediately tore the shawl into two. “How much do I have to pay you,” he asked. “Two coins,” said the weaver, calmly and dispassionately.

Then the young man tore the shawl into four pieces and asked for the price again. “One coin,” said the weaver nonchalantly. To infuriate the weaver, the young man tore the shawl into a number of small pieces. However, the weaver sat there as an oasis of serenity in the midst of the young man’s tantrums.  

When the young man saw that the weaver could not be intimidated in any way, he felt sorry for what he did. “Please tell me, how much do I owe you for your shawl,” asked the young man. But the weaver said the young man owed him nothing since the pieces could not be of use anyone. The young man offered to compensate the weaver by paying more than what it was worth. However, the weaver refused to take any money.    

Immediately, the young man kneeled down and asked the weaver for forgiveness with tears running down his cheeks. Embracing the young man, the weaver wiped away his tears, forgave him and sent him away, giving his blessings.

This is one of the famous legends about Thiruvalluvar who is revered for his renowned wisdom as well as for his unbelievable patience. As the author of the famous book Thirukkural which contains teachings on life, politics, economics, ethics and morality, Thiruvalluvar is considered to be one of the early poets in Tamil literature. There are no authentic records about his life but it is believed that he lived most probably before 7th century A.D.

The patience of Thiruvalluvar is indeed incredible if the story narrated above is true. Even when someone was willfully trying to create trouble for him, he did not lose his patience. On the contrary, he faced the young man’s paroxysm with a smile on his face and no malice in his heart. In fact, he only desired the wellbeing of the young man. This was much more than ordinary patience. It was truly extraordinary patience from a generous spirit.

We always appreciate patience and generosity being bestowed upon us by others. However, when it comes to the question of bestowing patience upon others, many of us fail miserably. We often see people exploding with anger at the slightest provocation. It may be true that they have a ‘short fuse’ by nature. However, it doesn’t mean that they are licensed to get angry with anyone or use abusive language for any reason. On the contrary, it is very important for them to remember to control their anger always and be civil to others.

If Thiruvalluvar was able to be patient with the wayward young man, it was not because he was born that way, but it was because of his consistent practice of self-discipline and self-control over the years. People who practice self-discipline and self-control always succeed in controlling their passions, especially their anger. It may not be possible for all of us to become extremely patient like Thiruvalluvar. Nonetheless we can also develop patience if we set our mind on it.

There is much truth in what German-American developmental psychologist Erik Erikson (1902-1994) said, “the more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others.” It is when we really know ourselves, especially our weaknesses that we begin to have more patience towards others. For we are all created in the same way although our strengths and weaknesses may vary.

According to George Savile, an English Statesman and writer (1633-1695), “a man who is a master of patience is a master of everything else.” This may be an exaggeration. Nevertheless, patience always helps us master our passions and thus we will have control over ourselves and our actions. Like Thiruvalluvar, let us remember to practice patience so that we will have control over our actions even when we are heedlessly provoked to be angry.

Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI

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