The burning ‘yes’ within for a deeper purpose and direction makes it possible to say ‘no’ to the myriad feelings that disturb us time and again. As various feelings swell up in the mind, a spiritual leader recognizes them to be the various birds that fly above our roofs. However, the strength of his character is determined by his refusal to allow these birds to build nests on his roof. He’s focused on the goal and his feelings don’t impede his pursuits.
One of my seniors, a powerful speaker, was once scheduled to address 2000 Mumbaikars in a youth festival. That morning, he told me he was feeling sick and that he may not be able to take the class. The organizers of the event became nervous since the announcements had been made and invitations to prominent people had already gone out. Everyone expected him to give the talk. Despite a high fever, he finally did make it to the programme and delivered a fantastic lecture, led kirtans and answered questions happily. Later that night, I waited outside his room to thank him for stretching himself to fulfil his commitment. As I expressed gratitude, he in turn humbly thanked me for giving him a chance to serve; then he hugged me and said, ‘I don’t mind dying a thousand deaths if I can serve and please all of you.’
That moment I realized his values were to serve and please. He had also subordinated his feelings for a purpose he considered more important.
Of course, he’s emphatically clarified on many occasions that we need to care for our bodies as well and take good care of our health. Still, that night, seeing his ability to subordinate his own feelings for those of others, I retired reflecting on basketball legend John Wooden’s words of wisdom, ‘Consider the rights of others before your own feelings and the feelings of others before your own rights.’