Vidyasagar: the ocean of compassion6

Vidyasagar was the ocean of knowledge and also the ocean of compassion. There were people who used to think of him early in the morning and pray to God to make them as kind and as great as Vidyasagar. He was loved by everyone and adored by everyone.

Vidyasagar was one of those who helped to elevate the consciousness of the Bengalis tremendously, and in hundreds of ways he served the people of Bengal. He helped the Bengalis infinitely more than anyone can imagine in social activities and in fighting for the education of women and the early remarriage of widows. He also helped the poor and the needy, not only unreservedly, but also unconditionally.

Once he went to a particular district that was not well-known and where the people were not well-educated. He happened to be sitting at a railway station, watching the trains coming and going. In a short while a particular train stopped and a few passengers began to step down from it.

It was a very small railway station and there were very few coolies, so the passengers had to carry their own luggage. One young man began shouting, “Coolie! Coolie! Coolie!” He had only a small briefcase, but he was shouting for a coolie and nobody was there to come.

Vidyasagar stood up and went over to the young man. “I will carry it,” he said. The young man did not know that Vidyasagar was a great man. He always wore the most modest clothes. And perhaps the young man had never even heard of Vidyasagar. God knows. Anyway, Vidyasagar took his briefcase and pretended to be a coolie because he was so modest and humble.

Carrying the briefcase, Vidyasagar followed the gentleman to the house of his parents-in-law. It was to be their first meeting since he had married their daughter. Vidyasagar and the young man arrived at their house and the hosts came out to greet them. Although they were simply delighted to see their new son-in-law, they were shocked to death to see Vidyasagar carrying his briefcase.

They fell at Vidyasagar’s feet and said, “How can you do this? How can you do this? Will God not curse us? In knowledge, in compassion and in love, you are the greatest man in Bengal, and yet you carry this briefcase for our son-in-law! He is such a stupid fellow. He did not know who you are. Even now there is no remorse on his part!”

All the members of the household were so shocked, and they begged Vidyasagar to forgive the young man. Gradually, gradually, the son-in-law began to realise what he had unconsciously done.

Then Vidyasagar said to him, “It is because of you that Bengal is not progressing. You will never do your duty. It is such a tiny briefcase, and so light, but still you cannot carry it yourself. You have to wait for a coolie. Yes, when it is heavy, I understand; but when it is something that you can do yourself, that is incomprehensible to me. I am desperately trying to encourage people to be active, dynamic and self-sufficient. It is because people like you don’t do your duty, which is so easy to do, that today Mother Bengal is so inferior to other parts of the world. You are all a disgrace to our country.”

In this way Vidyasagar scolded them. The members of the family gladly accepted his scolding. “We deserve it. We deserve it. But we are very glad and grateful that you have come to our house. We could not have brought you to our house otherwise.”

Vidyasagar replied, “No, you are wrong. I go to everybody’s house. You people have made me great. You people have made me good. But I want everybody to be great and good. Then only my sister and brother Bengalis will really make progress. If you are not self-sufficient, if you are not active, if you are not dynamic, then you can never become good instruments for God and good instruments to achieve something great for Mother Bengal.”

At this point the young man also fell at Vidyasagar’s feet and said, “Vidyasagar, in addition to being the ocean of knowledge, you are also the ocean of compassion. Forgive me. From now on I will be a totally different person.”

Vidyasagar blessed him, saying, “I need young people like you who will really work very hard, who will offer their heart and soul to raise the standard of Mother Bengal. I offer you my blessings unreservedly.”

GIM 86. 22 January 1979