--> Skip to main content

Fortitude and Weakness – A Story

Fortitude does not mean being doormats. It is certainly not necessary to meekly bear with the idiosyncrasies of those who don’t understand us. It is to be remembered that Sri Ramakrishna did not encourage weakness masquerading as forbearance. He advised people to ‘hiss’, but not ‘bite’, telling them the parable of the snake that stopped biting people after a brahmacharin initiated it with a mantra and taught it to mend its ways.

The snake did not even protest in self-defence when a group of boys caught it by the tail, swung it hard against the ground and bruised it badly. When the brahmacharin returned after some time to see how his disciple fared, he was surprised to see the snake reduced to a mere skeleton. Oncoming to know of the reason, he told the snake with love and compassion, ‘My foolish child, I forbade you to bite, but why didn’t you hiss to protect yourself?’

Likewise, Sri Ramakrishna advised his householder disciples to hiss at those who troubled them, but forbade them to ‘inject their venom into them’.

Non-violence can be a virtue only if we can strike, but don’t. Weakness or inactivity cannot pass as fortitude, since neither is a spiritual virtue, but only a manifestation of inertia (tamas).