Anecdote: Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the Mendicant

The following anecdote from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s life is one of my childhood favorites. It compels one to think about their life achievements. Ramakrishna felt that any personal achievement, that cannot benefit the society, is useless.

A mendicant once visited Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He insisted that he wanted to show something amazing to the famous mystic. After much persuasion, Ramakrishna allowed the man to lead him to a lake. 

The mendicant told him that he could walk on water. He even demonstrated the same to Ramakrishna. The mendicant said that he performed severe austerities, meditation, and practice for 16 years to pick up this art form. It allowed him to cross a lake with ease.

Ramakrishna looked at the mendicant, rose from his place and answered, “My dear man, you have wasted 16 precious years of your life”. 

The mendicant was flabbergasted. Why was the mystic so unimpressed by the unique talent he had just demonstrated? The question was all over his face.

Ramakrishna, turned and while walking back to the ashram, replied, “If crossing the lake was all you wanted to do, you could have paid 16 annas to the boatman instead of wasting 16 years of your life”.

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