[2nd President and Spiritual Head: the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa]
[now a Centre of the international Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission]
Selected from Mother Radha's recordings of Swamiji.
Devotee: How should an average person show courage and fearlessness and when should one keep quiet in adversity to one's principles or self-dignity?
Swamiji: Once Swami Vivekananda [Sri Ramakrishna's lead disciple] was on a ship and someone was speaking ill about Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Vivekananda said to him, "Look here, don't speak ill about him, you don't know anything about him." Again he spoke ill. So Swami Vivekananda and another brother disciple, Niranjan [Swami Niranjanananda], held him and Swami Vivekananda said to the man, "I'll throw you into the sea." The man got so afraid he said, "No, please, please." Later on Niranjan reported this to the Master [Sri Ramakrishna]. The Master said, "What? Why did you do that? You shouldn't have done that."
In other words, if you know that you can destroy that man by hitting him and you have the strength, then, if you resist and warn him off by other means you are right. But if you can hit him and you do hit him, then that is violence, it is wrong. You must hiss. What did Sri Ramakrishna say? He said "hiss", show your displeasure.
Sri Ramakrishna explained it like this: Once there was a snake living near a village and it used to bite people. One day a sadhu [holy man] was going past and the people of this village complained to him about the snake. They also warned him that the snake was very dangerous and that no one could go near it. The sadhu found the snake and said some mantras [sacred words, sound syllables or one of the many names attributed to God] and the snake became tame. The sadhu asked, "Why are you doing this?" The snake answered, "What can I do? I'm doing all this because this is my nature." The sadhu replied "No, no, no, don't you know that you mustn't bite?" So the snake said, "Please initiate me. Then if you initiate me I won't bite anybody." So the sadhu said, "Well, do you promise that you will never bite anybody?" The snake said "Yes." So he initiated the snake [into spiritual life].
After some time, when the guru [spiritual preceptor] came back that way, he found out where the snake was and when he went there he found the snake all bruised and battered. He asked the snake, "What happened to you?" The snake said, "Oh, nothing." The sadhu said, "But what are all these marks on you?" The snake replied, "Oh, you see these young boys, they were pulling me about and others were hurting me." Then the sadhu asked, "But why did you let them?" The snake replied, "But you said I mustn't bite them." The sadhu said, "You fool. I didn't say that you mustn't hiss. You must at least hiss."
When you "hiss" the people will run away. If they don't run away, then you must do one of two things - if you have the strength - whack them - if you have no strength, walk away. As Christ said, if somebody hits you on the right cheek what must you do?
Devotees: Turn the other cheek.
Swamiji: Yes. And if he hits you on that cheek, what are you going to do? You hit him on his nose. If you can't hit him then you must run away. One of the two you must do.
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