Chapter X – Years of Strenuous Life
As the Swami continued to neglect his comforts, and even cleanliness, he rose in popular esteem. His body was besmeared with unwashed dirt, his hair became a clotted mass, and his finger-nails grew so long and curly that his hands were not useful for any purpose. He sat for some weeks on a floor which was always infested by ants and, despite their constant crawling and biting, he sat for hours with eyes closed, leaning against the wall in samadhi, and left on it the imprint of his back. The visitors could not endure for even a few minutes the ants which he endured for hours, days and weeks, losing his body consciousness. The Swami was therefore provided after some time with a stool in a corner, the feet of the stool being placed in water. But even then his leaning on the wall gave the ants their chance and left another impress on the wall which is even now fairly discernible. People swarmed to see this height of self-neglect; some said: “This Swami must be very old,” and pointed to the length of his nails as proof. Many people jumped to the conclusion that, being so saintly, he could grant them all the boons they desired, such as wealth, health issue and salvation, and poured praises into his ears and offerings at his feet. All this developed the Swami’s humility, patience, endurance, and self-restraint, (Atma vinigraha), though to some extent they proved a disturbance to his meditation, which however was minimised by a bamboo palisade placed round him. His fame
steadily increased as days passed; and this meant increased disturbance and increased self-restraint, though the question of food-supply (if it ever was a question) was completely solved.