A tough elderly pupil, once a well-known athlete in his youth, remarked on the calm rationality of the spiritual directions given by Vedanta, as against the fanatical emotionalism of some devotional sects.
“The instructions given us are like a doctor’s prescriptions. I think Sankara says that somewhere. The suffering is analyzed, the cause is shown, and the patient is shown how to avoid it. Only if he fails to follow the preventive advice does treatment have to be applied.
“It’s a very fine way to tackle spiritual illness to treat it on the same lines as physical illness. My own doctor, as a matter of fact, sometimes comes out with things which just fit both cases. Only the other day he said to me, ‘Look, do you want to get ill? No? Then take my advice now. Don’t wait till you get ill and then come and ask me to cure you.’”
“And what was he telling you to do?”
“Oh, that. Well, that was a bit ridiculous, as a matter of fact. He wanted me to begin wearing long thick underclothes. He said I mustn’t get cold.
“But I told him straight out that I’ve never worn underclothes in my life and I’m not going to begin now. If it comes to that, I’ve never worn a top hat in my life either, but I don’t have to start going round in one now, just because I’m a bit older. Why should I change my style of dress just because he says so? I don’t criticize the way he dresses, though I could. I certainly could. But I don’t. I leave his dressing style alone, and he can leave mine alone. That’s all I ask. Still, he comes out with some good ones sometimes. He was saying that he’s much worse off than a faith healer, because the faith healer’s patients at least believe in him, whereas his own patients expect him to heal them though they don’t believe a word he says. I wrote that one down, so I wouldn’t forget it.