Become a Saint

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

In a certain highland, the stealing of sheep was considered the worst of crimes. When two brothers were caught in this act, the village elders had to decide upon a fitting punishment. They branded on their foreheads the letters S.T., signifying ‘sheep thief’, and then set them free.

Both the brothers were mortified as the entire village came to know of the incident. Whenever they were spotted, the people jeered and children laughed at them. “There goes the S.T! Look out for the sheep thief!” they would cry out.

The elder brother took the humiliation very seriously, and thought to himself: “Let me get away from it all.” He left the village and wandered through hills and valleys. But alas! Nowhere could he find peace. The staring trademark on his forehead attracted attention wherever he went and he was pestered with many questions. “What do the letters mean? Who branded those letters on your forehead?”

For a while he attempted to evade these inevitable enquiries. But for how long could he succeed? He had to keep moving from place to place. He grew more and more restless, and eventually died of bitterness and frustration. He was buried in lonely soil, away from the warmth of home.

The younger brother however decided to stay on where he was. “There can be no running away from the fact of my crime,” he thought, and bore the public insult with a stout heart. He had decided to forget the past and open a new chapter in his life. With pure, undaunted zeal, through many months and years, he gradually built up a very high reputation for honesty and integrity. To his neighbours he became a symbol of goodness and virtue. His sore was healed by the cosmic healer – time – and people forgot about his past in due course.

After many long years, some stranger arrived in the village and found the old man with the letters ‘S.T.’ branded on his forehead. He enquired of a neighbour what it meant.

“It is an old, old story,” said the neighbour. “I do not remember the particulars, but they must be an abbreviation for ‘saint’.”

The moral of the story? Few are born saints, but with persistent effort even a rogue can become a saint. We cannot fee from our actions. They follow us like shadows. The mind clings to us wherever we go. However, through sincere effort and a determination to succeed, even the most unsaintly nature can be turned to a saintly one. Therefore, no one need feel depressed thinking of their weaknesses. Whatever be our shortcomings, by means of an unflinching will we can get rid of all negativities and become a shining example to all those around us. So, start your sadhana now.