Eknath, a great devotee of Lord Panduranga, lived in the small village of Pratishthanapura (known today as Pithan) in Maharashtra in India. Eknath worshipped his deities Panduranga-Rukmini daily. The idols were given to him by his guru Janardhana Swami. Eknath’s greatest virtue was that he did not know anger. He could never ever get angry!! Everyone in the village was aware of this. In the same village, some villagers used to gamble routinely at a particular spot every day. One day, Bhaaga, one of the gamblers, arrived late. His friends asked Bhaaga the reason for his delay. He explained, “I visited Eknath Maharaj today on the way here, and so got delayed. He is a great soul indeed”. The others laughed at him and said, “You visited a saint today? What has come over you?”. Bhaaga said, ‘Eknath Maharaj is no ordinary person. He never loses his temper under any circumstances. No one has ever seen him angry. He is so gentle and nice”. One of the men said, “Yes, I have heard that he never gets angry. But I don’t believe it. How can he be a human and not get angry?”. Bhaaga said, ‘It is because of this quality that we call him a mahatma (maha – great and atma – soul). Bhaaga’s friends did not buy this and their conversation eventually turned into an argument. Finally Roop, one of Bhaaga’s arrogant friends threw in a challenge. “All right, let’s see if this is really true. I am going to make Eknath lose his temper and when I accomplish this, Bhaaga, you will have to give me a hundred coins”. Bhaaga agreed. Early next morning, Roop followed Eknath who went to the Godavari river for his morning prayers and rituals. As Eknath stepped into the river, Roop climbed up to the open terrace of a house that stood along the path to the river. He had stuffed his mouth with betel leaves and nuts and continued to chew on them as he waited for Eknath to complete his rituals and walk back up the path.
On his way back, as Eknath crossed the house, Roop, who was waiting on the terrace, spat right on his head. But to Roop’s surprise, Eknath did not even look up to see what had fallen on him but simply turned and went back to the river and bathed again. When Eknath crossed the house a second time, Roop spat on him again. Eknath’s reaction, the second time was no different. He once again simply returned to the river to clean himself. But Roop did not give up. He continued to spit on Eknath a third, fourth, fifth, sixth time, but Eknath never got angry or even looked up to see who was messing with him. He would simply and quietly return to the river to bathe. Roop too was persistent and this exercise went on for hours together. Finally, after over many attempts of constant chewing and spitting, Roop’s jaws began to hurt. He became very tired. But Eknath, on the other hand, was calm all along even though he had had to bathe repeatedly over a hundred times. Roop was amazed at Eknath’s patience and forbearance and felt ashamed at his mean act. He ran down, fell at Eknath’s feet and begged for forgiveness. Eknath simply smiled at Roop and blessed him. Roop asked, ‘Swami, you did not get angry at all at what I did. How is this possible?”. Eknath smiled and said, “You were determined in trying to harass me and so I was determined to not get annoyed. How can this surprise you? You know you can do something if you apply your mind to it. You showed it yourself by spitting on me several times. You did not give up. In the same way, I did not give up”. Eknath then continued, “But let me tell you something more important. After my bath in the holy Godhavai, I go home and worship my deities. The dirt on my body can be washed away after a bath. But if I lose my temper, my mind would become impure. How can I then purify it? Even bathing in the holy river cannot purify my mind. What is the use of worshipping God with a mind that has been dirtied with anger”. Roop understood the greatness of Eknath and apologised to him again.