June 2009


This story is told in Earl Woods’s Training A Tiger, a very good book about coaching, mentoring etc. albeit in the context of the game of golf.

There are pictures of Tiger Woods playing golf, in full golf gear, at the age of two. Then there are many photos of Tiger holding trophies and developing as a teenage golf sensation. Earl Woods explained how he did not force Tiger to practice. Rather, he gave Tiger inspiration to develop a desire to practice and to play golf. His final lesson, however, was the most gruelling. Basically, he and Tiger were to play a full eighteen holes of golf. With one condition. That Tiger was not allowed to complain, no matter what his father did. We must remember that by this stage the young man was mastering his sport. And had developed his characteristic competitiveness by this point. Well, Earl Woods pulled every nasty trick in the book. He moved Tiger’s ball into the rough. Coughed when he was about to swing. Hung his shadow over his putting line. Cheated on his scorecard. In short, he did every dirty in the book. Tiger clenched his teeth. He was fuming. But he was not allowed to protest. At the end of the game he confronted his father, ‘Why did you play like that? You’re my dad! How could you do this to me!’ Earl Woods replied, ‘If you can tolerate this kind of treatment from the person you love most in the world, then you will be able to tolerate the rotten antics of those who will cheat you in the competitive arena.’ This was Tiger’s last lesson.

Xanthipe was greek philospher Socrates’ wife. And, boy, did she hen-peck him. One day, after a particularly public brow-beating in the market-place, some onlookers asked Socrates, ‘Why do you bother staying with your wife?’ Socrates replied, ‘If I can live with Xanthipe, I can live with anyone.’

‘As I was dozing off on a bed of twine under the starlit winter sky, the mother and baby cow appeared in my dream. Their gentle, tearful eyeds looked helplessly into mine while the blade of a butcher ruthlessly slaughtered them for meat. From my heart burst the biblical commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” I awoke from the nightmare in a state of unbearable nausea and rushed to the toilet for relief.

The toilet consisted of a cement hole on the roof, surrounded by crumbling brick walls and a sheet of aluminum for the ceiling. It was pitch dark in their with no plumbing except for the bhangisor street sweepers who emptied the toilet by shovel. Digging out the waste into a bucket, they would carry it away on their heads. But this toilet was overdue for a cleaning. Stool soaked with urine had piled up above the floor level. With no control over my vomiting, I was trapped inside that latrine. Insects buzzed and bit and I felt something moving over my feet. All I could do was heave with nausea and shiver in a cold sweat. All the while, in my mind’s eye, I could see only those two cows gazing at me with their innocent eyes. In that dark, rooftop latrine in Old Delhi, I offered another vow before my Lord. I will never again eat meat.
This concluded my first day in India.’

(From: ‘The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami’)