Stand Unshaken

[Listen to Asha read this story]

(Told by Elizabeth Palmer)

One of the worst days of the Bertolucci trial was when Swamiji’s most virulent opponents testified against him. Many of his closest friends couldn’t even be in the courtroom with him. As “designated witnesses” scheduled to testify later, we weren’t allowed to hear anyone else’s testimony.

I know Swamiji to be a powerful spiritual person. He can take care of himself and all of us as well. Still, when the courtroom door closed behind him, I felt as if we were sending a lamb to the slaughter. For the next several hours, we sat in the hallway praying for Swamiji, just waiting for it to be over. When he finally emerged, we were so relieved we swarmed around him like bees around a flower.

Almost in tears, someone asked, “How are you, Sir?”

To understand what happened next requires a little explanation.

One of the lasting legacies of the two years Swamiji spent as a student in an English boarding school is his life-long affection for the humorous stories of P.G. Wodehouse. To our everlasting delight, he has passed that enthusiasm on to us by often reading stories aloud to the community. In every Wodehouse tale, some good-hearted, but usually inept, hero finds himself enmeshed in preposterous circumstances, from which he invariably emerges unscathed.

Swamiji has also enjoyed the adventures of James Bond, Ian Fleming’s “Agent 007,” who also wins out every time against impossible odds. Now, standing in that miserable hallway outside the courtroom, it was “007” who provided Swamiji’s answer to that tearful inquiry.

“Stirred!” Swamiji replied, with the accent and attitude of a suave super-hero, “but not shaken!”

The “plot” of the Bertolucci trial was as preposterous as any Wodehouse tale or James Bond thriller. Yet, like the heroes of those adventures, Swamiji had emerged unscathed.

Our tension evaporated in a burst of appreciative laughter.

“When a battle can’t be avoided,” Swamiji said on another tension-filled lawsuit day, “you have to find your joy in doing battle.”

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