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Four Feathers

By Karmayogi

Someone asked J. Krishnamurthy, the world teacher, what he could do to get rid of his stupidity. Krishnamurthy answered him saying he could remain stupid. Life has its stamp on many fundamental traits and they are not to be changed so easily.

The world honours its heroes with titles, insignia, medals, etc. The coward is disgraced by being offered a white feather. A young British commissioned officer engaged to a pretty lady faced the orders of his regiment to travel to Sudan to fight. The orders were prefaced by the news that the previous battalion sent there had been slaughtered to a man. Fright possessed this officer, Harry, prompting him to resign his commission. He little knew how his world would react to his resignation. His father disowned his disgraced son. His fianc was ashamed of him and broke their engagement. His friends too deserted him at once. None of these exhibitions of social response stung him that much until he received four white feathers from his friends signifying his cowardice. His fate was sealed.

He was a coward who was born with a timid temperament. He was determined to die a coward. But the iron had passed into his soul by the action of his friends. A decision was born in him and became a determination. He wanted to outgrow his cowardice. The one desire that now possessed him was to show his friends who had sent the white feathers that he was no longer a coward. He joined the same regiment as a baggage porter, faced untold indignities and with heroic manliness overcame them. He was taken prisoner by the enemy in Sudan where a black porter came forward to rescue him. He told Harry that he was saving him because ‘‘God has put you in my path.'' In the meantime, Harry was able to save two of his friends. After the war, one of them went back to England and became engaged to Harry's former fiancée. At last, Harry came back to his girl, vindicated in his own emotions that he was no longer a coward.

His fiancée took back the last white feather and restored him to human dignity, to which he was now qualified. A born coward usually dies a coward. When in rare cases he is to transform his cowardice, he undergoes physical torture and inner intolerable suffocation. If only man realises his defect, feels ashamed and is able to offer it to Mother, the external trials are shifted to the inner and the metamorphosis takes place. Poverty is thus changed into Prosperity, when MAN is able to detach himself from the poverty consciousness and attitudes that express it. It is done inwardly and in a short time. Mother calls it transformation.
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