There was once a severe drought in a certain part of the country. The farmers began to think of cutting long channels to bring water to their fields. One farmer was stubbornly determined. He took a vow that he would not stop digging until he connected his field with the river.
And so he set to work relentlessly. The time came for his bath, and his wife sent their daughter to him with oil. “Father,” said the girl, “it is already late. Rub your body with oil and take your bath.”
“Go away,” bellowed the farmer, “Don’t you see I have much to do now?”
Mid-day passed and the farmer was still hard at work in his field. He didn’t think even once of his bath or lunch. Then his wife came and scolded: “Why haven’t you taken your bath? The food is getting cold. You always overdo everything! Can’t you finish your remaining work tomorrow or even today after lunch?”
The farmer furiously shook his spade at her, crying: “Have you no sense? There’s no rain, the crops are dying. What will our children eat? We’ll all starve to death. I have taken a vow not to think of or do anything today until I bring water to my field.” The wife quaked with fear and left the field hastily.
After slogging through the entire day, the farmer at last maged to connect his field with the river by evening. It was dark as he sat down and watched the water flowing though the cal to water his crops. A great satisfaction filled his heart, he was filly at peace. He then went home, told his wife to heat some oil and prepare the food. With serene mind, he took his bath, ate a hearty dinner and retired to bed.
Now, this farmer’s neighbour too had been out on his field that day. He too had gotten hold of his spade to cut out a channel. But just as he began digging, his wife came to the field and entreated: “It’s getting late for lunch. Come home. You can always finish the work tomorrow. It is not necessary to overdo things.” So he did not resist. Putting aside his spade, he went home for lunch. Not surprisingly, he never got around to irrigate his field.
Thus Sri Ramakrish explained to his disciples the difference between strong and mild renunciation. Like the farmer, they have to hold hard to their spade and never let go. Once they are set on their path, there can be no stopping, no doing things by half. This is the only way to true siddhi.