Many of you may have heard of the book called Autobiography of a Yogi. It is literally an autobiography of an Indian man who went to the Himalayas and attained enlightenment in the first part of the 20th century. He talks about his travels throughout India and how he met many extraordinary people. One of the stories he tells is about someone he called the Tiger Guru.

Yogananda Paramahamsa, the author and lead character of the book, was travelling in Kalighat, a neighborhood in Kolkata, West Bengal, visiting one of his friends whom suggested that he meet a guru who used to fight and tame wild tigers in his youthful days before he became a monk. Yogananda could not help but feel a boyish enthusiasm to meet such a person. The next day, he and his friend went to meet the saint at his house. After waiting for a while they were ushered in to his room, and they fell dumbstruck at the size of the Tiger Guru’s body, with a massive chest and huge biceps. He was sitting there in meditation and he welcomed his guests.

They immediately asked the Tiger Guru, “How is it possible to become so strong that you can fight wild tigers, which are the strongest of all animals?” He replied “You look upon tigers as wild beasts and yet I see them simply as pussycats.” To prove his strength he punched a solid wall and a brick fell right out of it. The Tiger Guru then explained to them that his real source of power was his mind and its powerful determination, and that he could terrorize even wild tigers into submission using such power of will.

He explained how the body and mind are intimately connected, and that if you have a weak mind you will have a weak body as well. The Tiger Guru admitted that he used to have a very weak body, but through relentless effort and a regime of exercise and meditation he developed into the superhuman Goliath that he was today.

The Tiger Guru then told Yogananda and his friend the story of his greatest victory. The Tiger Guru’s fame had spread so widely that the king of the local area had requested his audience. The king sent a royal assembly to accompany him to his palace so that he could meet him. The king himself met him at the palace entrance and he sat the Tiger Guru on his royal throne as a gesture of honor and respect.

The king asked him “I have heard that you can fight and defeat wild tigers with your bare hands. Is this true?” “Yes,” the Tiger Guru replied. The king then negged him by saying “How is it possible that a weak Indian could have ever gained such strength? Are you actually fighting wild tigers or is this one massive hoax? Do you give opium to the tiger beforehand?”

The Tiger Guru was insulted by such a question and his pride grew. The king then challenged him to fight his newly-caught wild tiger and said that if he was able to defeat the tiger he would be rewarded with the equivalent of millions of dollars (the value of the Indian rupee has fallen many-fold in the past 100 years), but that if he refused to fight the tiger that the king would expose him as a fraud. The Tiger Guru agreed and the match was set for one week later.

During the days leading up to the match the king built an enormous arena that was capable of seating thousands of people. The tiger match would be fought inside a massive iron cage in the middle of the arena. On the day of the match so many thousands of people showed up to watch that many of them had to be turned away, but in their enthusiasm they broke through the tent walls so that they could watch from outside the arena. The Tiger Guru strolled into the arena with massive swagger and walked right into the safety cage that was surrounding the iron cage where the tiger was waiting for him.

As soon as he walked into the iron cage the tiger pounced on him and injured his right hand. Not letting that faze him, he threw a punch with his left hand and landed it squarely on the tiger’s head. The tiger fell back momentarily stunned, but then increased the fury of its attacks against the Tiger Guru. The cage eventually became covered in the blood of both the human and the tiger.

The crowd was screaming in astonishment and the guards even tried shooting the tiger because they were afraid the tiger would kill him, but their bullets missed due to how fast the tiger was moving. The Tiger Guru then mustered all of his will power, roared at the tiger, and punched the tiger so hard on the skull that the tiger fell unconscious to the ground.

The audience erupted with tremendous enthusiasm as the Tiger Guru opened the tiger’s mouth wide and put his head in between the tiger’s jaws in order to show that he had defeated the tiger. He then walked towards the exit of the iron cage, but the tiger came back to consciousness and leaped on him, once again pinning him to the ground.

The Tiger Guru flipped the tiger over so that the Tiger Guru was on top and with his Herculean blows he beat the tiger into unconsciousness once again. Victorious, the Tiger Guru got up and left the cage. After his wounds were treated by a doctor he began walking out of the arena, people rushed up to him and placed flower garlands around his neck and showered gold coins at his feet. The king himself congratulated him, gave him the promised rewards, and declared a festival celebrating the Tiger Guru’s victory over the tiger.

Though the story itself may be apocryphal, its message is not: man is often capable of the unbelievable when he is completely devoted to his singular purpose.

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