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When it was too tough to break by hand, he would burn firewood over the rock and then pour water over the hot surface. The thermal stress would crack the rock into manageable pieces that could then be carried away from the mountain.
But most of the time, he just used a hammer and chisel.
Dashrath would wake up early in the morning to spend a few hours chipping away at the mountain before heading to work in the fields. After plowing the fields all day, he would then return to the mountain to chip away some more until sunset.
His neighbors in Gehlaur, a small village in northern India, thought he had gone mad—which was partially true.
Dashrath was mad.
In 1959 his wife, Phaguni, was seriously injured and needed medical care, but the nearest hospital was in Wazirganj, more than 56 miles away on the other side of the mountain—a journey they would have to take on foot. But before Phaguni could get the help she needed, she passed away in her loving husband’s arms.
That day, Dashrath resolved to ensure no one had to ever again endure his wife’s fate. “If it took all my life,” he said, “I would carve us a road through the mountain.”
The Origin of Passion Also Gave Us Patience
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones,” says Confucius. For most people, this is just a metaphor, but for Dashrath Manjhi, it was instruction.
“When I started hammering the hill, people called me a lunatic,” he said, then added, “But that steeled my resolve.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once said: “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion,” and when we look at the origin of this word passion—derived from words meaning “to suffer, bear, and endure,”—we can appreciate the implication of this statement, for the origin of passion also gave us the word patience—an apt description of a man who hoped to move a mountain.
It’s been said that Hope has two beautiful daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are and Courage to step up and make a difference.
Yes, Dashrath was mad.
But he also had the courage to do what no one else was willing to do: step up and make a difference. Dashrath entered willingly into his passion—patiently carrying small stones away from the mountain, every day, for weeks, months, years, and decades.
Follow Your Blisters
Though Joseph Campbell’s popular adage is “Follow Your Bliss,” even he recognized that anything worthwhile takes work, prompting him to remark years later: “Maybe I should have said ‘Follow Your Blisters.’”
Dashrath’s story is a reminder that following your bliss isn’t an easy path, for it welcomes great trials, enduring suffering, and the ultimate death of who you were before the fires of passion consumed you. As Brianna Wiest reminds us: “Your new life is going to cost you your old one,” but this letting go is not in vain, for “all you’re going to lose is what was built for a person you no longer are.” After all, a caterpillar isn’t meant to die a caterpillar.
Change can be painful, yet few things are as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong, and it is the passion for what you stand to gain that empowers you to let go. As Dashrath once said, “I started this work out of love for my wife, but continued it for my people. If I did not, no one would.”
His passion was the very thing he couldn’t not do—for what started as an expression of love for his wife had transformed into a gift to the people of his community so others would not have to suffer the same fate.
When Dashrath followed his bliss, he entered willingly into his passion—patiently carrying stones away from the mountain and collecting blisters along the way.
Breaking Through to the Other Side
In 1982, after 22 years of patiently chipping away at the mountain, Dashrath finally broke through to the other side, creating a 360-foot long road that served as a shortcut to Wazirganj—now only 3 miles away.
To move a mountain, you begin by carrying away small stones—and for Dashrath, all he needed was a hammer and chisel and the burning fire of passion.
What’s your passion? How are you following your blisters?
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination. Through his company, Hashtag Positivity, he assists individuals, teams, and communities in “Being Well By Living Well” to experience abiding joy. Connect with Jonas today to discuss your challenges, goals, and obstacles: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.