(Ramana Maharishi)Jnana yogi Ramana Maharishi did not do penance by standing on one leg like a physically-inclined hatha yogi. Yet, it’s recorded he stoically underwent surgery on his arm for cancer without anesthesia. Such was the awe-inspiring strength of these god-realised yogic legends.
Other yogic icons too lived up the idealization invested on them by their disciples, displaying tremendous courage, humility and character. Swami Sivananda, despite attracting hordes of worshipful devotees, would focus on disarming skeptics to yoga, often by falling at their feet! There is the famous incident where he was attacked by a lunatic in his ashram during satsang. While his disciples disarmed the attacker whom the police imprisoned, Swamiji surprised everybody by landing up at the jail the next day with food and garland for the attacker, insisting that the police release him.
Their worldview was so different. While the gurus were strict with themselves, they displayed an almost guileless compassion towards the rest of the world. Advaita guru Adishankaracharya became a wandering monk while just eight, leaving behind his widowed mother.
Yet, he kept his promise, returning to her while she was on her death-bed. His return itself was miraculous, since in India of those days travel was tortuously slow as was communication. How did he know she was approaching death? He also displayed tremendous courage while doing this, since from an orthodox sannyasin such display of familial compassion too was a sin. Yet, all sadgurus appreciated that vairagya (or dispassion) that propelled them away from family ties was not antagonistic to compassion. Similarly, Ramana Maharishi is said to have sat unmoving as a youth while his mother wailed, trying emotional blackmail to lure him back home. Yet, towards her old age, while her need was real, he allowed her to settle down in his ashram. They had the courage to show that for them spiritualism never adhered to an orthodox format.