STORY OF THE SELF
My Guru, Swami Muktananda, conveyed this very aptly…
‘Once a disciple approached a saint and requested spiritual instruction. The saint said, “What am I to tell you? Everything is the Self. Just as water solidifies and becomes ice, the Self takes form and becomes this universe. There is nothing but that Self. You are that Self. Recognise this and you will know everything.”
The seeker was not satisfied. “Is that all you have to say?” he asked. “I can read that in a book.” He was puzzled because the Guru had not asked him to do hatha yoga or pranayama, to shave his head or grow a beard, or to meditate on a specific object. “Can’t you say something else?” he asked.
“That is all I have to teach,” the saint said. “If you want more instruction you will have to go elsewhere.”
So the seeker approached a second Guru and asked him for instruction. This Guru was very clever, and he knew what kind of person this seeker was. “I will instruct you,” he said, “but first you will have to serve me for twelve years.” In India, since ancient times, service to the Guru has been considered a great spiritual practice. It is a very mysterious process, in which knowledge of the Truth arises spontaneously in a seeker as he works for the Guru. So the seeker willingly accepted this condition and asked the Guru what kind of service he should perform. The Guru called the manager of his ashram and asked, “What kind of job do you have for this seeker?”
“There is only one job open, and that is picking up buffalo dung,” answered the manager.
“Will you do that?” the Guru asked.
“Yes,” said the seeker.
The seeker was very sincere and true, so he did not question the nature of the work. He was willing to spend twelve years picking up buffalo dung, because he considered the experience of the Self to be worth any kind of effort. Day in and day out for twelve years he picked up buffalo dung. Then one day he looked at the calendar and discovered that he had worked for twelve years and two days, so he went to the Guru and said, “I have finished my twelve years of service. Please give me instruction.”
The Guru said, “This is my teaching: Everything is Consciousness. The Self alone appears as all things in the universe. You, too, are the very same Self.”
Because of his years of service, the seeker had become very ripe, and as soon as he heard the Guru’s words he went into a deep meditation, during which he experienced the Truth. But when he came out he said, “O Guruji, one thing puzzles me. I already received this teaching. It is the same teaching the other Guru gave me”
“Yes,” said the Guru. “The Truth doesn’t change in twelve years.”
“Then why did I pick up buffalo dung for such a long time in order to understand it?”
“Because you were stupid,” the Guru replied.’
This is the truth. If you had a keen intellect and the power of understanding and discrimination, what spiritual practices would you need to perform in order to recognize your own Self? How much time would it take you to experience that Consciousness which is manifest everywhere? It is just a matter of recognition, and it is so simple that it takes only a fraction of a second.
It is because you do not have this power of understanding that you have to meditate and perform yogic practices and processes. For so many years you have been living in the awareness “I am an individual,” and for this reason it is very difficult for you to immediately accept the awareness “I am Consciousness.” You have been filling your mind with negative thoughts and feelings about other people and about yourself, thinking that you are small, that you are weak, that you are sinful. You have spent your life trapped in limited identification. If your body is beautiful, you think that you are beautiful, whereas if your body is ugly, you think that you are ugly. If you study, you consider yourself learned, whereas if you do not study, you consider yourself illiterate. When anger, greed, and attachment arise in you, you identify yourself with them. This is ego, the sense of limited individuality, which has trapped you for innumerable lifetimes.
To rid yourself of this limited “I”-sense, to purify your mind and heart so that you can accept the awareness “I am Consciousness,” you have to meditate, repeat the mantra, and perform good actions. But if you really want these things to bear fruit, you should do them with the awareness of your identity with Consciousness. You should keep your mind immersed in the idea “I am That”. You should have this understanding: “It is Consciousness who is meditating. All the objects of my meditation are Consciousness. My meditation itself is Consciousness.” When you have this awareness, then you can practice your meditation anywhere at any time. You will not have to close your eyes or still your mind, because when you have this awareness, even the ordinary activities of your daily life will become meditation, and you will begin to experience the Truth spontaneously, whatever you are doing.’
Enjoy your practice. Don’t be harsh or intense with yourself. Your understanding of yourself and yoga will then expand and become subtler and lighter.