Sunday, June 24, 2007

Be humble, part 1 - By Swami Paramatmananda

In the book "For My Children," there is a verse in which Mother says:
"We need to have an attitude of total surrender to the Guru in order to advance spiritually. When a child learns the alphabet, the teacher holds his fingers and makes him scrawl the letters. The teacher controls the movement of the child's finger. But if the child proudly thinks, 'I know everything,' and doesn't obey the teacher, how can he learn?"

This is one of the reasons why we are unable to attune ourselves to the Guru's presence: because in all of us, whoever we may be, there is pride, to a greater or lesser degree. It just comes with the package, so to say. When you are born you feel that you are the body, and then dehabhimanam comes to you, which is the pride of thinking that you are the body; it is your identification with the body. It is unavoidable. In ancient days that wrong notion was, to a large extent, controlled by traditional values. The children went to a gurukulam and lived with a Guru. They learnt how to lead their lives and acquired both spiritual and worldly knowledge. Now that system has almost vanished. Everybody goes to school, and facts are fed into the brain. But the students no longer feel any reverence towards their teachers or the subjects they are studying. The more people learn, the more they think they know. Instead of developing the great quality of humility, they are filled with pride about the book knowledge they've acquired. Mother says: "Water doesn't collect on top of the mountain when it rains; it runs down into the valley."
Humility is a sign of wisdom, not pride. If a person is proud, you can be sure they have no real wisdom. They may have a lot of knowledge, but not wisdom. All that knowledge has to go before any real wisdom can be absorbed.
Once, a philosophy professor went to a mahatma. He said, "Swami, I want to learn all about God. Please tell me something about God." The swami replied, "Would you like a cup of tea first?" The professor said, "Sure." So the swami fetched a teapot and a cup, and handed the cup to the professor. He started pouring the tea, and the cup that the professor was holding was soon full. But the swami kept pouring. He poured and he poured and he poured, and the tea was running all over the man's hand and down onto the floor and out through the door. The professor said, "Swami, what are you doing! Can't you see? Are you crazy?" The swami said, "I am not crazy. I can see perfectly well. The cup is full and the tea that is being poured is not staying in the cup. It is the same with you. You are full. You're full of book knowledge. So whatever I say to you won't get in; it will just roll out onto the floor. You have to empty your cup. Only then can any real wisdom enter into you."
Wisdom and intellectual knowledge are two different things. Many of us read countless spiritual books, and we may think that is good. In a way, it is good to read spiritual books rather than worldly books, magazines, novels or newspapers. Because when you read a spiritual book, you're thinking of the spirit, you're thinking of God or the Self. But the problem is that we come to a person like Mother, and we look at Mother in terms of the book we have read. We judge Mother's words and actions -- we judge everything and everybody, not just Mother -- in the light of what we've read in some books. And then we miss the point, because our preconceptions prevent us from seeing anything as it really is. It is good to read to a limited extent; but beyond that, there's a tremendous presence radiating from Mother that cannot be described in any book. You will never find it in a book.
In fact, the only way you can feel that divine presence is through humility. And that is what we are talking about here: humility and pride. The pride of knowledge, the pride of learning, is one of the things that closes us off from feeling that divine presence. It's just like the sun. The sun is so big and powerful. But if you just put your thumb up in front of it, you can hardly see it. You can see other things around you, but not the sun. So when the pride of knowledge is predominant in us, then the sun of wisdom, the presence of God, doesn't shine. Our mind is full of preconceived notions. We have to make a crack or a hole in it so that the bliss can leak in and we can feel it.
Once we get over our pride of knowledge, we begin to have some faith in the Guru and we begin to see who the Guru is. As we develop, we start to understand the Guru more. The Guru is always the same. We are the ones who are changing.
A farmer once found a large diamond lying in a field. He took it to the nearest town to have it evaluated. He went to the vegetable dealer and asked, "How much is this worth?" The vegetable dealer said, "I'll give you two heads of cabbage and a pound of beans for it." But the farmer said, "That doesn't sound reasonable at all." So he went to a material shop. The cloth merchant said, "Oh, this is very valuable! I'll give you 100 yards of silk for it." "No, that doesn't seem right either," said the farmer. He then went to a shop where they sold cheap jewellery. The jewellery dealer said, "Oh, this is extremely valuable! I'll give you a thousand dollars for it." But the farmer decided to try one more place. He went to the best jewellery shop in town, the shop with the greatest reputation. They looked at the diamond and said, "This diamond is invaluable. Don't sell it whatever you do." So people valued the diamond differently -- but the diamond was always the same. Similiarly, Mother is always the same. She is Devi. She is Brahman. Once we come to Mother, we begin to change. But Mother never changes.
Then another problem arises. Many sadhaks (spiritual aspirants), especially those who previously had a lot of book knowledge, do their sadhana according to Mother's teachings. And then some of them start saying, "O Mother, I've had such and such an experience!" They try to impress Mother about what they believe to be their spiritual achievements.
Once a Guru was in a similar situation. He initiated a disciple and then sent him away. He said to him, "Write me a letter about your progress every month." So the disciple went away and wrote a letter to the Guru every month. First he wrote: "O Guru, my head went through the roof and I expanded and became the whole universe, and then I came down and I could understand what the dogs were saying." (Not what humans were saying, only what the dogs were saying!) The next month he wrote: "God is shining fully within me. My mind is going up and down in the seven chakras." Then the month after that: "The whole universe is full of light and I'm flying around like a hummingbird." And then he wrote: "O Guru, I'm so grateful for Your grace," and that sort of thing. And finally, one month, no letter came. The Guru waited another month, but nothing came. Six months went by and there were still no letters. Then the Guru wrote a letter to the disciple, saying, "What is the matter? Why don't you write to me anymore?" The disciple wrote back and said, "There's nothing to say. My mind has become silent." This is what has to happen. We should never feel proud about our sadhana. We can write to the Guru to get some doubt cleared, or to receive some advice; but we have to be careful to erase the pride of sadhana, the pride of knowledge, and the pride of devotion. Some say, "I was in tears the other night when I was listening to bhajans. I had so much devotion!" All this is the ego -- it's all pride. And it obstructs the shining of grace. Our mind has to become quiet and calm. Then we can feel the grace.
There is also the pride of youth. All of us were young once. In fact, many of us are still young. And for some reason, a lot of pride comes with being young. I remember when I started my spiritual life, I must have been sixteen or seventeen years old. I learned how to do yoga asanas, the yoga postures; I learned a little meditation; I was eating vegetarian food -- and that was it. I thought I was a saint! In those days I had very long hair, and if somebody said, "O, you look like Jesus Christ," I would think, "Yes, I'm just like Jesus Christ!" but all I needed was a pinprick and I was finished! Jesus Christ, on the other hand, had the nails driven through his hands and feet, and it was no problem for him. I read a few books. I read the Bhagavad Gita, and I considered myself an authority on Hinduism! At the age of eighteen, when I had read both the Gita and the Upanishads, I was ready to teach the whole world! I used to argue and talk with anybody who would listen. This is what happens when you are young. All these things are obstructions. Then when you get a bit older or when you live in the company of a real mahatma, you start to realize, "I don't know anything! I'm really a fool! I thought I knew so much, but I know nothing at all, only what I've read in books." When you begin to realize that you don't know anything; that is the beginning of true knowledge. Then there is a chance of learning something, of knowing something.
There is another type of pride which some of us have: the pride of wealth. At some point we may be very prosperous. Then, unknowingly and unintentionally, we feel proud of our wealth and that we are such and such a person. We think, "Don't they know who I am?" We may even project it onto Mother: "Mother should give me special attention. Doesn't She know who I am?" Or we may feel that we are helping instead of serving. We have to be very careful of this.
(to be continued in February 1999)

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