Dying to the Little Self

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Reverential prostrations to Gurudev’s glorious and gracious spiritual presence and loving adorations to the all-pervading Universal Being. May the divine grace of the Supreme and the choicest blessings and benedictions of beloved and worshipful Guru Maharaj Swami Sivanandaji be upon all of you and grant you the intuition, and enable you to have the vision, to perceive and to recognise that you are living in a friendly world, to perceive and to recognise that Nature, prakriti, surrounding you, the universe in which you live, has been created for your benefit, to help you to evolve and to assist in your quest after supreme bliss, peace and perfection.

In the ultimate context of your life and its hidden meaning, its inner purpose, it is but a gradual process of manifesting the perfection that you are, the perfection which is already within you. The potential for God-nature, the potential for God-consciousness, is inherent in human consciousness. And the means of manifesting it is by obliterating the human consciousness through selfless service, through devotion directed to a goal, to a point other than the self, and the turning away of the mind, not only from the external universe of multifarious names and forms, but also from one’s own human personality and its various expressions and tendencies, its various demands and clamourings.

There is a very significant saying: “Be still and know that I am God.” When the human consciousness is constantly saying, “I am, I am, I am, I am this, I am that,” it does not give a chance for the reception of the constant signal from within of the Cosmic Being: “I am, I am, I am, eternally I am. I exist, I am the reality, I am the truth, I am the one being, I am your highest good, I am your supreme glory, I am your ultimate destiny.” This is not heard because of the little “I am, I am, I am”—its constant unbroken note.

And therefore the great illumined and enlightened sages and seers evolved a method of gradually silencing this little “I am” by transcending it through thinking of others, through the sublime giving of oneself for the joy of others, for the benefit of others. By giving oneself for the good of others, you create a counter-situation where you have no time to listen to the constant clamour of this little “I am.” By understanding the rationale and purpose behind this method and thus transcending oneself, focusing one’s attention upon something other than the self, the self is gradually and ultimately weaned out of its puerile habit of “I am, I am, I am,” which is spiritual childishness, a spiritual aberration, spiritual infancy, an infantile manifestation. And this spiritually infantile, constant affirmation of the little “I” is very wisely transcended, by-passed, by bringing the focus of the antahkarana (inner being) upon sublime dan—giving of oneself; sublime sacrifice—yajna; and sublime tapas—the restraining of the constant manifestation and vehement affirmation of the human consciousness represented by this “I” personality.

And thus when the attention of the antahkarana is gradually diverted towards noble things other than the self, several things are achieved simultaneously. The affirmation of the “I”, the little self, gradually ceases its hold upon consciousness. The human consciousness gradually becomes refined, it is thinned out; it is on its way to being eliminated. That is what nishkama-karma-yoga (selfless service), matri-seva, pitri-seva (service of mother and father), samaj-seva (service of society), guru-sera (service of the Guru), daridra-narayana-seva (service of God in the form of the poor), bhuta-daya (compassion to creatures), does. Consciousness is now being liberated from the constant nagging harassment of the little self.

This process is initiated and set going by shifting the consciousness from being I-centred to being we-centred, you-centred, all-centred—the concern of all, the welfare of every creature you encounter in life, be it an ant, a spider, a plant, a flower, a leaf, or any creature, bird or beast. All human beings become your concern and your human nature is ennobled, uplifted.

And now, at this stage, a second phase of this liberating oneself from human consciousness is brought into being. A great love is created for the Divine, for the Reality. Self-love becomes God-love. Self-love is subdued and overcome first by compassion towards all creatures, and then it becomes diverted towards the Divine, Godward.

An intensification of this process marks the third phase, when the mind is withdrawn not only from the external world of multifarious objects, it is also withdrawn from oneself. One empties oneself of oneself, and the attention is withdrawn from all the numerous nuances that go to represent this barrier, this screen, this thing which holds you back from attaining the supernal consciousness of the God which is “You,” the God which is the inner real identity, the real “I AM,” the great “I AM.” And thus moves on this wonderful process of unfoldment.

And the culmination of the process is what Guru Maharaj has summed up as, “Die to live, lead the divine life.” “When shall I be free? When I shall cease to be.” “Then shall I be free, when I shall cease to be.” Then shall be the great orb, the great sunrise of God-awareness, God-consciousness, the great day of days, of rejoicing, of hallelujah, of vijaya (victory). And forever this human consciousness is set to rest, atyantika abhava (total, complete absence) of the false “I”. “For it is in dying to the little self that one attains to ever-lasting life.” It does not mean some grand or imaginary, fanciful, post-mortem stage or other-worldly stage. Everlasting life is here and now, and dying to the little self is the process of Yoga.

This “dying to the little self” of St. Francis and those words of Gurudev are all built into these spiritual processes called nishkama-karma-yoga and bhakti yoga, where the jivatman has no time to think of himself. All thought is upon the beloved, upon the Lord, upon the ishta devata, upon the Universal Being. And it proceeds to an oblivion of the little self by constant focusing upon the Supreme Reality, meditation.

Meditation does not necessarily mean sitting with closed eyes in some corner in padmasana. Meditation is a state of mind. When it is God that holds the field, God that pulls the attention, when the focusing is not on the self and its ways and various manifestations, but on the Overself, that state of mind is called meditation. And it is this constant state of meditativeness, God-centredness, that ultimately brings about God-consciousness.

And it is the world that gives us the opportunity to come out of the cocoon, the net, the prison house of I-life where “I” is the constant subject of concern. The world has been put there to help us evolve from this morbid metaphysics and to gradually expand the consciousness. And to this end, having recognised that we live in a friendly world where everything, every object, every situation, everything that surrounds us, is there to help us in this process of evolution, we have to also recognise the necessity of similarly making our interior a friendly world, a friendly inner universe where everything is helping us towards this supreme glorious consummation.

As long as this inner universe has not also been converted into a benign, friendly environment, you will be opposing yourself, delaying that great day, that wonderful day. Subha samskaras (auspicious, good mental impressions) have to be invoked, subha vasanas (auspicious desires) encouraged, cultivated, strengthened, activated, and constantly indulged in, and in every way sattva (harmony) is to be made to prevail. And the further the “I” recedes away from the horizon of our inner vision and awareness, the more friendly becomes the inner environment for our self-unfoldment.

Then we bring paradise. We live in a friendly outer world, we live in a friendly inner world. Prakriti (Nature) becomes our real mother and our antahkarana (inner being) becomes our real best friend. It becomes our greatest asset, our supreme help in transcending the human consciousness and emerging into the glorious state of Divine-consciousness, God-consciousness, which is our reality, which in truth we ever are—jivo-brahmaiva (jiva is verily Brahman).

May we thus have the discipline and learn the skill, the know-how, of this all-important process of making for ourselves a friendly world in both the exterior and the interior. Prakriti (Nature) immediately becomes a friend of those who are befriended by Bhagavan (God). Bhagavan befriends those who give themselves to Him, befriend Him, want Him, think of Him. Lord Krishna says: “Always place your mind upon Me, your intellect upon Me, become Mine, salute Me, then I give you everything that is worthwhile.”

Thus, if God becomes to us our supreme value, we are constantly dwelling in Him, then He befriends us and prakriti becomes our greatest friend. Then our own interior, through the grace of God, also transforms itself into an environment conducive to our highest welfare.

May God’s divine grace and Gurudev’s benedictions enable us to perceive and to take up this task of transformation and achieve success in it, attain the glorious state of God-consciousness which is awaiting us! God bless you all!

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