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The ego-centered person approaches the world with the thought, “My way is the only right way, and everyone should do what I say.” Associating with others of like mind, his life’s experiences only confirm him in his point of view.
Devotees, on the other hand, try to live with quite another attitude: “I offer my limited perspective into a greater reality of which I am a small part.” Living in this way, their awareness of that greater reality continues to grow.
There is a story of a great sadhu of modern times, Swami Ramdas, who roamed through the forests and villages of India. His hair was long and matted, his clothes mere rags, but he carried within him the bliss of God-awareness.
One day as he entered a village, the young boys spied the sadhu and began to follow him. Absorbed in God, he took little notice of them, even when they began to yell louder and louder to get his attention. The boys, becoming angry at being ignored, began to fling taunts and then even stones at the sadhu. He continued calmly on his way, despite the fact that some of the stones that hit him drew blood. Returning to the forest, the sadhu was soon surrounded by his disciples, who were horrified to see blood flowing from his wounds. “Master, what has happened?” they cried. “Who did this to you?” “Oh,” he replied blissfully, “the boys in the village had such fun this afternoon. They were laughing, running about, and throwing stones. What a good time they had!” The sadhu had no center of self-reference from which to react.
How do we develop the ability to see the “bigger picture” and break the grip that the ego has on us? In Swami Kriyananda’s book, Sadhu, Beware! (perhaps our friend the sadhu should have read those words before entering the village!), he gives some suggestions for ego-transcendence:
Never mentally place yourself in competition with others. Competition sets us apart and isolates us; it keeps us from seeing things from a broader perspective. Cooperation, by contrast, joins our energies with others and breaks down narrow fences of self-involvement and rigidity of thought.
When people fail to credit you for something you did and did well, say nothing. Remember that any talent or ability we have comes from God. Give the credit to Him, and find satisfaction in the fact that you were able to serve Him.
Don’t let your mind play with the thought of where or how you yourself fit into any picture. Learn to be impersonal in your thinking. Try to focus on “the forest, not your individual tree” in whatever circumstances you find yourself. Don’t let self-importance, self-pity, or any self-centered thought rule you.
We are all players in God’s dream: equally important and, ultimately, totally unimportant. Our true essence is nothing more than a tiny spark of the infinite consciousness of God. When we can accept this, we begin to know true inner freedom and joy.
Your friend in God, Nayaswami Devi