–by Eknath Easwaran (Oct 04, 2013)
In the days when I was attending my village school, some of us boys – my cousins and I and a few of our schoolmates – would occasionally rob a nearby mango tree. Of course, we were always absolutely sure that nobody would find out. But I don’t think the owner of the tree was quite in the dark either, and once, exasperated, he went to the extent of complaining to the headmaster of our school. The headmaster became terribly angry. He called all the boys in the class together and interrogated us.
“Raman, who robbed that tree?”
“I did, sir.”
“I robbed it, sir.”
“I did it, sir.”
One by one, each boy said he had stolen the mangoes. Our headmaster was quite sure who the real culprits were, but he couldn’t get any evidence. Finally, at his wits’ end, he told some of the better students, “You boys should at least give a few hints. Why do you all say you did it?”
We said, “We are protecting the honor of the school.” He had to agree with us, and so we managed to escape.
When I got home, however, my Grandmother was waiting. Word gets about quickly in a village, and the first thing she asked me was, “Little Lamp, did you steal those mangoes?”
I kept quiet.
“Were you in the group?”
I still kept quiet.
“Even if none of you tells anybody else,” she said, “there was somebody who saw. Someone inside is watching everything, someone who never misses a thing.”
In the depths of consciousness, beneath the surface of our egocentric personality, dwells our true Self – ever wakeful, eternally alert. […] When we do something selfish, the little voice inside saying, “Shabby, shabby, shabby,” is the echo of the voice of the Self within, the “internal witness”. And when we feel warm inside because we have helped someone, that is the Self making us feel warm.
For the most part, however, we are too absorbed in personal pursuits to heed these internal cues. As a result, we are always at odds with our true Self. This is the cause of all the insecurity in our hearts. Somewhere deep down we know the person we want to be, but we are so conditioned to look for satisfaction outside ourselves that we ignore this Self, who is waiting so patiently to be found.
Discovering this Self is the greatest achievement possible. It brings with it everything else we have been looking for – peace of mind, joy, security, fulfillment. Once we make this discovery, we are no longer separate individuals. Our life becomes a lasting, positive force which does not end when we shed the body at death. Saint Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Gandhi are such forces, as alive today as they were when they walked the Earth in the part of the Planet we call Italy or India. We may not aspire to become a Francis or a Gandhi. But all of us can become at least a “mini-force” if we set our hearts and minds to it. The same power which changed the would-be troubador Francis Bernardone into a saint, the ineffectual lawyer M. K. Gandhi into a mahatma or “great soul,” can enable us too to grow to our full height.
When I say this, people sometimes object, “You don’t know what I’m really like! If you knew how unpleasant I can be, how incorrigible I am, you wouldn’t be so optimistic. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, and I’m likely to keep on making them too, because I don’t know how to change. In fact, I don’t believe I can change.”
This is where we can rely upon the testimony of great spiritual figures down the ages. Again and again they assure us that they too have made mistakes, sometimes worse than the ones we have made ourselves. They too have caused trouble to themselves and to those around them. From their own experience, they know that it is possible for any of us to reverse direction in life completely. By drawing on the power released in meditation, we can gradually remove every blemish of self-centered thought and behavior that hides our real Self from view. Of course, this requires immense effort. But it can be done.
by Eknath Easwaran excerpt from Climbing the Blue Mountain. [Creative comic above by Dharma Comics ;-)]