One of the most tragic phenomena in this world is the fighting going in the name of religion. If we step back and analyse it, we will see that at a fundamental level it is a manifestation of ego, our sense of separation—ego at a very gross and tamasic level. But even if we think that our spiritual path is superior to other paths—the path of devotion is superior to the path of knowledge or the path of knowledge is superior to the path of devotion—that too is a manifestation of ego, even if it is at a relatively benign level.
There would perhaps be no great harm in this attitude except that getting rid of ego is the purpose of our spiritual life; and Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji, who believed in integral yoga, told us that there is no difference between supreme knowledge and supreme devotion. Therefore, to allow any feeling of superiority or to emphasize any difference in our spiritual life indicates a lack of understanding of its ultimate purpose, which is a vision that sees that differences are a creation of the mind.
In the path of devotion we approach this vision through constant surrender to God. What is it that we are surrendering? Pujya Swami Chidanandaji makes it very clear in the chapter on Surrender in his book Ponder These Truths that what is to be surrendered is the ego, the sense of separation. We don’t surrender our responsibilities; we surrender our sense of separation. And the purpose of the path of knowledge is to recognise that One alone is, that the sense of separation is a false creation of the mind.
More than that, both the path of devotion and the path of knowledge are meant to lead us to a place where we see for ourselves, know for ourselves, that there is no separation. We know for ourselves because we become that oneness. How can we become that oneness if we nurture in our hearts a sense of separation, if we nurture in our hearts a sense of superiority or animosity towards others in any aspect of our lives—be it spiritual or secular? This is why, in Gurudev’s words, we must love all. This is why we must forgive all. We have to find within ourselves that sense of oneness; and that sense of oneness will not allow us to feel that others are different from ourselves.
Swamiji has told us continuously that we must introspect. We must be aware in the spiritual life of what’s going on within our interior. If we’re serious, we cannot just go on day after day doing our spiritual practices, feeling that we are making some progress, and at the same time be nurturing within our hearts superiority, arrogance, resentment, jealousy, animosity or feelings of difference. These attitudes nail us down to this world and prevent any real progress. Therefore, we must recognise these manifestations of ego and gradually, with the help of the Lord, eliminate them from our hearts.
Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh