What is Ego? Do Spiritual people have ego?

Question 1: Everyone in spiritual life talks about ego, and that it is the greatest impediment when it comes to attaining God. What, actually, is ego? How does it cause trouble to us?

Answer 1: “Ego… is the self-asserting principle…born of ignorance…It is the ego which has created the idea of separateness from God or the Atman, It is the ego which is the ROOT CAUSE of ALL human sufferings and births and deaths.” (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 2: How do we know whether we have ego? Or, whether we are acting out of egoistic tendencies? Are there are definite signs of the existence of ego?

Answer 2: “…ego identifies itself with the body, mind, prana, and the senses. Wherever there IS ego, there are mine-ness, SELFISHNESS, LIKES and DISLIKES, LUST, ANGER, greed, HYPOCRISY, PRIDE, JEALOUSY, delusion, arrogance, conceit, impertinence, vasanas (=tendencies), trishnas (=cravings)…”   (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 3: How do we get rid of this ego that causes so much trouble?

Answer 3: “…destrouction of thought, DESIRES, cravings, mineness, selfishness, JEALOUSY, PRIDE, LUST is really destruction of mind or egoism. Control of SENSES also is annihilation of the mind or egoism.” ( (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: Do people who are in spiritual life or who practise religions have ego?

Answer 4: “This egoism assumes a subtle form. The gross egoism is NOT so dangerous as the subtle egoism.”  (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 5: I have known people who claim that their religion is the truest and the rest are bogus, or they claim that their group, congregation, church, mosque or temple is genuine and the others, although they may belong to the same religion, do not belong to the true path of and to God. Are they actually working under the influence of ego?

Answer 5: “..Institutional egoism is a subtle form of egoism. The man identifies himself with the institution and gets ATTACHED to the institution or cult. He has no broadmindedness or catholicity.”  (pgs. 44-45, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 6: How to easily detect ego as it is so subtle and abstruse?

Answer 6: “The working of egoism is very mysterious. It is VERY difficult to detect its various ways of working. It NEEDS a SUBTLE and SHARP intellect to find out its operation. If you practise INTROSPECTION DAILY in silence, you WILL be able to find out its mysterious ways of working.”  (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 7: In your answer to Question 2 you said if we identify ourselves with the body, mind, senses, etc., it is an indication that we have that lurking ego in us. If this is so, what about our feelings regarding foreigners, strangers and people who do not belong to our society, culture, etc. Is that feeling of seeing the difference between us and others in terms of nationality, attainment, class, status, etc., the work of ego too?

Answer 7: “The seed of this ego is the differentiating intellect or Bheda Buddhi… This ego likes his own birth, place, and district, people of his district, own mother tongue, his own relations, and friends, his own ways of eating, mode of dressing. He has his own predilection and preferences, He dislikes others’ ways of eating, dressing, etc. (pgs. 44, 45 Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda).

Question 8: You see, I have spiritual friends—great spiritual friends, who are excellent advisers, guide and counsels. They have the little tendencies that you have described. Does it mean they too have the ego?

Answer 8: “It is the ego which has created the idea of separateness from God or the Atman… This ego wants to exercise POWER and INFLUENCE over others. He wants TITLES, prestige, STATUS, RESPECT, prosperity, house, wife, children. He wishes to domineer and rule over others. If anybody points out his defect his vanity feels offended. If anyone praises him he is elated. This ego says, ‘I know everything. He does not know anything. What I say is quite correct. What he says is quite incorrect. He is inferior to me. I am superior to him.’ He forces others to follow his ways and views.”  (pgs. 44, 45 Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 9: It, indeed, is subtle and dangerous. But how to destroy it?

Answer 9: “This ego lurks like a thief when you start introspection and self-analysis. It will ELUDE your grasp and understanding. You must be alert and vigilant. If you obtain the GRACE of the Lord through JAPA, kirtan, prayer and DEVOTION, you CAN EASILY kill this ego.”  (pg. 46, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda) 


Name and Fame

To a group of devotees and disciples, (Swami Sivananda) said, “Some are very anxious to acquire name and fame. They make a show of themselves. They travel in cars, build clock towers and sky-scrapers. They wear costly dress and employ a number of servants. They pose as great servants of society. Every moment they try to get more fame. But the slightest criticism upsets them. They cannot bear opposition. They wish that everyone should respect them. In spite of all this they do not get the fame they seek and hence get upset and restless.

“But if a man is really selfless he will not care for name and fame. He will do his work with great interest but will not expect any reward for it. Work itself is his reward. He has no desire for fame. He can bear abuse. Only such a man will enjoy peace. He will get fame also; it will be his handmaid. But he will not be attached to it. Such a one alone can do real service to society.

“Give up all desire for fame. Work in a spirit of dedication. You will enjoy bliss. You will get fame also. Work with single-minded devotion and dedication.”

An excerpt from “A Great Guru and An Ideal Disciple”

People who don’t seem to know anything are the ones who really make spiritual progress!

Mata Amirtanandamayi, “…People with little knowledge, after reading two or three books, will create problems.” (pg. 79). 
Mata Amirtanandamayi, “You’ve read a lot of books. You’ve got so many ideas, so your mind is filled with things… your mind has to become empty of all those things…” (pg. 82).
Swami Paramatmananda, “…Sometimes, the simplest people are the ones who get it (Samadhi) the soonest, not the smart ones. Being smart is not everything in life, especially in spiritual life. As you make spiritual progress, as your mind gets clearer, as your mind gets cleaner, then your intelligence starts to shine…Sometimes, people who don’t seem to know anything are the ones who really make spiritual progress… the simple people are the ones who are the real winners, not the smart one or the clever ones….
“….Understanding, hearing and studying it (i.e., the Divine principle of living) is one thing. Putting it into practice is quite another thing. It’s very easy to read and understand spiritual things, but not to practise it. Even a little bit of practice is difficult.”

(pgs.82-83, 87, Talks, Vol.3)

Japa Mala – Exercise by Mahatma dasa

Offer a prayer to the holy name that describes your aspirations to best serve the holy name, to go deeper into your relationship with the holy name. In order to help you with this exercise, I am including a prayer I wrote at the end of one of the Japa retreats.
My Dear Holy Name,
Please allow me to taste Your nectar, to fully experience Your presence, to feel joy and enthusiasm when I meet You. Please allow me to become attracted to You, to always hanker for your association, and to never become tired of spending time with you. And please reveal how You are non-different from your form, qualities and pastimes-how You are fully present in your name.
I pray that someday I will have as much attraction to chanting Your name as I now have for material things. And I pray that this attraction will be such that others want to chant and relish Your name just by being in my presence.

I have two special last requests:

* Please allow me to feel affection for You when I chant Your name.
* Please allow my heart to melt (at least one time in my life) when I chant Your name.

The 4-step Japa mala technique
I had the chance to attend a japa retreat held in upstate New York last spring. It was one of the first retreats to be held in North America as part of an initiative from Iskcon’s SSPT.
One thing I learned was a method of japa that originates from Bhurijana Prabhu. Yajna Purusha Prabhu, one of the instructors at the retreat, taught us the method. I have found this to be the best instruction I have come across to date in japa..and for that matter Krishna consciousness.
Step 1–Make a sankalpa to hear ONE mantra.
A sankalpa is a resolution or determination to do something. So the 1st step is to tell the mind to resolve to just hear one hare krishna maha mantra.
The idea is that it is a doable request. If we tell the mind to hear 16 rounds of mantra, or even 1 round….the mind is to powerful to heed such a big request. But if we tell the mind “Just hear this one mantra…” we have it in our power to force the mind to comply to at least this small request.
If the mind is really going wild and it wont even heed this small request, make a resolution to hear one half of a mantra. So request the mind to hear one (or a half) of the maha mantra…and that means to hear EVERY word in that mantra with no distraction.
Once this has been completed (the hearing of one whole mantra, hearing every word of the mantra), repeat. Again tell the mind “hear just one mantra”. Hear every word. Once this is done, repeat. Eventually the mind will succumb and it will hear one mantra after another. The mind will get absorbed in the sound vibration of the holy name.
Step 2. Neglect the mind
As the mind starts to become absorbed in the sound of the holy name, it will periodically rebel and try to drift to some other topic. So you must now neglect the attempts of the mind to deviate from the task of japa. It is like a child who wants something at the store…it will cry and cry, but the stern parent just ignores or neglects the misbehaviour.
In due course the child will get the message and calm down. Similarly the mind will introduce so many ideas and rationalizations for thinking something else, but one must just neglect the mind and force it back to japa.
Step 3. Take shelter of the Holy Name.
Now the mind is absorbed in the sound of the holy name. One’s whole existence is only the holy name….there is nothing else to be conscious of. So realize that the holy name is in fact Krishna Himself and surrender completely to Him, and accept Him in the form of the Holy Name as everything and all that we really ever will need.
Step 4. Obtain Krishna’s Mercy
If the Holy Name so desires, being pleased by our endevor He may bestow His mercy upon us and give us a glimpse of real bhakti and the sweetness of His loving friendship.

1. Make a sankalpa
2. Neglect the mind
3. Take shelter
4. Await Krishna’s mercy.
It really works! Hari Nama Ki Jay!
Mahatma Dasa, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, joined the Hare Krishna movement in Berkeley, California, in 1969. He has served in the USA, Canada, South Africa, England, Mauritius, and India. He lives with his wife and daughter in Alachua, Florida, where he has his own recording studio and produces Krishna conscious music CDs.

Bondage and Liberation by Swami Sivananda

The soul is said to be bound or free with reference to Gunas but it is not so in reality. As the Gunas have their origin in Maya, as they are the creation of Maya, there is neither bondage nor liberation.

Sorrow and delusion, joy and grief, even the taking of a body—these are all due to Maya. Just as a dream is only an illusory fiction of the mind, so also the course of birth or Samsara is not real.
O highly intelligent one! The Jiva who is My part, is bound without beginning on account of ignorance and is liberated through knowledge. He is in bondage as, because of his ignorance, he fancies he is separate from Me. He becomes free when he gets the knowledge that he and I are one.
Now I shall tell you the difference between the bound and the liberated soul, living in the same body with entirely opposite qualities.

Two birds which look alike (for both are manifestation of consciousness) and are companions, have by chance built their nest in the same tree (the body). One of these (the Jiva) eats the fruits (the results of his actions reaped in the body) of that tree, while the other (Isvara) though not taking any fruit is greater in strength and is the mightier of the two.

He who does not eat the fruit (of Karma) is wise. He knows himself as well as the other, but not he who eats the fruit. He who is joined with Avidya (ignorance) is always bound, while He who is joined with Vidya or He (Isvara) who is full of knowledge, is eternally free.

The wise one is not conditioned by the body, though he is in the body, like a man aroused from dream. But the foolish man who has a wrong notion is conditioned by the body like one in the dreaming state. The ignorant man identifies himself with the body, like the man in dream.

The senses perceive the objects of the senses. The wise one does not identify himself with these. He is, therefore, not affected by them.
The ignorant man, however, while dwelling in this body which is under the control of past actions, in which the senses act, thinks that he is the doer and becomes thus bound down.

The wise one, being thus free from attachment in such acts as sleeping, sitting, walking, bathing, seeing, touching, smelling, eating, hearing, etc., does not bind himself like the ignorant man; for, in those acts he realises that the Gunas (senses) perceive and not his Self. He does not identify himself with them. He stands as a silent witness of the activities or experiences of the organs. Even though he is living in the midst of Prakriti, still he is untouched by it like the sky, the sun and the air. He dwells in the body, but is not attached to it. The sun becomes reflected in water, but is not attached to water. The air moves about all around, but does not become attached to any object. Akasa is all-pervading, but it is not attached to anything.

By the force of dispassion, the vision becomes clear. All doubts are removed. The wise one rises as it were from sleep and withdraws himself from the diversities of the body and other material objects. His doubts are cleared by the eye of wisdom that the Jiva is Brahman, his desires are cut away by the sword of non-attachment or Vairagya; he sees Brahman everywhere, and is not any more deluded by the appearance of diversity or perplexity. Just as the man who awakes from a dream is no more deluded by the experiences he went through in the dream, so the wise man is never again deluded by multiplicity.

He whose breaths, the senses, mind and intellect do their functions without thoughts of purpose or plans, is freed from the attributes of the body though dwelling in the body. He is free from the bonds of Karma, though still enveloped by the body.
He who is not affected in the least when he is injured by others and worshipped by anybody is a wise man. He neither praises nor blames others for their good or bad deeds or words. He is free from merits and demerits. He knows no merits or demerits. He looks on all with an equal eye. He does not do anything, he does not say anything, he does not think on anything, good or bad. He finds delight in his own Atman. He is immersed in his own bliss of the Self and wanders about like an inert matter heedless of the outside world.
If a man well-versed in the Vedas is not fixed in Brahman, if he has no direct intuitive Self-realisation, his labour becomes fruitless like that of a man who keeps a breeding cow that bears no calf.
He who maintains a cow that has ceased to yield milk, an unchaste wife, a body that is under another’s control, a worthless and a wicked son, wealth which is not bestowed on deserving people, and speech in which My glory does not find expression, is one who goes from misery to misery.
The wise man ought not to indulge in that barren speech in which there is no mention of My glorious sacred deeds in relation to the creation, maintenance and destruction of the world or to My sportful Avataras or births which are liked by the people very much.

One should remove the delusion of diversity in Atman through such discrimination. He should desist from everything else and should stop all activities. If thou art not able to fix the mind steadily on the Brahman, then perform all actions without expectation for fruits, offering them to Me unconditionally.
{Now Sri Krishna proceeds to inculcate Bhakti or devotion.]
O Uddhava! The man of faith attains unswerving devotion towards Me, the Eternal One, by listening to the very auspicious stories of Mine that purify the worlds, by singing constantly, by remembering My deeds and lives, by doing all actions for My sake, by taking Me as his sole refuge and by pursuing duty, desire and wealth for My sake only.
He becomes my devout worshipper, attaining devotion for Me through association with the sages. He surely attains to Me as indicated by the sages.

(pgs. 88-92, Lord Krishna, His Lilas and Teachings)

What Is Maya? by Swami Sivananda

Maya is the illusory inscrutable power of Ishvara. Just as heat is inseparable from fire, so also Maya is inseparable from Ishvara. Maya is Ishvara’s Upadhi. Ishvara has Maya under his control. Maya is neither Sat nor Asat. So Maya is Anirvachaniya. This universe is all a display of Maya. All worldly experience is the effect of Maya. A sage who has realised his Self has transcended Maya.

Maya is Abhinna Sakti of Brahman. Abhinna means inseparable. Maya cannot be separated from Brahman. Just as heat is inseparable from fire, so also Maya is inseparable from Brahman.

You conclude by looking at the effect pot that there should be the cause for this pot. Even so, you will have to conclude by looking at the world that there should be a cause for this world. That cause is Maya, the illusory power of Brahman.

What is beyond explanation, what is incapable of being explained by its very nature is Maya. Maya is Anirvachaniya i.e., indescribable. It is an inscrutable illusory power of Brahman through which this world is projected.

Maya is cunning and deceptive. She is the illusory power of Ishvara. It is the finitising principle that creates finite forms in Infinite Brahman. She has got 2 powers, Avarna Sakti and Vikshepa Sakti. She hides the Truth through Avarana Sakti (veiling power). She projects this universe, creates false names and forms through Vikshepa Sakti (projecting power).

Avarana Sakti conceals the Atman and veils the Jiva. Through the force of this Sakti, he is not able to separate himself from the five sheaths. This Avarana Sakti is divided into Asat Avarana and Abhana Avarana. The former is the cause for the notion that there is no Brahman. People say: “If there is Brahman, will it not shine?” This idea is generated by Abhana Avarana. Asat Avarana is removed by indirect knowledge of Brahman, Paroksha Jnana, obtained through Sravana or hearing of the Srutis. Abhana Avarana is destroyed by direct knowledge of Brahman through meditation (Aparoksha Jnana).

Avyaktam, Maya, Mula-Prakriti, Pradhana (the chief or first), Gunasamya are synonymous terms. Avyaktam is the unmanifested state of Maya. Just as the tree exists in the seed in a subtle state, so also this world exists in a seed state in Avyaktam during Pralaya. Avyaktam and Pradhana are terms of the Sankhya philosophy. Mula Prakriti is a compound of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas like a three-stranded rope of white, red and black colours. In the Gunasamya Avastha or state, the three Gunas are in a state of equilibrium. This is the state of Pralaya or Sushupti. Just as men go everyday into the state of deep sleep, so also the world goes into its Sushupti state during Pralaya. In Pralaya countless Jivas get absorbed in Mula Prakriti with Samskaras like particles of gold that adhere to a ball of wax. The Karmas of the Jivas ripen at the end of Pralaya. Ishvara has to give the fruits of their Karmas. So He again projects this universe by mere willing.

There is excess of pure Sattva in Maya. The reflection of Para Brahman in Maya is Ishvara. Maya is the Upadhi of Ishvara. It is the causal body of Ishvara. Ishvara has the Maya under his control. Ishvara is also called by the names of Avyakrita and Antaryamin. Ishvara is the instrumental cause of the universe (Nimitta Karana). He becomes the material cause by commingling Himself with the Tamas, just as the spider produces the web out of itself. Avidya is impure Sattva. More Rajas is mixed with Sattva. This is the causal body of the Jiva. This is the Anandamaya Kosha. Jiva and Ishvara experience the Sushupti or deep sleep state through this Karana Sarira or causal body. This is the causal evolution.

In Junagad State a very strange incident happened quite recently. A girl was married in her twelfth year. Six years after her marriage she suddenly was metamorphosed into a male. She had all the distinguishing marks of a male. She left her husband’s house and came back to her (rather his) father’s house. Her father is a rich man. He died recently. Lawyers are consulted now whether the property should go to her (him) or not. Maya can do anything. Maya can create eunuchs, hermaphrodities of both (sexes), melodious feminine voice in males, harsh masculine voice in females, beard and moustaches in ladies, clean feminine face in males, beings with faces in their stomachs, hoofs in their heads, beings half-human, half-lions, half-horses. From this you can clearly infer that this world is quite illusory and unreal and Atman alone is real and everlasting. A close study of Nature will induce Vairagya and Viveka and inspiration for realising Atman, the Lord of Nature.

Even if the sun becomes cool and the moon hot, even if the fire burns downwards and ice becomes hot, even if the faecal matter emanates the scent of Otto de Rose, a Jnani never gets astonished. He knows that this is all the fantastic work of Maya.
Unlike Maya, which is subject to change, transforming itself into universe, Brahman never changes. He is quite immutable, great and firm and unborn.
Because you cannot see the fire as it is covered by the ash, you cannot say that there is no fire. Even so, you cannot say that there is no Atman because it is concealed by body, mind, Prana and the senses.

The connection of the Self with the Buddhi, its limiting adjunct, is due to Avidya or ignorance or wrong knowledge. This wrong knowledge can vanish only by Brahma Jnana. As long as one does get knowledge of Brahma Jnana, so long the connection of the soul with the Buddhi, body and the Indriyas will not come to an end.

Avidya is of two kinds, viz., Mula Avidya (primitive ignorance) which constitutes the causal body (Karana Sarira) or seed-body of the Jiva (individual soul) and Sthula Avidya which envelops the objects outside.

Avidya is the root cause for the Samsara. Eradication of ignorance, eradicates pain and enables a man to free himself from the round of births and deaths. The Vedanta Philosophy does not enquire into the why and how, origin and nature of Avidya. It simply teaches us that it exists and that it is destroyed by knowledge of Brahman.

Just as the fire is covered with ash, so also this pure Immortal self-luminous Atman is covered by Avidya and its effects, viz., mind, egoism, selfishness, hatred, body, Prana and the senses. When the ash is removed, the fire burns brilliantly. Even so, when Avidya is removed through knowledge of the Self, the self-resplendent Atman shines by itself.

From illusion springs separation, difference, duality, manifoldness and variety. Illusion is born of ignorance. All sorrows, tribulations, miseries, troubles have their root in ignorance. Ignorance creates illusion and separateness. Therefore destroy the ignorance by the sword of knowledge of the Self and become free.

Sense of separateness is a great fetter. Kill this sense of separateness by Brahma Bhavana or developing Advaita unity or consciousness and selfless service. The sense of separateness is an illusion created by ignorance or Maya.

If you remove the scabbard, you can behold the sword; if you remove the ashes you can perceive the fire; if the clouds are dispersed, you can cognise the sun; if you remove the bed sheet, you can see the mattress. Even so if you remove the ignorance which hides the Atman, you can directly behold the self-luminous Atman.

Just as the mirror is rendered dim by a layer of dirt attaching to it, so also knowledge is veiled by Avidya. Therefore all people are deluded. They cling to this unreal and mistake the body for the pure Atman. They think that this illusory world of names and forms is quite real.


(Cause for all the Miseries)

Srishti is of two kinds, viz., Jiva Srishti and Ishvara Srishti. There is no pain in Ishvara Srishti. Water quenches thirst. Fire gives warmth. Fresh breeze invigorates. Trees give shade. Cows give good milk. ‘Mamata-mineness’, my wife, my son, etc., are Jiva Srishti. This gives pain. When you hear: ‘Horse is dead’, you are not affected. When you hear ‘My horse is dead’ at once you begin to feel. The root of human sufferings is ‘Mamata’. Destroy this Mamata and rest in Atmic Bliss.
It is impossible for a man who has intense Deha Abhimana (attachment for the body) to attain Atma Jnana, or realise oneness of life and oneness of consciousness.

How infinitely you are busy with your body and its conceits. “I, I, I, I am a doctor; I am an Englishman; I am an American; I am a Brahmin; I know everything; I am clever; I am very intelligent; I am very strong; I am the doer; I am the actor; I have done much charity; I have built a hospital in my father’s name.” There is no end for this ‘I’. As soon as this identification with this perishable, impure body ceases, as soon as you realise that you are not this body, that ‘this body is not I’, that you are the Immortal all-pervading Self, all sorrows depart, all difficulties vanish, you are saved from this terrible Samsara. You will reach the abode of bliss and nectar and inexhaustible spiritual wealth, the city of deathlessness and drink the cup of immortality.

Fifty bombs can destroy a big city. But even five thousand bombs cannot destroy this egoism. So hard is egoism. The ignorant Jiva has hardened the egoism through too much thinking of his personality and too much vanity. Even granite or diamond may melt at some time or other but it is very difficult to annihilate this egoism, though it is nothing in essence. A Bhakta or devotee destroys the egoism through self-surrender. A sage annihilates it through self-denial and Atmic enquiry or enquiry of ‘who am I?’

Sivaji engaged thousands of coolies to build a fort. He had the Abhimana that he was feeding all these persons. Sivaji’s Guru, Swami Ramdas, understood this. He called Sivaji and asked him to break a big stone that was lying in front of his palace. Sivaji ordered a servant to do the work. When the stone was broken a frog that was inside jumped outside. Ramdas asked: “O Sivaji, who has arranged food for this little frog that was inside this stone?” Sivaji felt ashamed, prostrated before Ramdasji and said: “O Guru Maharaj, thou art Antaryami. Thou hast understood my Abhimana, when I thought that these coolies are fed by me. Now Viveka has dawned in me. Protect me, O Lord, I am thy disciple.”

Monkeys have got great Moha for their children. They carry the dead monkey, skeleton of their children even for a month. Moha is attachment to the physical body. These Samskaras are carried from animal kingdom to human kingdom. That is the reason why a man or woman entertains great Moha for the son.

You are born alone. You will die alone. You cross alone the different ties you meet with. You encounter alone whatever misery falls to your lot. Why do you then cherish Moha (infatuated love) for your children, wife, etc., false productions of Moha? Wake up. Beware.

You are born to conquer nature and thereby realise Atman.

Try to know the ways and habits of this Ahankara. It thirsts for self-aggrandisement or self-advancement, power, possession of objects and enjoyment. Kill this Ahankara or egoism and selfishness. Be disinterested. Pin your faith to the opposite virtues, spirit of sacrifice and selflessness. Accept sacrifice and service as guiding principles of life. At once you will have a rich, expanded spiritual life.

Do not identify yourself with body, wife, son, objects. Give up all ideas of possessions. Never call anything: ‘This is mine.’ Be established on the one idea: ‘Brahman alone shines and exists. I am Brahman.’ Become a Jivanmukta. Enjoy Advaitic, Brahmic Bliss, the final beatitude.

If the pot which is placed in a dark room and which contains a lamp inside is broken, the darkness of the room is dispelled and you see light everywhere in the room. Even so if the body is broken through constant meditation on the Self, i.e., if you destroy Avidya and its effect viz., Deha Adhyasa or identification of the body and rise above body-consciousness, you will cognise the supreme Light of Atman everywhere.

There is no weapon sharper than Atmic Vichara to cut down the inveterate old enemy ‘Ahankara.’
Man lives in flesh. He eats flesh. He embraces flesh. Flesh is Ahankara. Flesh is world. Maya plays through flesh. Mother Kaali does not want offerings of flesh. She wants offering of Ahankara. Foolish people kill goats to please their tongue under the pretext of an offering to Mother Kaali. Horrible unpardonable crime and heinous sin indeed!
The snake-charmer extracts the two poisonous fangs of the cobra and then plays with it without any fear. The cobra now also raises its hood and hisses, but the snake-charmer knows that it cannot do any harm to him. Even so if you extract the two poisonous teeth viz., Ahamta and Mamata, you can move about fearlessly in this world. You will become a Jivanmukta and rejoice in the Atman within.
He who commits suicide on account of troubles does an ‘unholy suicide’. He who kills egoism, selfishness, Vasanas, Indriyas, thoughts, etc., commits ‘holy suicide’.
What is the use of wearing ordinary cow-dung ashes on the forehead? Burn the Ahankara and wear the ash formed out of destruction of this Ahankara on the forehead and body.
Yashoda tried her level best to tie her baby Krishna with a piece of rope. She brought a rope to tie him. It was short by two inches. Again she brought a bigger rope. This was also short by two inches. She brought several ropes but at each time there was a shortage of two inches. What does this mean? Is there any philosophical significance? Yes, there is philosophy here. Yashoda was a little bit egoistic. She had a strong idea of mineness also. She was very much attached to her baby. Lord Krishna wanted to eradicate ‘I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’ from her mind. He indirectly taught to His mother: “O dear mother, give up I-ness and mine-ness. Then only you can bind Me by cord of pure Prema.”
If you kill the Queen Bee, the other bees which are collecting the nectar from the flowers in a place which is at a distance of five miles from the Queen bee also die at once. Similar is the case with the white ants also. If one man in the primitive African tribe suffers from any acute pain, the whole group of people who live at a distance of one hundred miles get the pain. The above cases are recorded after definite observation by psychologists in the West. There is intense instinctive feeling amongst the primitive tribes. That is the reason why if one is affected the whole group of people are affected. This goes to prove that there is one universal consciousness and that you can become one with the cosmic consciousness by melting your egoism or self-asserting principle and thereby can obtain the highest divine knowledge. 
(pg. 211-217, Self-Knowledge)

Swami Sivananda on Atman

Feel You Are Atman


Do not act under the influence of sudden impulses. Do not be carried away by the force of emotions, however noble they may be. Be ever vigilant and diligent.
Avoid unnecessary worry. Be not troubled. Be not anxious. Do not be idle. Do not waste time. Do not worry yourself if there is delay in further progress. Wait coolly. You are bound to succeed.
Develop courage by constantly feeling you are Atman. Deny and negate the body idea. Practise, practise Nididhyasana always; all difficulties, tribulations will come to an end. You will enjoy unalloyed bliss. 

Live In Atman 


Wake up from the dream of forms. Do not be deceived by these illusory names and forms. Cling to the solid living reality only. Love your Atman alone. Atman only persists. Live in Atman. Become Brahman. This is real life.
Approach the sages, the doctors of divinity with faith, devotion and humility. Take a dose of medicine called Jnana. Then the disease of Ajnana will be eradicated completely. You will attain everlasting peace.
Do not be deluded by Maya. Be calm as the waveless ocean. Be broad-minded as the sky. Be pure as the crystal. Strive ceaselessly for the realisation of the Atman. Be patient as the earth. You are bound to succeed. You will succeed. Rest assured. 

Rejoice In Atman


Lead a life of intense activity. Keep always a calm mind. Mentally repeat your Ishta Mantra. Mix with all. Serve all with Atma Bhava. See God in them.
Do not be afraid of difficulties and failures in the spiritual path. Difficulties will develop your will-power. Failures are stepping stones to success. Use your intelligence, sagacity, discrimination and commonsense. You will overcome the difficulties one by one.
Stand adamant. Be cheerful. Dismiss fear and anxiety. March boldly in the spiritual path. Do not be discouraged. Draw courage, strength and power from within. Be cautious. Thou art Invincible. Nothing can harm you. Remain serene always. Smile and rejoice in the Atman. 

(pgs. 56-57, Light, Power & Wisdom)

Recognising the Manifestations of Ego By Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda

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

We Should be a Model for Others by Mata Amirtanandamayi

This is the age in which there are speeches and discourses throughout the country. Spiritual discourses, cultural discourses, political speeches, religious talks, talks against religions—why, everybody has some subject or the other to speak on. Everyone has the authority to make speeches on everything under the sun—this seems to be the general attitude. As Mother syas this, an incident comes to my mind. A student tells his friend, “We have a great professor. You give him any subject, and he will talk on it for hours. Even if you give him a small topic, he will talk for more than five hours. Hearing this, another young person says, “Your professor speaks for only five hours when he is given a subject, right? But we have a neighbour. You don’t have to give him any subject; still, he will keep on talking—for days on end.”
…..In truth, what we need is not speeches, but action. We should show through our lives what we have to say…..An incident from the Mahabharata comes to mind.
It was the time when the pandavas and Kauravas were young and were being taught by their great guru, Dronacharya. The first lesson was on ‘Forbearance’. One day, the guru called all his disciples and asked them to recite what they had learnt. Each one of them recited the lessons from memory. Finally, it was Yudhishtira’s turn. He repeated just one line. When the guru asked, Is this all you have learnt?”. Yudhishtira replied with reluctance, “Pardon me Sir, I have more or less learnt just the first lesson; the second lesson I haven’t learnt even that much.” 
Dronacharya could not control his anger when he heard this, because he had expected more from  than all the others in the matter of studies….In his anger, Drona took a tick and beat Yudhishtira with it until the stick broke into small pieces. But even after receiving the blows, the cheerfulness and the smile on Yudhishtira’s face did not fade. Drona’s anger cooled when he saw this. He was sorry. He said affectionately, “My child, you are a prince. If you wanted, you could punish me by putting me in prison. But you didn’t do anything like that. You were not angry at all. Is there anyone in this world who has patience like you? There is such greatness in you!” 
When he turned around, Drona saw the palm leaf on which Yudhisthira’s lessons were written. The first line on it was, ‘Never lose patience!’ and the second line was, ‘Always tell only the truth’. When Drona’s glance fell on Yudhishtira’s face again, he thought those lines on the pal leaf were shining in the young prince’s eyes. 
As he took hold of Yudhistra’s hands, Drona’s eyes were brimming with tears. He said, “Yudhishtira! when I was teaching you, I was merely mouthing some words. The other boys were repeating them like parrots. Only you learnt them properly. how great you are, my son! In spite of teaching this for so long, I wasn’t able t olearn even a single line. I could not control my anger. I could not be patient.”
Hearing his guru saying this with eyes full of tears, Yudhishtira said, “Forgive me, master! I did feel a little anger towards you.” Drona now realised that his disciple had learnt the second lesson as well. Those who don’t fall when they hear a little praise are very rare. Even if they have a little anger in them, they will be reluctant to show it. but look at Yudhishtira. He didn’t show any relunctance to admit it. That means, he had learnt the second lesson also. A lesson is complete only when it is practised in life. The true disciple is one who tries to do that.
….Each word of ours should cause a transformation in the listeners. It should bring bliss to others. We should be a model for others. Each word we utter should have that power. For that, simplicity and humility should shine forth in our words. But today, if we sift through our words, we won’t find a trace of humility. What pervades all our words is the attitude, “I want to be higher than the other!” We don’t pay attention to the fact that person’s greatness actually resides in his humility. Even the lowliest person tries to pose as great in front of the others. But we don’t realise the fact that if we act like this, we just become fools in the eyes of others. 
Once an army major was promoted to the rank of colonel. On the say he assumed charge of the new post, a man came to visit him. As soon as the man entered, the colonel picked up the phone with an sir of importance and started talking, “Hello, is that President Clinton? how are you? I took charge just today. There are lots of files to go through. Ok, I will call you later. Please give my regards to your wife…” After talkikng this for a while, he put the phone down. All this while. the man, who ahd come in, had waited very courteously. The colonel asked him very seriously, “Yes, what do you want?”
The visitor said n all courteousness, “pardon me, I came to connect the phone. This is a new phone that was put in yesterday. The lone hasn’t been connected.” Who is the fool here? We don’t see that we become fools like this several times a day—that is all. One who tries to display one’s own importance in front of others actually becomes a fool in their eyes.
(pgs. 119-121 & 123-124, Lead us to the Light, Vol 2)

Understanding and Controlling the Mind By Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda

All religions are based upon some variation of Be good, Do good. And in one way or another they tell us that our behaviour ultimately depends upon our thoughts, upon our mind. What the mind dwells upon is what we will do. Therefore, be aware of what you are thinking. Watch your thoughts.

This sort of teaching, while absolutely correct from one point of view, can be misleading and cause a lot of distress to seekers who think that having a bad thought is, in itself, a sin. What is important is to distinguish between what comes into the mind—which we actually cannot control—and what the mind dwells upon and acts upon, which we can control.
No one can control what comes into their mind. Lust, greed, hatred, anger, jealousy, doubt and discouragement can appear—and will appear—in any of our minds. However, whether we dwell upon them or not is our choice. Pujya Swami Chidanandaji once said, “In this Iron Age what is in the mind is not a sin. Thank God, or we’d all go to hell.” From this point of view, if a thought of lust, greed, hatred, anger, jealousy, doubt or discouragement comes into our mind and we see it as such and do not act on it nor keep morbidly dwelling upon it, then according to Swamiji, nothing has happened, no sin has been committed.
This is important to understand, because sometimes we can spend our whole spiritual life concerned about the thoughts in our mind and miss the real point, which is that the mind is a mechanical process that is not us. We are not the mind, we are That which knows the mind, That which can never be grasped. This is where we are meant to put our attention.
All our spiritual practices, if we examine them and think about them, have as their purpose getting our mind off ourselves and our mental process and on to something higher. It is to raise our consciousness out of the mind into the Self or God. If this is not understood, then we have gained very little from our spiritual practices because we are still under the control of the mind or ego.
What should we do if a sinful thought comes into our mind? If we are able to just watch it, let it rise and let it go—not give it morbid attention—that is the best way. It is also the best way because it is the practice of the truth that we are not the mind. If that doesn’t seem possible to us, if an evil thought just grabs hold of us, then each one of us will have to devise our own way of handling it—perhaps take a cold shower, perhaps go for a long walk or take vigorous exercise, perhaps fast and repeat God’s name, or humbly offer it to the Indweller.
This is an individual matter, but what is vital to realise is that the arising of those thoughts in our mind are not in themselves sin. No one is free from them. No one can prevent their rising. Our task is to handle them in an intelligent way—in the knowledge of what they really are—and put our attention on our true Self. Gradually the mind will come under our control and become our instrument instead of our master.
Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh