Thanks to a recent letter from my credit card company urging me to sign up for their premier Identity Theft Protection services, I was spurred to an uncanny realization:
Our quest for Self-realization is a quest to recover our stolen identity and the science of Yoga is the premier technology that protects us against identity theft and helps us to recover our stolen identities.
Let me explain:
Are we victims of identity theft?
As you know, identity theft takes place when someone steals your identity (personal identifying information) and then masquerades as you for a nefarious purpose — securing a loan or credit card or misappropriating your tax refund. The real you is left to suffer the consequences: lost income, wasted time, repayment requests for loans you never applied for — running from pillar to post trying to put your affairs back in order and regain peace of mind while the perpetrator gains financially.
The quest for Self-realization is based on a similar premise: Our true identity is that we are a divine, eternal, all-powerful, sorrow-immune, and bliss-permeated soul, made in the image of God. Yet the little ego (which Paramhansa Yogananda defined as “the soul identified with the body”) perpetrates the greatest identity theft of all time: It makes us forget our true, divine nature and hoodwinks us into believing that we are a puny little being with the consciousness of I, my, me, and mine.
Ego-driven actions are subject to the Law of Karma
The consequences of the ego’s extraordinary identity theft are devastating. Using our stolen identity, this sly impostor — the little ego — runs amok and engages in nefarious actions that create a litany of problems: desires, likes and dislikes, attachments, vested interests, moods, harmful emotions, addictions, complexes, wrong habits, wrong relationships, you name it! Moreover, as happens with any identity fraud, the real you is left holding the bag. The Law of Karma, which governs all ego-driven actions, forces us to face the consequences and to make amends.
The inescapability of the Law of Karma is taught not only in traditional yoga but also in all true spiritual and religious traditions. The Bible succinctly summarizes the karmic law in one line: “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, which Paramhansa Yogananda spoke of as a great scripture oft misperceived as a hedonistic love poem, contains a quatrain describing the unalterable karmic consequences of ego-driven actions:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
On first reading, this quatrain, as well as the line from the Bible make it appear that there is no way out — we must suffer the karmic consequences of ego-driven actions. However, there is a solution. The solution is the same as for any other Identity Theft: to recover our stolen identity.
Recover your stolen identity and transcend karmic law
Paramhansa Yogananda beautifully explains this principle in his commentary for the above quatrain from the Rubaiyat:
Once the ego has been transcended in soul-consciousness, however, the realm of karmic law is transcended also. The soul remains forever unaffected, for karmic consequences accrue only to the ego. They are dissipated when no centripetal vortex is left to bring them to a focus in the consciousness of “I” and “mine.”
There is only one way, finally, to cancel karma’s operation altogether: the attainment of Self-realization, and the transcendence of natural law. – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained, by Paramhansa Yogananda, edited by Swami Kriyananda
You and I, armed with this knowledge, know what our next step is: to cut the Gordian knot of all ego-driven actions and their concomitant karmic consequences. We must realize that we are not the little ego but a divine Soul, perfect, pristine, and omnipotent.
How do we do that? Through the practice of Yoga, the ancient yet state-of-the-art science (Yes, it is ancient and state-of-the-art at the same time!) whose sole purpose is to help us recover our stolen identities in the shortest time possible.
How yoga helps to recover your stolen identity
The science of Yoga is too deep to explain in its entirety in one single blog post, but its lynchpin, its infallible weapon in the fight against the impostor ego — it’s “ace-in-the-hole,” if I may use an American expression — is the guru.
The guru, in yogic parlance, is a Self-realized soul — one who, having recovered his own stolen identity, has been divinely ordained to help receptive individuals among us in our quest to recover our stolen identities. The Bible refers to the power to overcome the ego and thereby regain our divine heritage that the guru bestows:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. (John 1:12 KJV)
Through the guru’s blessings, the guru’s help and guidance, and the dedicated practice of the spiritual discipline the guru gives, we steadily become more cognizant of our own true natures. Eventually, we transcend the ego and reclaim our identity as a divine soul, thereby earning eternal freedom from all karmic consequences — past, present, and future!
The path of Kriya Yoga brought by Paramhansa Yogananda beautifully balances the three intertwined components of the spiritual path: yogic techniques, attunement to the guru, and yogic teachings that help us to live less from ego and more from soul nature. If you want to know more about the science of yoga, you can learn about the path of Kriya Yoga here. To underscore its efficacy and potency, Paramhansa Yogananda called Kriya Yoga “foolproof” and the jet-plane route to Self-realization.
On the other hand, if you already have a guru, or if you already have Kriya Yoga, remember to dive deep into your guru-given practices, for your “return on investment” depends on your sincerity, persistence, and the depth of your yogic practice!
10 simple yogic techniques for Identity Theft Protection
Let me close by sharing a few of Swami Kriyananda’s suggestions for transcending the little ego. These are suggestions that are simple to grasp but, because they are also ego-deflating, not always easy to practice. They are from Swamiji’s book Sadhu, Beware! written to guide monks in conducting their lives of renunciation.
Sadhu, Beware! contains a chapter called “Techniques for Ego-Transcendence” which gives 33 suggestions for overcoming the ego in everyday life. I list ten of my favorites below. At first glance, they are deceptively simple but when practiced sincerely, they are endlessly freeing and joy bestowing. The more we practice these suggestions, the more we loosen the ego’s grip on us, and the more we function from our true identity as a divine soul.
Techniques for Ego-Transcendence
From Sadhu, Beware! By Swami Kriyananda (learn more)
The first duty of every soul is to release the hold that ego-consciousness has upon it. All other spiritual practices are subservient to this one supreme obligation. I address ego-transcendence, therefore, as the first and indeed the only challenge on the spiritual path – whether one is a renunciate, a householder, or living for God in some other way.
I include here a few techniques that will help you in your supremely important efforts to transcend ego-consciousness.
- When people fail to credit you for something you did and did well, say nothing. In your heart, however, give all the credit to God.
- When someone else gets the credit for something you’ve done, don’t look for a way of letting people know where the credit really belongs. It would be natural enough for you to do that; you needn’t even consider it a fault. Still, don’t make too much of it. You will find much greater freedom in your heart if you mentally give all the credit to God.
- When someone has a good idea that you’ve had already, it will help you in the practice of humility to tell yourself, “It’s the idea that counts, not the person who had it.” Reply simply, therefore, “That’s a good idea. Let’s give it a try.”
- If someone scolds you for something you didn’t do, you may see some good reason for letting him know that you’re not guilty. If it doesn’t really matter who did it, however, you will gain more, spiritually, if you say nothing.
- If others try to boss you around, and if it doesn’t really matter to you one way or another, why not simply go along with the “game”? To do so will increase your sense of inner freedom.
- Never place yourself mentally in competition with others.
- Never try, without some good and definite reason, to justify your actions, ideas, or accomplishments. Whatever you’ve done, give it mentally to God.
- Laugh with others, but never at them.
- It is not humility to tell yourself, “I can’t. . . .” Remember, God can do anything. If you give Him the chance, moreover, He can do anything through you. Ask Him for the inspiration, the guidance, and the strength to do whatever you must do. As Yogananda put it, “Pray in this way: I will reason; I will will; I will act – but guide Thou my reason, will, and activity in everything I do.”
- When you see something you’d like for yourself, buy it if possible; accept the satisfaction of possessing it. Then, however, give it away with a free heart to someone else. I did this in Switzerland in 1955, when I was visiting the [Self-Realization Fellowship] centers in Europe. I saw a beautiful wood carving of the Madonna for sale. My first thought was how lovely it would be to possess it. The cost, however, was $12, which at the time was much more than twelve dollars is today. To purchase it meant spending four-fifths of my monthly monastic allowance. I decided, instead, to buy it as a gift for Daya Mata, SRF’s president. I think I made a good choice. Purchasing that statue gave me the brief joy of possessing it. Next, it gave me the joy of giving it to a friend. And finally, it gave me the joy of seeing it again whenever I got to visit her quarters.
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