I was an average student at best throughout most of my early school life. I did just the bare minimum. I only needed to avoid scolding and chastisement from my parents and teachers. Sadly, this mediocre attitude toward my studies defined most areas of my life. I ate junk food, watched TV, and did not (exert or apply myself) to do much of anything.
Suddenly when I was 11 years old, something in me shifted. I was inspired to get my act together and I started to demand a little more of myself. I studied harder than ever before. My grades shot up and I aced exam after exam. I won tons of academic awards. I played multiple instruments. I excelled at sports. I lost weight. I participated in drama, debate, and writing competitions. There was hardly any club in my school where I was not a member.
Fast forward a few years later: When I came on the spiritual path and became a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (Master), this drive and self-discipline served me well. It helped me establish a stable practice and routine of meditation, exercise, yoga, seva (service), and so on.
However, like in many things, I continued the tendency of being hard on myself. No matter what I achieved, I was never satisfied. I constantly told myself – ‘I mustn’t get complacent. There’s always room and scope for improvement!’ In reality, there was no scope or room for contentment! I had crossed over the line of inspiration into a domain of moodiness, irritation, and constant dissatisfaction. This was certainly no recipe for success for a devotee.
Ego: I, Me, Myself
The ego loves to keep our consciousness limited to thoughts about “I, me, and myself.” I was guilty of this kind of indulgence. Every now and then some event would trigger a profound sense of self-judgment and unworthiness. ‘I’m not a good devotee. A good disciple doesn’t behave like this,’ or ‘Master wouldn’t be happy with me,’ were thoughts that tormented my soul.
I currently serve at Ananda Sangha’s center in Delhi. A few weeks ago, we had a Spiritual Fair – a bi-annual, full-day event designed to give people a taste of Yogananda’s teachings and truth seekers the opportunity to meet like-minded souls. It’s a day full of classes, booths, workshops, music, and books.
Our most recent fair proved to be an unexpected test for me. On the day of the fair, when I got up, I felt engulfed by an intense mood. The mood itself didn’t bother me so much as the fact that I had two classes to present and had to interact with many new people. Silently I worried if I would be able to share my Guru’s teachings and vibrations on this critical and special occasion.
I went through the day with all my willpower and cheerfulness. Whenever I was with people I tried my best to stay positive. No one to my knowledge, suspected the presence of this dark mood but when I sat to meditate before my class began, I could not help feeling the pull of this negative power.
The time was approaching for my class and I entered the temple hall. At that moment something magical happened. The mood instantly lifted! I felt relieved and joyful. More importantly, I was able to share that joy with others. The mood had vanished and I thanked my Guru for his blessings.
Little did I know, the battle was not yet over! As soon as I left the temple, it took only a few minutes for the mood to return. I struggled to keep my energy high. It was almost time for my second class. I went to prepare and meditate before the class began but failed miserably. I kept thinking ‘I’m not worthy of sharing these teachings.’ I can’t even remain in a positive state of mind.
One step into the temple hall and the same thing happened. Whoosh! The mood vanished and a great class was delivered by the grace of God. At the end of the day, before I could fall back into that mood again, a gentleman walked to me and said, “The wisdom and joy you all share is a testimony to the greatness of your Guru.”
That is when I finally got the point! It’s not about me! I am not worthy at all to that extent – at least not when I identify with my little self and ego. My worth comes from the power of my Guru. As long as I can transcend my ego and puny self-concerns, I can tune into the Guru’s Divine Power through which I can accomplish anything. Master taught me an important lesson through the words of that man.
Yogananda said that both superiority and inferiority complexes are the opposite sides of the same coin. It is the constant pull of the ego to keep our energy stuck in the thoughts of I, me, and mine. If you, too, have gone through such moods, you will remember that all of the thoughts in your head had the same redundant cry – ‘I am not worthy. I cannot do this. People don’t want to interact with me,‘ and so on.
Try to have neither a superiority nor an inferiority complex. Tell yourself simply, ‘Whatever is, is; and whatever I am, I am. I refuse to make value judgments in the matter.’ All of us are simply playing our parts in the cosmic drama. Let me do my best, only, to play my part well. – Swami Kriyananda, A Renunciate Order for the New Age
Attunement: Attitude Adjustment
I have recently been enjoying watching The Chosen, a series on the life of Christ. In the first episode of the second season, when Jesus asks John to help him decide on a reading from the scrolls of Moses that he’s supposed to read in the synagogue, John despondently refuses – “I can’t,” he says, “I don’t feel very much worthy.”
Jesus asks him plainly, “Who is worthy of anything?”
John answers with a shrug, “You? But no man, apparently.”
At this point, Jesus looks penetratingly at John and says, “I am a man, John. I am Who I Am.”
John, being the great soul he was, understood what his master meant. Jesus was telling him – ‘I am a man but I’m identified with the Divine. You too have the same Divinity in you. Learn to recognize it and identify with it.’
When I watched this for the first time, I felt Christ was speaking to me. And he was – not only to me but to all of us. As long as we identify with our egos, we probably aren’t truly worthy of anything. If, however, we identify with our soul nature, we are worthy of everything that God has to give us.
Jesus told his disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” (John 14:12)
In my story above, it was only when I chose to believe in the power of my Guru and take myself out of the picture, was I able to serve him in the best spirit.
On another occasion, I learned an important attitude to overcome thoughts of low self-esteem and unworthiness – self-acceptance. One of my friends said to me, “You have so many good qualities and the only reason you’re having this mood is that you’re too hard on yourself. You treat others so kindly and yet you’re not kind to yourself.”
She was so right. My constant feelings of self-judgment did not allow me to take proper care of myself for I would always think that I was not good enough. I learned then (and am still learning) that it is crucial to accept where we are in our journey to Self-realization. Once we accept it, we can then move on to doing the best that we can in any situation.
If you have ever had such negative thoughts and moods, here is an affirmation on introspection that greatly helped me:
I am what I am; wishing cannot change me. Let me, therefore, face my faults with gratitude, for only by facing them can I work on them, and change them. – Swami Kriyananda, Affirmations for Self-Healing
May your awareness of God’s power and presence grow ever deeper with each passing day.
In Divine Friendship,