My major field of study in college was cultural anthropology. One of my professors shared some interesting experiences he’d had during a year in which he lived with a remote tribe in New Guinea. These people were so inaccessible that they’d never seen a Westerner before.

At first they just ignored him or stared at him suspiciously as though he were a new variety of albino snake or toad. After weeks of such treatment, he would withdraw into his tent, read Shakespeare, and try to affirm, “I am an educated, intelligent human being who is part of an advanced civilization.”

Little by little the tribe’s people saw that he meant them no harm, and they allowed him to enter into their daily life. As he began to learn their language and culture, he realized that what they’d been calling him all along was “Pink Man.”

After more time had passed, he no longer had to affirm who he had been, but could accept that he was now a different version of himself. After a year, “Pink Man” returned to his university and wrote an ethnography of the tribe that had opened his eyes to another worldview and helped change how he thought about himself.

Considering the professor’s experience, I realized that what interested me was not so much the customs and languages of other peoples, but the opportunity to expand one’s self-definition by immersing in a different reality. Fortunately, God showed me a better way to do this through the spiritual path and discipleship.

Inner self-transformation is never easy, no matter how you approach it. In trying to transcend self-limitations and old ways of thinking, we find ourselves clinging to the familiar, even if it no longer serves our aspirations.

In Paramhansa Yogananda’s unparalleled explanation of the Bhagavad Gita, he tells us that the challenges Arjuna faces before the battle of Kurukshetra are allegorical. Each character, friend or foe, is symbolic of an inner quality that lives within each of us.

Those on the opposing side, the Kauravas, are his relatives and mentors, although they represent such things as material desire, ego, habits, and attachment. As the great warrior Arjuna surveys the Kaurava army before the battle begins, he becomes discouraged, drops his bow, and says to his charioteer, Krishna, “These are my kinsmen. I cannot kill them. Therefore, I will not fight.”

Yoganandaji explains that this is the inner battle we all must face. We fear killing old patterns and habits, because we’re not sure who we will become when the familiar is gone. Yet unless we take up the fight, we can never discover our own higher Self.

In the remainder of the Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna that the true Self is never lost, but through spiritual effort, its energy is transmuted into a higher expression. “The soul is never touched; it is immutable, all-pervading, calm, unshakable; its existence is eternal.” (Chapter 2:24)

As Jyotish and I enter our second month of traveling to Ananda centers in Italy and India, the process of personal transformation and letting go of the familiar is something we face daily. What a joy to offer oneself up to the process, allowing God to guide us toward inner freedom.

Whether through the example of “Pink Man” overcoming the fear of loss of self-identity, or Arjuna transcending the reluctance to fight old mental tendencies, we need to take the leap of faith. It’s by surrendering the self to God that we go beyond our limitations and find who and what we really are: a spark of the Divine.

With joy,

Nayaswami Devi

Listen to Devi as she reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (8:19):

16 Comments

  1. Thank you Devi. Namaste. When we move beyond our comfort zone and embrace change we grow. Or so they tell me. Thank you for sharing your teachings and your experience on your journey.

  2. Very recently I met with my former hatha yoga teacher, a beautiful person in all aspects who same as me started the path to Kriya under you all. We exchanged impressions and some spiritual experiences we have had lately and since we began following this route. Finally we both said to each other that we feel we’ve changed, we are no longer the same. We feel we’ve gone beyond a little comprehension of ourselves into a deeper knowledge of the reality.
    As usual, Davy, your posts reach our hearts full of knowledge and love. Many thanks.
    Blessings.

  3. An offer not to resist? I want to add one bit to the 6th paragraph at the end: Unless you’re a camper. Growing up camping every summer cultivated a resilience in me that goes anywhere, still pushing my boundaries! Blessings!*john

  4. Beautiful sentiments. We are currently walking the Camino in Spain and looking forward to visiting Assisi in about 3 weeks. I hope in our journeys we can find the courage to let go of some of the familiar and enter freedom and joy, leaving the rest in God’s capable hands…

  5. Thank you Devi. The daily battle of distraction and delusion will always be with us in this world of duality. Thank you God and Guru for having our back!
    Blesssings,
    H

  6. Thank you for your article. When traveling in so-called third world countries I noted that people who have far less than people in our “advanced civilizations” are so much happier than we are. It was quite an eye-opener. We might consider a bonfire of the vanities to help us return to what we should be.

  7. Namastey Devi,
    Thank you for sharing the experiences.
    Fear of loss of self identify and / or fighting old mental tendencies — are both not the either side of a same coin ??
    I myself in same dilema. Throw light, please

    – kanubhai

  8. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,

    Thank you for this blog. I am listening to Swamiji’s audio on the Bhagavad Gita. Very inspiring, and it brings such clarity.

    These lines are very profound and something to reflect on. – In trying to transcend self-limitations and old ways of thinking, we find ourselves clinging to the familiar, even if it no longer serves our aspirations.

    Joy,
    Prem

  9. Greetings! This message was timely as I endeavor on my path to self realization. I really appreciate. Namaste!

  10. Thank you, I am letting go of things that no longer serve to help me come into a new phase, and this is just what I needed to hear for more tips and validation toward my inner transformation.
    Namaste’
    Shari

  11. AUM Deviji,
    Beautifully stated.
    That is why we are here to DISCOVER, TRANSFORM, and AWAKEN to our HIGHER SELF.
    Jai Swamiji, Jai Master!

  12. Thank you for this inspiring blog dearest Devi Ji and for sharing the ‘pink-man’ experience. Your audio message (and our visit to Delhi for the public talk on How to achieve true happiness) where we met you both have further re-kindled the hunger for inner freedom. Love the challenge you so sweetly offered – to be courageous in our spiritual efforts and try our best to surrender at the feet of God and Guru. Your blogs most definitely help us in our Journey Ji – we love them and are are ever so grateful for these precious weekly upliftment moments.

  13. ……”Clinging to the familiar, even if it no longer serves our aspirations”.
    That is the striking comment that drives deep as we are all in a situation over and over where we have some drive or aspiration that is lofty and yet we feel to take the simple path we have been on as it is well worn and well known.
    It is comfort vs challenge and sacrifice. Comfort may seem better but later, unsatisfying.
    The chela (disciple) is also a warrior because you must fight and undergo tapasia (struggle) to grow in God or in life.
    So well done, Devi. In this one line we have the tools to reshape our lives, one new step at a time.

  14. Dear Nayaswami Devi,

    Your history and speech are truly remarkable and embrace a deep truth beneath the superficial well articulated verbal expression.
    The message is very inspirational and is at the core of the spiritual transcendence from the identification of our self to our inner truth of the Self. The inner battle that you mention is at the core of our individual spiritualization and only through us can become as us to return to essence but only with the grace of the divine and persistent effort we can become our true selves so the universe gets up grade through every one and each of us once we transcend the veil of our ilusion into our reality as it is. And realise that deep down we all are God’ s creation in eternal expansion..
    Thanks sister
    Namaste

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