March 2011

Beating one’s own drum is worldly outlook. Beating oneself into shape is spiritual effort. – Chinmaya

There is a widespread belief in the minds of the people that spirituality means an exhibition of supernatural powers like reading others’ minds, walking over water, flying in space, predicting the future, or showing some miracle.

 The above quote makes it very clear: Any ‘beating one’s own drum’, i.e. any effort where one tries to project oneself as extraordinarily great or special is not spirituality. True spirituality involves ‘beating oneself to shape’, i.e. it involves an effort to efface our little ego and allow the Divine Will to express through us. Whereas the worldly outlook encourages the development of the personality, spiritual outlook works towards the annihilation of the personality.

‘Personality’ is nothing but a false notion which an individual gathers about oneself in the process of interacting with the world. Any such notion is only an imagination born of the mind and hence not true. One has to know oneself as the Supreme Self, of the nature of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, as that alone is our real nature. Any effort which destroys the wrong notion in us and reveals to us our true nature is real spirituality. And this effort itself is the greatest austerity, says the great sage of Arunachala, Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi.

In the spiritual path, therefore, the effort is in annihilating the wrong notion in us, i.e. the ego. This annihilation of ego is what makes the spiritual path most difficult as it almost amounts to committing suicide. But this ‘self-destruction’ is unavoidable to regain and relive as the true Self. When the self-asserting ego dies as a part of one’s spiritual sadhana, one becomes very humble. This we see in the lives of all saints and prophets.

In the dark and troubled years of religious conflict, just before the partition of India, Sadhu Vaswani was asked to give an address on “Education and the Spirit of Islam”. The talk was presided over by the then Vice-Chancellor of the University, Mr Haleem.

The assembled scholars were stunned by the brilliance and depth of Sadhu Vaswani’s address. A highly ranked official, who had listened to the talk, came up to meet Vaswaniji. “Sir, are you a Hindu or a Mussalmaan?” he asked. “I am between the two”, answered Vaswaniji with a smile. “But between the two there is nothing”, the official insisted.

The great saint replied, “I am that nothing”!

Our Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayanandji used to humorously say that in the world, as a part of organizing an event, after every ‘brainstorming’ session, there follows a ‘claim storming’ session, if everything comes out well. But if the whole event turns out to be a flop, then there follows a ‘blame storming’ session!

In silent egoless service, Mother Nature is our best role model. Sun rises and seasons change in silence, flowers blossom and fruits ripen in silence. All growth happens in silence. All the important physiological functions like blood circulation, digestion etc. happen in utter silence. Let us, therefore, learn to serve in silence.

Ishwara Chandra Vidyasagar, one of the greatest leaders of Bengal and a man of affluence and influence, lived a life of utter simplicity. He wore simple clothes and often passed unrecognized.

One day as he was going along the road, he saw an old and poor labourer, with his back bent and his steps faltering due to a heavy load. Vidyasagar’s heart went out for him and he asked him, “Brother, may I carry this burden for you?”

Not recognizing his benefactor, the old man gratefully relinquished his load. Vidyasagar lifted the load and carried it on his back right up to the destination. Reaching into his pocket, he took out a silver coin and pressed it into the palm of the baffled labourer saying, “Brother, please bless me”.

The drum belongs to Him. The ability to beat the drum also comes from Him. We show our disregard and ingratitude when we ‘beat our own drum’ forgetting the Lord who has given us everything.

Our ego is our greatest enemy. This enemy resides in our own heart. Hence instead of worrying about how to change the world and the people around, let us pay more attention to ‘beat ourselves to shape’. In fact, this is the only way to shape the world too!

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Posted in: Chintana

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