See Yourself Impartially
Sri Swami Chidananda
This article is a chapter from the book Seek The Beyond.
Worshipful homage to the supreme, eternal, primal Being, the universal Spirit Divine, who is auspicious, beautiful, good, elevating, illuminating and liberating! To that Being, worshipful homage!
Loving adorations to revered and beloved Holy Master Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, whose central mission in his life of the Spirit was to bring sincere seeking souls nearer to this great Divine Reality by various means suited to people of different tastes and temperaments, abilities and capacities.
Knowing that there are diversities in human nature and abilities, knowing that not all are ready for the same highest teachings, accordingly the teacher gives. Let the Supreme Being bless us to have the right and proper understanding of the teachings of Guru Bhagavan Swami Sivanandaji.
There is a story in the Upanishads of the three da. Da is a letter in the Sanskrit alphabet. A human individual, a celestial and a demon all approached Brahma, the Creator, seeking knowledge of the Higher Self. Coming down from His deep meditation, He looks at each one of them and gives the same identical upadesa or spiritual instruction. And the upadesa is to look at their image and pronounce the word da. And each one understands the meaning according to his own nature and propensities, inclination.
A commentator upon this Upanishadic episode says, “Even though it was given to three types of beings, all three of these can equally apply to one human individual, because within the human individual all three propensities inhere. They are already there–celestial, demoniacal and human. So one should understand all these three aspects of one’s being and how to interpret and apply this knowledge for one’s own benefit. Mark you, one’s own benefit. Spiritual truths should be applied only for one’s own benefit.
It is here that clarity is necessary, discrimination is necessary. We all know the adage that the devil can quote scriptures to his own purpose. The best scriptural quotations can be made use of in the worst way also. They can be made use of in ways that are divine, that are demoniacal and in human ways as well.
For example, in my bathroom I have a little plastic picture of Mickey Mouse sitting in a one-man rowboat which is rapidly heading for a waterfall. The title on it is “Perseverance.” We must persevere. How? When we reach a point and then say, “No, no, no, it’s no use me persevering, I am lost, I will be dashed against the rocks,” all these ideas will come–perseverance is the very last ounce of determined effort that you give. And that one last determined effort somehow or other may be able to save you from the terrible current that is drawing you to the depths. You should not simply give up.
But this not giving up has its own nuances. It does not always manifest in one way; it manifests in subtly varying ways–divine, demoniacal and human. For example, when after repeated efforts, Siddhartha, who became an ascetic and a muni and strove for Self-realisation through yoga was not able to do it after the most extreme austerities, he said this is not the way, there is a middle path. He took the middle path, but still nothing seemed to be of any avail.
Then a terrible determination comes in His mind. He goes to Bodhgaya, sits under the Bodhi tree, and takes a terrible resolution: “Now, here I seat myself. I shall not leave this seat until I attain illumination, no matter what the cost. Even if the body dries up, even if the flesh and skin wither, even if the bones become brittle and are reduced to powder, Siddhartha will not leave this seat until he attains what he has set his mind to attain.”
Terrible resolve! Even the gods and celestials were astounded: “Siddhartha will not leave this seat until he attains illumination!” That is a great resolve. That is spiritual. That is sattvic. It is a divine resolve. It derives its strength from God Himself.
In the same way, there is a very dire and demoniacal tradition called vendetta in a part of Italy called Sicily. If one member of a family has been injured or killed by a member of another family, the first family will not rest until they have taken revenge. Then the other family retaliates; it can carry on from one generation to the next–an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. This is also continuing perseverance, but it is dire, destructive in nature, tamasic. It is the same principle–never give up–but its results are destructive in nature.
Again, in the same way, the human too can also be persevering–in the pursuit of one’s desires, the circumstances one wishes to create for oneself. And they may say, “Whatever the gurus may say, whatever our ancestors said, whatever illumined sages and seers may have said, that may apply to some antiquated age, but now it no longer holds good. At that time it might have been very wise, but times have changed. Things are different, people are different. Therefore we must pursue what we feel is right.”
Now, herein is a strange assertion which is deceptive in a very subtle way, because while it is one hundred per cent true that times have changed, one cannot say that human nature has changed. Human nature persists. What it was in the times of the Vedas and Upanishads, what it was in the times of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, human nature is even now. The outer way of living may have changed, but whatever we see in the Puranas we see the same thing unfolding before us today both on the individual subjective human level and in the collective human domestic, social and international levels. These things need to be observed and understood. A wise being seeing this, observing this, understanding this, becomes awake, becomes careful.
You must learn the art and science of being impartial and objective towards yourself, to be able to stand aside, see yourself as a witness. You must be able to objectively assess yourself and come to a definite conclusion. You must be able to impartially assess your thoughts, sentiments, moods, attitudes and actions. Are they divine, demoniacal or human? This is not very easy, because there is an inveterate trait in human nature called self-justification which you must rise above.
You need to take an impartial, objective attitude from a central point where you are neither self-justifying or self-condemning. You are neither this nor that. You put yourself upon neutral ground and take an impartial, objective look at yourself. Then you can come to a correct conclusion.
Lucifer was an angel. He came to certain conclusions. He refused to budge from his position when he was told that they were wrong. So Gabriel had to hurl him down to Hades, and he is now man’s greatest enemy. He is called Satan. Why? Because he refused to change. Therefore, refusing to change ground when it becomes necessary in the interest of higher ideals is a satanic tendency. It means that unknowing to yourself you are in the grip of Satan. You are not under the influence of God.
Satan’s presence is unseen, so subtle you cannot detect it. He vies with God for equal position. God’s presence may be subtle and unseen. Satan says, “I can also make myself like you–unseen, subtle.” There is a word in Sanskrit that means: What you can do, I can also do. I am equal to you in every way.
Therefore, we must go within and earnestly and sincerely pray to God to show us the way with clarity. If one is persisting in a certain way of action, if one is justifying one’s action, saying that it is quite right, quite okay, then one must introspect and question oneself: “Why am I saying this? What is the hidden purpose in striking this attitude? In what way do I gain? Will the absence of this in any way be inimical to my spiritual progress?”
That is why Gurudev always use to say, “Scrutinise your inner motives,” because they are inner and subtle; they are not very easy to see. Thus, God must help one to help oneself. God must help one to understand oneself. Otherwise, it is not easy. Therefore, may the Supreme Being and Holy Master Swami Sivanandaji help us to understand ourselves, and through such understanding evolve quickly and attain supreme blessedness!