Several years ago, I was on a teacher training course. As it happens on these programs, you spend a great deal of time engaged in meditative practices, Hatha yoga, contemplation, etc. I can’t speak for others but I often found myself feeling particularly sensitive, emotional. When you begin a practice of meditation (and I am using this term in the broadest sense), you sometimes encounter experiences (mental, emotional, etc.) that can throw you off a bit… You may feel remorseful, angered, bitter, dejected, disappointed, etc. (HA, why should someone carry on with such a practice, right? Anyway, I digress.) So, it may have been that I was particularly miserable one day… I think the teacher noticed something a little off with me. He came over at the end of the session, whispered, “You cannot be like Guruji; you can only be Guruji.”
I had no idea what that meant. I remonstrated, wanting to explain myself, or wanting an explanation. He didn’t say much else, and I wondered: What was that about?It’s 13+ years since that incident, and I think about it sometimes.
Human beings are copycats. We imitate endlessly. And so it happens that you meet someone wise and wonderful, and you want to be like them. What you see is the outer, and you begin copying. And it’s sometimes mystifying because this wise individual behaves in “unwise” ways. And because you can’t see beyond the visible, you wonder: How can such behavior be “enlightened?” Why did he do that? How can she say this? Isn’t she supposed to be kind and generous? I thought he was a wise, enlightened being.
I remember a talk by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar where he speaks about how we scrutinize the behavior of a so-called enlightened being, trying to guess their motivation. “Why did he scold them? How can he say something so hurtful? Perhaps he hasn’t overcome his own cravings and aversions,” and so on. Gurudev explained that you cannot determine what lies inside such an individual. (Perhaps, nothing?) And you certainly cannot figure it out from their vyavahAr, the outward behavior. And yet it happens that the Self sometimes sparkles through the behavior, and if you are keen, you are able to discern it.
Once we let go of our desire to “become enlightened,” (as opposed to simply being), and we drop the plan of behaving LIKE the one we love and admire, we may be able to truly see through their outer behavior and commentary and actions and responses. And then we may be able to see that there is no need to be LIKE anyone else. Indeed, you can be exactly as you are.
Instead, all we see is their outer behavior AND how our own behavior is not desirable, not “enlightened” or “wise.” And yet, we are so attached to our perceived faults! If a wise person told us, “Drop all that shit; you are free and pure today,” we’d still be doubtful, unsure. Because we feel that the ONLY way to be free and pure is to OWN all that shit. Because if we disowned these so-called faults, how would we improve?