The Progression of Self-Concept
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2003-04-03
Bodhinatha discusses the talk he delivered to a nice metaphysical group that visited from Chicago, describing the 4 self-concepts we evolve through in life - 1) external ego identity (negative) 2) external ego identity (positive) 3) internal spiritual identity of being the soul (but separate from others) 4) internal spiritual identity of being the core of the soul (one with God). How do we move ourselves through these 4 stages of identity? Of course Merging with Siva tells us how, and two of the primary tools are vasana daha tantra and affirmations.
We had a very special group visit us recently. What's Billy's last name? Billy Topatantay. That is why I have trouble with it! Billy Topatantay. Some of you know her, she brings a group here every year. It is a metaphysical group from Chicago. Some of them have been coming now for two or three years. You can tell they came because there are offerings all over the place. She teaches them to give, to bring flowers for the Deities, bring flowers for this, bring dakshina for the monks. So we are overwhelmed with flowers in the temple and special gifts, dakshina and everything and thank-you notes afterwards. Even afterwards, she encourages them, not all of them do it of course, to write a note of 'thank you' for the talk. How many times do you give a talk and afterwards get five or ten notes of 'thank you for your wonderful talk'?
Ceyonswami says the puja had a very nice vibration that day, which shows they are kind of drawing on the inner worlds, really wanting to get blessed and had been nicely prepared for the experience.
That is what we hope for as a nice model for other groups in the future. That a teacher can prepare the members of his or her group in such a nice way that they can come and really get a lot out of their experience and fit in so beautifully.
I gave a short talk, I was trying to keep it simple. "Swami, kids principles. Keep it simple Swami." A variation on the kid's principle and trying to talk about Hinduism in a simple way, because the group does not have a lot of background in terms of Sanskrit words or concepts. Their heart is right there, they have a certain grasp of metaphysical principles. They have a good feeling for Hinduism without the details or the terminology. So I did not want to burden them with a lot of Sanskrit words or too many different concepts.
Of course, the challenge as any teacher knows is to say something simply and succinctly. It is easy to ramble on forever and it is easy to explain things with complex words. But to say it in a short, concise statement that can be understood by people without a lot of background, that is the challenge.
I went through a few different concepts, three of them to be precise.
One of them was, on what I will call 'the four stages of identity', which is related to, Who am I and who we are not. It is saying here,"We are not our body, mind or emotions, we are divine souls on a wondrous journey." All of this is getting back to that sentence, in a long way. I went through the idea of four different identities.
Quite often we start out with an external, ego identity which is negative. Then, we move to an external, ego identity which is positive. Then, we move to an internal, spiritual identity of being the soul, but separate from others. Then, we move to internal, spiritual identity of being the core of the soul in which case, we are one with everyone and we are experiencing God.
So I went through that explanation starting out by explaining what it is to feel like a negative external identify, feeling unworthy and so forth, where that comes from. It comes from how we are raised primarily by our parents and how that is reinforced by our teachers. If it is done a certain way, we grow up and we have a very poor self concept. We feel we are not worthy, we feel other people are smarter than we are. We have been told we are stupid a lot and we believe it. We end up with that baggage, which could be avoided if the parents and the teachers raised us differently. We have to throw it off.
So afterwards I am told, she talked to one of the monks and she really liked that I went on some length on that point and she said even the children present, there are some 10 or 12 years old, could relate to that point and she was very happy it was being made.The whole idea of how to correct children in a positive way, how to avoid creating this sense of feeling unworthy, this negative external ego. It does not have to be there, we don't have to put it into children. But if we do, then we have to throw it off and move into the positive ego, feeling just as good as everyone else, maybe a little better if we have got some pride. But anyway we are okay. If there is a problem, it belongs to someone else not to us.
We have a positive attitude about what we have to accomplish, though it maybe somewhat egotistical. That is necessary. In other words, we can't go from a negative attitude to feeling we are divine beings. It does not work. "No way are we divine beings, we are a worthless this and that. I can tell you why and all the things I did wrong, all the times that my parents told me I was stupid." We can't move from that consciousness of feeling badly about ourselves to feeling we are divine beings. We have to feel good about ourselves first. Once we do, then we have the chance of moving in to this spiritual identify of being the soul. In terms of our sanskrit terminology, Atma Darsana. We see ourselves as an individual soul, a pure spiritual being.
Then taking that one step deeper, is the Paramatma Darsana. We are going into the core of the soul and experiencing Satchidananda and Parasiva, in our terminology or omnipresence and transcendence. God's omnipresence and God's transcendence.
But that is only half the story. It is a great philosophy. We can sit there and read the Upanishads and get inspired, this is great. You know man is not man, man is God. Atman is Brahman. It can be pretty inspiring stuff to read that.
But what is missing? We don't have the tools to make it a reality in our life. How do we do this? How do we move from a negative self concept to a positive self concept? How do we move from a positive self concept to a divine identity? How do we move from a divine identity to an identity with God?
Well, that is why we have got the other book, 'Merging with Siva'. That has got more tools than we could ever use in one lifetime and it gives us the 'How To'.
That is the beauty of Gurudeva's teachings. It gives the high philosophy but it also gives us practical techniques that we can utilize in our daily life and transform our consciousness over time. In this case, move ourselves through these four stages of identity.
Actually, this was in one of the Lessons recently too, just about the time I was mentioning it. Two of the primary tools for this purpose are the vasana daha tantra and affirmations.
So through clearing the mind out of all the miscellaneous experiences that have happened to us, all the unresolved problems, all the negative situations, harmonizing ourselves with our parents, our teachers, other people, our brothers and sisters where there wasn't harmony before, forgiving people we thought mistreated us and we have grudges against. Going through all of that which is part of the vasana daha tantra, clears out the subconscious. It is like taking out the trash, we have an empty can finally.
Then, we have to remold this subconscious through the power of affirmation. So we have those techniques as well, to develop a sense of being a positive person, that we can accomplish things and then to develop a sense of our divine identity.
Those are just two of the major tools involved in that process. So, all of that is just one sentence, right?