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Don't forget, you are not your shadow

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Due to ignorance, man identifies the Atman, the Self, with the anatman, the not-Self.

You are the infinite, immortal Spirit, but as a result of the misunderstanding that you are matter, you share the limitations and sorrows of the world of matter. You are intellectually convinced that you are this body and this alone is real. And thus, from morning till evening, all your efforts are directed towards nourishing this body; you bathe it, powder it, apply perfume and make it happy with various sense objects – one cushion here, one cushion there! Thereby you become bound like the silkworm in its cocoon woven by its own threads. This is the bondage of man and brings in its wake the miseries of birth and death.


It is difficult to tell anybody ‘You are not the body,’ because they will only say, ‘Swamiji, there is something wrong with you!’

If you consider your shadow to be you, sorrow is natural. You can’t move anywhere. You will scream, ‘I am being dragged on the road! The traffic is passing over me.’ In the same way, you think that you are the body, the not-Self. So, sorrow is natural. All that you have to know is: ‘I am this, the Atman, and not that anatman’; just as you know that you are different from your shadow. This will put an end to all your sorrows.

You – the Self, the Divine, nothing but the Supreme – are identifying with this little package of flesh and bones and say, ‘I am this.’ Then you say, ‘I am suffering.’ You are all-pervading and you have thrust yourself into this physical body. Naturally, there will be suffering.

How did you reach this misconception? The cause is non-apprehension of Reality – ignorance of your own Self. This body is non-existent. It is non-existent in the same sense as the body in the dream is unreal. You get burnt in the dream; you scream in sorrow because you identify with the dream body.

So long as you are identified with the BMI – body, mind and intellect – you will suffer from a sense of bondage. By identifying with the tragedies of the body, you experience them as your own tragedies.

The silkworm gets its thread from itself, its own saliva. Then, with that thread, it covers and builds a cocoon around itself. It cannot get out of it! You and I are also in the same condition, caught in our own traps. All the sorrows are because of this misconception, because you think of yourself as this body.

Whenever you are not conscious of this limitation, you are in an inspired mood and outshine your own abilities and capacities while functioning in the world outside. In deep sleep, when there is no identification with the body, you are in pure happiness, and the sorrows of the body, mind, intellect and the world do not touch you. The outer world makes you a slave only when you are identified with the BMI.

That is the secret of all sense of limitation and suffering. We must learn to discriminate and begin to live the glory of our evolution as human beings.

The writer is the founder of Chinmaya Mission

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