ON THE SHADOW
Phillip Cottingham, Satyavan, Karekare, New Zealand.
Swami often tells stories to illustrate great truths. Like the parables
Jesus told, they allow us to identify with the message that is being
conveyed. Swami gives two stories or analogies that clearly state our
relationship with what we believe is true. He likens it to a man climbing
a coconut tree. On the ground there is the shadow of the tree. As the
man climbs, his shadow is also seen on the ground. The coconut also
casts a shadow. He says we are like the shadow man. We are climbing
the shadow tree in order to reach the shadow coconut. There is no reality
in what we do. We are merely playing at shadows.
He also tells this wonderful story:
Once, at dusk, in a street, a boy was walking along when he came across
an old woman. She was looking all over the ground for something.
The boy asked, ‘Grandma, can I help you?’
She said that she had lost a needle.
‘Where did you lose it?’
‘Inside the house.’
‘Then why are you looking out here?’
‘It’s too dark in the house and I cannot see, so I thought
I would look out here, where there is a street light’.
How many of us are like that old woman – searching for the happiness
we have lost, but looking in the wrong place? We search the world for
happiness. We try to find it in possessions. We try to find it in relationships.
We try to find it in work. But we can never find it. Why? We are looking
in the wrong place. We need to search inside ourselves to find happiness.
The shadow man can never find hunger assuaged by the shadow coconut.
We are the same. We live in the shadow self and we search the shadows
for happiness. It is time we turned and faced the sun.
Sun of Truth
When we are walking along the road away from the sun,
our shadow is large and very apparent. How do we get rid of the shadow?
By turning and looking at the sun. Our apparent being, with its body,
mind, emotions, etc. is the shadow self. While we are looking away
from the Sun of Truth, we will always see the shadow. The shadow travels
over rough ground, thorny bushes or smooth highways, but the person
is not affected one bit by where the shadow goes. So too, our shadow
self goes through the ups and downs of life, the pleasure and the
pain, but the real Self – the Atma, is not affected one iota
by this. Why then do we experience such highs and lows? Because we
are identified with the shadow self.
Therefore to turn and face the Sun of Truth, the Truth of our own
being is the first step on the path. This turning may be complete
or partial, but it is a start. If we turn completely we begin to see
the light – the light of who we really are. There are those
who have turned, seen the light and walked towards it, finally merging
in it. There are those who have turned, seen the light and stood still
in wonder, as if rooted to the spot. There are those who have turned,
seen the light, found it too bright, for it shows all the imperfections
laid over their soul, and turned back. Lastly, there are those who
have never turned, never seen the light and deny its very existence,
preferring to remain in the shadows, chasing shadow happiness.
Which type are we? What do we wish to do? It is apparent that it is
not enough to turn and look at the light, without walking towards
it. This is the path of many of us who come to Sai, exclaim how wonderful
He is, how He is God, miraculous, the great one, etc. and make no
attempt to transform our lives. We are stuck in the wonder of the
light, but have not realised that we have to walk towards it and become
one with it.
Then there are those of us who have come to Baba, basked in the glow
of His Grace, and then realised that there is work to do. We have
imperfections and ego, all of those things that are in the makeup
of most of us, but we can work on ourselves by helping others.
Some even turn away. As if this was not disappointing enough, some
even have the temerity to cast aspersions on Him and His message.
There are others who have heard of the light but refuse to look. They
remain in the darkness, pursuing false happiness, finding in the end,
that it only leads to pain and misery. Both these are part of the
shadow self. They may have heard that there is a light, but they choose
to remain in darkness.
There are some who have yet to hear of the light. For these souls,
that time is to come, for the light is there and all will eventually
come to know of it.
The Shadow Self
So what is it that keeps us from travelling towards the light? What
prevents us from truly opening our inner eye and seeing what is really
there? Even if we have become dissatisfied with the world, there is
still an inertia, which slows our footsteps. This inertia may take
the form of physical discomfort, depression, laziness, hopelessness
or any other feeling that drags us down. It may be a lack of faith,
a feeling that we are not worthy, or a sense of being too small or
mean. All of these are tools of the shadow self to keep itself in
The shadow self likes to think that it has the upper hand. It uses
diverse means, deceitful means to keep things that way. However much
we may wish to change, the inertia that resists change is very powerful,
but not insurmountable. The shadow self is the master of lies. In
the Christian tradition the devil is portrayed as the master of lies.
The devil is not an external force or being, just as demons in the
Hindu tradition are not external beings. The devil is that which attempts
to keep us from realising the Truth of our own being.
In horror movies darkness is the tool of terror. Whenever there is
a need to create a scene that will frighten, darkness is used to set
the scene. The shadow self, the demon, the devil, the vampire, uses
the darkness inside us to create fear. That fear will keep us in a
state of panic. You know, when we are in a state of panic, we cannot
move, we cannot act. We are rooted to the spot, our hair standing
on end and our body all a tremble. This is how the shadow self keeps
us from walking towards the light. We remain rooted to the spot, unable
to move. Thus we are under the power of this false god. The Deva and
the devil are but two aspects of our own being; two sides of one coin.
We need to understand this clearly.
and the Light
We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. Laughter is the greatest
defense, the greatest weapon against fear. In laughter we are lifted
up out of the mire of fear and depression. If we take ourselves (the
shadow self that is) lightly, then it will have less power over us.
That is why Baba often uses humour to reduce the effect of the shadow
self, the false self. In that laughter, we begin to realise that there
is something more behind all this. There is a reality, which is attempting
to break through and show us who we really are.
First we feel that we are in the light. We stand in the light of His
Love. All around us is light. It is a wonderful feeling. We are bathed
in light. We begin to realise that the shadow self has no power compared
to the light. However, if we stop there we are like the one who stands
and looks at the light. Wonderful though the experience is, we must
move from that place if we wish to evolve.
We must take that light and bring it inside of us. This is the next
step. This involves beginning to root out all that is false inside
of us. The falseness inside us is merely shadow. If we allow the light
to bathe our hearts, the anger, greed, jealousy, hatred, delusion
and pride, all the six enemies identified by Baba, will begin to disappear.
But we have to take the step of bringing the light inside of us. We
have to shine a light on these facets of the shadow self. We have
to acknowledge that they exist inside, then realise the falsehood
of their existence. Then they will gradually dissolve in the light
of our new consciousness.
with the Light
Lastly, we have to take the last step and realise that the light is
not separate from us, but that we are One with the light. This is
the greatest and the hardest step of all, for it involves that most
subtle of all the tools of the shadow self, the ego. If we are not
separate, then we cannot boost ourselves in any way. We cannot be
proud, or possessive or any of the other aspects that we have cultivated
so carefully and dutifully over the years. Instead, we have to become
humble, prepared to be a small part of the whole, rather than separate
from the whole. The paradox is, that when this happens, we begin to
realise that true greatness lies, not in being separate, different,
extraordinary, but in making ourselves a vessel for that which is
greater, stronger, higher and purer than the illusory self.
So the shadow begins to dissolve. The process begins, and is ever
beginning for as long as we do not realise our unity with the Light
of the Sun of Truth. Let us resolve to turn from the shadow self,
bask in the sun of Love, walk towards that sun and become one with
it. It is the only path there is. All other paths lead to dead ends.
The methods may differ, but the goal is the same. The realisation
of our Oneness with all that is.
Cottingham, Satyavan, Karekare, New Zealand