Which to know first: yourself or God?
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Swami J's Newsletter
December 6, 2001
Swami Rama tells a delightful story about one time when he got angry
with his teacher and said, "After all these years you still have not
shown me God. All these great swamis come to you to learn and they go
away happily, saying that they have attained something, but I have
not attained anything. I don't want to be a hypocrite any more. You
show me God, or I will leave you in the morning!"
He says his teacher then told him, "Tomorrow morning I will show you
God." He said he was so excited that he could not sleep all night,
nor eat his supper. He asked, "Can you tell me one thing: why didn't
you show me God seventeen years ago? Why are you doing it now, after
all these years?" His teacher replied, "You never asked to see God
before, and today you asked me, so I will definitely show you God in
The next morning he was extremely devoted to his teacher, prostrating
and bowing before him, and bringing him flowers, unlike when he would
usually just say "Good morning, Sir." His teacher asked, "What is
this abnormal behavior?"
"You are going to show me God," he said. The teacher said, "That is
why you are doing all these rituals? Okay, son, sit down. First, tell
me what type of God you want to see."
"Type of God? I never thought about that question! Are there types of
God?" asked the young student of his teacher. The teacher
answered, "Not really, but you must have your own concept of God, and
I don't want to change your concept. You think about it and however
you conceive God in your mind, whatever the picture you have in your
mind about God, I will show you God according to that concept."
"But I have not yet formed any concept of God," he said. Then his
teacher replied, "The day you develop one, I'll show it to you."
After narrating the story, Swami Rama then explains what his teacher
was trying to teach him: "His point was that our minds create
concepts like God. But the mind can never have a full concept of God,
because the mind does not have such a vast capacity. God cannot be
truly conceptualized by the human mind. Most of us create a limited
concept of God and Guru, and later on, we find that both are actually
different than what we conceived. In my case, for seventeen years I
had had a notion of God, which crumbled in five minutes' time."
He goes on to tell how his teacher further explained, "Shall I show
you God as it is, or do you want to see God the way you want to see
Him? If I show you God as it is, you will not believe it because the
picture in your mind is different, and if I show you God the way you
THINK it is, that image is already there. Either way, you will not be
convinced. The best way is to understand yourself first." *
In loving service,
* Swami Rama, The Art of Joyful Living
Guided meditation, December 13:
24-Hour Retreat, December 15: