Some years ago a friend told us a story. She had heard a chant at Ananda, which goes:
Before my eyes,
My dead self lies,
Oh, bliss beyond compare.
But she had somehow misheard the words and thought for years that the last line said, “hopeless beyond compare.”
Isn’t it interesting how misperceptions can turn truth on its head? Now, instead of the bliss that comes through the death of the ego, the song became an affirmation of the worst sort of self-image where she saw herself as hopeless. Self-esteem is a vital ingredient for success and happiness, and many people are crippled for life by the lack of it. Probably all of us have to deal with this demon to some degree.
Is low self-esteem really a demon? Paramhansa Yogananda taught that there is a conscious negative force pushing creation toward separation and isolation, and this is what is called Satan. Creation exists because of duality — light and dark make a picture, first inhalation and final exhalation make a lifetime, and positive and negative charges in atoms makes a physical universe.
These opposing forces, of separation and unity, call them “Satan” and “Samadhi, “are also at play in our minds. Each of us has the free will to attune ourselves to one pull or the other, one leading to “bliss beyond compare,” and the other to “hopeless beyond compare.” Master said, “Any thought that makes us doubt ourselves comes from Satan.”
Wouldn’t we all prefer a positive self-image? There are hundreds of books, articles, and studies showing us how to build self-esteem. Ah, but which self are we talking about? — The little self of the ego, or the big Self of the soul? While it is important to develop a positive self-image, there is a limit to how far even the best psychology can take us. Self-esteem is a stepping-stone not a goal. Even the healthiest ego still leaves us in delusion. As truth seekers, we want to break the delusion of the ego, which Swami Kriyananda called, “a bundle of self-definitions.” And yet, it simply does not work to suppress the ego. We must break delusion’s spell by expanding our self-identity.
True self-confidence comes by realizing ourselves as the soul, as an individualized expression of God. Ironically this comes with the death of the ego, which is expressed beautifully in the chant, “I am the Bubble, Make Me the Sea.” The bubble, no matter how big or beautiful, will always be fragile and, ultimately, hopeless. Bliss is described in the final lines of the great poem, “Samadhi”: “A tiny bubble of laughter, I am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.”
So, when the demon of hopelessness attacks, throw him out by singing, “I am the Bubble, Make Me the Sea,” or repeat over and over, “A tiny bubble of laughter, I am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.”