A Disease Called ‘Ego’

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

I have always been a difficult person, even in the ashram in Rishikesh. The ashram rule was that before food was served, a swami would collect a tiffin from the kitchen and carry it to Vishwanath Mandir. There the food was offered to the deity and pooja took place. Tulsi leaves and Ganga jala were sprinkled on the tiffin of food before it came back to the kitchen, where it was mixed with the rest of the food. Only then would the bell go. That was the tradition and discipline of the ashram.

One day a professor came to the ashram. Swami Sivananda liked him very much because during his days as a mendicant he used to move about with Swamiji and sing kirtan and bhajan. It was about 10 am. Swami Sivananda told me, “Swami Satyananda, give him food.” I said, “Swamiji, pooja is not over!” He said, “He is also God, serve him first!” I said, “So why did you make that rule? If he is God, I am also God and everybody who eats at 10 am is also God! Why did you make the rule that the food must be offered first to Lord Vishwanath, sanctified and brought back to the kitchen before anyone is served? Where is the rule today?” Swamiji was about ten or fifteen yards away from me. I took the bunch of keys and threw them at him, saying, “You look after the kitchen!”

Straight away, I went to my room and locked myself in for three or four days. I did not open the door. I was so angry, so suffocated, so frustrated. I did not know what to do! He was my guru! I could not beat him! I could not abuse him and I could not complain to anyone! I did not know how to make peace with him. Sometimes it becomes difficult to make peace even if one wants to. Being an egoistic man, I did not come out at all for three or four days.

Finally, my body gave way. I went to the kitchen and quietly took a little food! The swamis were quiet and did not disturb me. When I came back, Swami Sivananda met me on the way. He said, “Om Namo Narayanaya. How are you?” I said, “I am all right.” He said, “Will you have a cup of coffee?” I said, “Yes.” I thought, at least it could be a point of reconciliation. Swami Sivananda never took coffee, but he used to keep coffee, particularly for me. Whenever I went to him about some work he would make coffee.

He did not mention this incident at all to anybody and never admonished me by moralizing and saying, “Look here, God is in every face!” He knew that I was suffering from a disease called ‘ego’ and that it was difficult for him to perform an egodectomy on me. So he thought it was better to keep quiet.

It is difficult to define what surrender is and what the shape of the ego is. Does it mean that when I have a personality, views and principles and am arrogant about them, that I am not a disciple? I am also a disciple because I have accepted Swami Sivananda as my guru, not ninety­nine point nine percent but one hundred and ten percent! He is the guru and therefore he will perform the egodectomy operation on me. He does it with a good motive, not a bad motive. A sadhaka or aspirant has to be humble, not offensive. He should not be bitter or revengeful. Intellectually I understood everything, but still I could not accept it!

Published in Sivam Satyam Sundaram