Expert Column: Self-discovery is not all darkness; there can be light too
“The spiritual sun already blazes within.” Sri Dharma Mittra In 1955 Thailand, a stone Buddha statue (made of stucco) that had been forgotten was to be moved from one location to a newly constructed temple. During
“The spiritual sun already blazes within.” Sri Dharma Mittra
In 1955 Thailand, a stone Buddha statue (made of stucco) that had been forgotten was to be moved from one location to a newly constructed temple. During the arduous task of moving such a large and heavy piece, it slipped from the ropes that were holding it, and the statue cracked. Those who were moving it were horrified. But then they looked at the crack and noticed that something was sparkling inside the crack.
They looked a little closer and intrigued, they began to peel away the stone and plaster to reveal that the statue was shining solid gold (later to be realized that it was actually around 5 tons of 80% pure gold)! Scholars estimate it to have been constructed around the 13th century. It is believed that at that time, the monks who were guarding the temple where it was housed decided to cover their precious Golden Buddha statue with clay and plaster to prevent it from getting stolen or damaged from the Burmese invasion. Most likely the monks were killed and their secret of the valuable treasure remained hidden for hundreds of years. Only recently its true identity was revealed.
We are like this Buddha: Incredibly valuable and brilliant—shiny and holding great potential. However through various reasons, we sometimes hide our own light. This act of covering our real self soon becomes a habit. This goes on for sometime and eventually we even trick ourselves into believing we are the stone, when in fact we are pure gold. We wear masks and cover our divine nature and identify more with the masks rather than our true self. We convince ourselves that we are the mask and spend lots of time improving the mask instead of polishing the gold. We forget our real self is already pure and of great worth.
The journey to the self begins with the realization that we are more than these outer masks. Peeling away the layers is not always so easy or pleasant, and we feel growing pains along the way. However, immense freedom and light is cultivated and we feel bliss in the discovery of the true self.
Practicing the 8 limbs of yoga is a wonderful path to help us realize that the true self is peace and bliss. Through the process of yoga (which means connection or unity) we perform tapas (or purification methods) that help to crack open the hard shell and shed these layers that hide our intrinsic worth. These methods include careful observance of the Yamas (how we treat others) and Niyamas (how we treat ourselves) including the great practice of svadhyaya (self-reflection), and cultivating discrimination in our daily life. We practice karma yoga (selfless service) to release attachment to ego. We practice asana (the postures) and other exercises to bring radiant health to the body. By performing pranayama, the breathing exercises, we purify the energy in our body removing blocks and stagnation. We learn how to appreciate meditation in every walk of life. This is just to name a few of methods we apply along the journey to realizing the self.
“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen
Just as the Golden Buddha needed to crack in order to be revealed, the same is the case with us. Sometimes we hold on to the masks…we feel they are protecting us. And maybe in some ways, they are. Perhaps the mask serves a specific purpose for us. And that’s ok. We first learn to open our eyes to the realization that the mask is there. Then in time and only when we are ready, we are able to peel away the mask, bit by bit. We let go of those very masks and layers that aren’t serving us anymore. We then realize the true self.
The Search for the Self
It is natural to search for meaning and purpose outside ourselves in the form of teachers and books, travel etc. These guides shine light onto the pathway to ultimately bring ourselves back to ourselves. They act as a catalyst for change and transformation. Take your time and choose your teachers wisely. Beware of those things that take you away from yourself. Self-realization illuminates the very bliss that is already inside of us. We then realize that we don’t need the external to keep us happy and whole. Ben Howard says it so well in his song entitled Only Love: “All I was searchin’ for was me”.
Just like the sun is covered on a cloudy day, we know that the sun is still there, behind the clouds. It is the same with our peace.We know on some level that our peace, which is the real self, just gets covered up sometimes through life experiences. But it is always there, just waiting, under those layers of clay to shine bright. Everything is already inside.