Two Sprites


   by Peter Holleran

   "In every life we have some trouble; when you worry you make it double." - Bobby McFerrin

   "The cessation of all worries is the attainment of the supreme truth." - Ramana Maharishi

   "Even the devil can do nothing to a man as long as he can laugh." - Sardar Jagat Singh

   "Worrying is praying for failure." - Ishwar Puri


   The title of this brief article was chosen from a favorite statement of Kirpal Singh that “HURRY and WORRY” - the “two sprites” - are often our downfall. The metaphor is appropriate, as a 'sprite' is an ellusive elfish creature that can influence human events, to the consternation of those involved.

   Mostly everyone knows inside that he is not the All Mighty, or the Master-Power behind all events, and, therefore, that all the worry in the world is not helpful in achieving what he desires. “Concern is your concession to unconsciousness,” a spiritual brother of mine once said. 'Consideration', not concern in the ego sense, is an appropriate disposition for the enlightened soul. It is true caring. For what is concern but a veiled form of worry, or doubt in the ever-present, ever-fulfilled, ever-achieved divine goodness and grace? We feel that if we are 'worried' about someone, for instance, we are caring for them, while what we are actually doing is denying our divine nature. Wherefore the Prajnaparamitra Sutra says:

   "Live with skillful nonchalance and ceaseless [non-egoic] concern."

   Yet ever since the plaintive sighs of Job, we still fret and strain over our plight; but is worry a man’s responsibility? What good does it do?! Is it not a primary expression of unenlightenment? ‘Let go and let God’, ‘do your best and let God do the rest,’ ‘man proposes and God disposes,’ are various expressions of such wisdom. Probing a little deeper, however, we also encounter the following aspect.

   Does anyone ever get the feeling they are choking on themself? That ego is literally strangling one in each instant? The etymology of one important word in our language stands out as proof of this:

   ”Worry: (Old English) to strangle, throttle, kill by violence; (Middle English) to seize by the throat and tear or lacerate, e.g., dogs or wolves attacking sheep."    (Oxford English Dictionary)

   Dramatic words, yes; true words, sadly, also yes. At least that is what the traditions have said. At the root of ego, besides fear, or doubt, is worry. Positively, the ego is necessary to get us onto and through the path. Negatively, until it becomes ‘ripe’, well-satiated and saturated with experience, however, it resists its eventual surrender to the Soul or Self, and trips us up every step of the way. It will even, as Paul Brunton (PB) said, ‘welcome a large attrition of its scope’ (1) in order to insure its survival. That means that if it can assume the role of humble spiritual seeker, it will do so, but it won’t give itself up without a knock-down drag-out fight, in most instances. The ego is thus our greatest help and greatest enemy. It rises us up from animals by allowing for self-reflection, but allows us to remain lower than animals by keeping us separate and away from all that is good, holy, and happy. Anthony Damiani once remarked:

   “Think of the Overself constantly manifesting throughout eons of time, and that you came up from the stone, through the plant, through the animal, and into the human species, and that in all this process of manifestation, the ego was concerned with one thing, preserving itself. And then if you conceive of that tendency - which is only a thought but strong enough to strangle us every moment of the day - if you conceive of that tendency, then you tell me that tendency knows the higher Awareness? Of course not. The only thing it knows is that it must preserve intact that tendency to go on being what it is.”

   AH: ”The Buddhists point out that the ego has no permanence, that wherever you look for it, you can’t find it.”

   Anthony: “But it’s strangling you every moment! It doesn’t matter that I can’t find it.” (1a)

   The offered solution, of course, the way out, so to speak, is that the ego must be refined, matured, and dedicated to the quest, in which it will face self-emolation at the end, ‘like a stick being used to stir a fire’ being eventually thrown into the fire itself. Paradoxically, however, in this non-dual world we live in, the ego survives as a function, but without the taint of egoism.

   This form of metaphor of choking or thorn in one’s throat was used long ago by Sankara in his Vivekachudamani:

   “Therefore destroying this egoism, thy enemy - which appears like a thorn sticking in the throat of a man taking his meal - with the great sword of realization, enjoy directly and freely the bliss of thy own empire, the majesty of the atman.”

   Swami Ranaganathananda comments:

   “This egoism is our greatest enemy (ahamkaramimam svasatru). It is like a thorn sticking in the throat of a man taking his meal (bhokturgate kantakavatpratitam). As long as there is this thorn, man is constantly choked.” (2)

   Interestingly, in the field of somatic psychology, David Boadella, Director of the Center for Biosynthesis, argued that there were two primary ‘rings’ of tension, one, at the level of the root of the neck, which, along with the tension in the diaphragm, effectively cuts off feeling at the heart. He called these two areas of tension the ‘linchpins’ of the entire process of bodily armoring. (3)

   So we are truly choking transcendentally, psychologically, and at times even pysically. Not a nice way to be. What can we do?

   In our day and age, each personality is more often than not suffering from a permanent inferiority complex. It is that, in fact, which is a direct manifestation of his sense of separation from the whole. One of the most direct manifestations of this condition is negative speech, both spoken and unspoken. We are spiritually suppressed, falsely humble and afraid to assert our true identity, which is the divinity. Instead of readily saying 'YES' to life, and 'I AM,' the most powerful words in existence, we think the negative, the fearful, the safe, the secure, and inwardly dwell on 'poor me,' 'I am not good enough,' or 'I can’t do it.' Isn’t it the truth? In fact, a good case can be made for religious dogma having kept this attitude in place, as well as also having survived because of it. In short, the depressed, suppressed, and repressed 'I am not God' or, even worse, 'I am just a worm,' self-statementsmay even be more defining impediments to true spiritual freedom than the apparently bombastic declarations 'I am God', or 'I am divine.' Thus, what may be counter-intuitive in the face of thousands of years of conventional worldly and spiritual teachings alike may be just what is needed at this time, at least to counter an inertial mass of old dogma and philosophy. They are dualistic assertions, to be sure, but for many may be just what the doctor ordered.

   “Why do you say that you are a sinner? Your trust in God is sufficient to save you from rebirths. Cast all burden onto Him. In the Tiruvachakam it is said: “Though I am worse than a dog, you have graciously undertaken to protect me. This delusion of birth and death is maintained by you. Moreover, am I the person to sift and judge? Am I the Lord here? Oh Maheswara! It is for you to roll me through bodies (by births and deaths) or keep me fixed at your own feet.” Therefore have faith and that will save you.” - Ramana Maharshi (4)

   This false humility (all in good faith, but deluded nevertheless), manifests as a block at the throat center, at times a literal sense of 'choking,' a veritable implosion of the being. When combined with a teaching of exclusive mystical inversion or escape, for instance, it can lead to a very artificial, unnatural, and distorted form of spirituality, yet one which unfortunately also has much precedent behind it. It manifests in many forms of withholding, on the human level specifically as a lack of praise - praise being the cure for the loveless heart - and an inabiity to take joy in the good fortune and success of others, thereby keeping us feeling separated as well. It puts a clamp on our true nature, divine identity and potential. It kills initiative, and the exercise of bold, decisive and daring soul powers. It keeps us small. Ultimately, it keeps us in a permanent state of stagnation on the path. Worry what others might 'think,' 'say,' or 'do' - or worries what 'God' or 'guru' might think, say, or do, the list goes on and on. One gets the picture. We become small, while secretly thinking we are big, because we never actually see our egoic pretensions clash with reality which would result in a 'natural deflation' or 'equalization' and, simultaneously, a genuine rebirth in consciousness.

   We worry about 'doing it wrong,' 'getting it right,' 'not making a big mistake,' or 'being deluded.' While these may be legitimate, they can also lead to the condition of what C.S. Lewis referred to as “being so afraid of being taken in that one can’t be taken out.”

   So why worry? It is said that when faced with a situation there are two possibilities. Either there is nothing we can do about it, and in that case there is nothing to worry about. Or there is something we can do about it, and in that case there is also nothing to worry about!

   “We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” - Joseph Campbell

   “Man will enjoy his freedom as soon as he ceases to believe that he needs to free himself, as soon as he throws from his shoulders the terrible duty of salvation...[While doing so he understands that] satori represents the end of this distress which is at the centre of one’s whole psychic life and in which one’s joys are only truces; is it intelligent to ask me why I strive [in the right way] to obtain this complete and final relief?...And, if my understanding is right, I am not afraid that death may come, today or tomorrow, to interrupt my efforts before their attainment. Since the problem of my suffering ends with me why should I worry myself because I am unable to resolve it?” - Hubert Benoit (5)

   Ishwar Puri in a talk on his life story offers this anecdote regarding surrender of all worry to the Master, a simple path openly offered and available - but not so easy, as it goes against all that we have learned how to do for many, many years:

   "I went to the Great Master [Baba Sawan Singh]. I said, “I heard your discourse today. What about a deal in that marketplace?” He said, “Sure.” I said, “A deal means I give you something; you give me something. It is a transaction. Isn’t that right?” He said, “Exactly.”

   In a marketplace a business deal is you get something and you pay for it in another way, so you give something and you take something. Great Master agreed that is a deal. So I said, “Master, how about I give you all the pain and suffering and worry that I will get in this world, and you give me all the joy and happiness.” I thought he might laugh at it. He said, “Done.”

   From that day, He has kept His word and I have kept mine. What a deal! That such a deal was possible I could not imagine. It worked! Now people say, “We want the deal.” I said, “Sure, anybody can get this deal. Anybody can get the deal.” The difficulty is not in getting the deal. The difficulty is getting to do your own share of the deal. The share of the deal was, “I will give my worry and my problems to you.” People don’t do that. They worry themselves, and then the deal breaks. If you are really ready to give your worry and your problems to the Master, He will take care of it!...There is nothing to be guilty about because the deal is open to all. We have to be ready for it. If we are not ready for the deal, we are not willing to give up our worries and problems and do not have enough faith in a Master, how will you get the deal? The deal requires complete, unshakeable faith that the Master will do everything for you, and He will do everything for you. It’s a question of the level of your faith. If you don’t have faith, ... if you say, 'well, I want to give him the problem but I am not sure if He knows really enough how to handle it,' … then there is no deal!”


   PB writes:

   "You will have turned over the matter or problem if certain signs appear: first, no more anxiety or fretting about it; second, no more stress or tension over it; third, no more deliberating and thinking concerning it...If he turns his problem over to the Overself in unreserved trust, he must admit no thoughts thereafter of doubt or fear.If they still knock at his door he must respond by remembering his surrender." 5a

   So, why worry? We are in good hands. As a practical consideration, beyond the obvious polarities, God might be said to be the ultimate Positive, for which there is no negative. In Tibetan Buddhism, Samantabhadra, the sky-blue Buddha representing the Dharmakaya or Ultimate Reality is defined as the "all good," or "good in all circumstances." If such were our personal attitude it would be grand indeed. Watch how many times we say “no,’ and then simply say “YES!” Or "Fiat!", "Thy will be done," as St. Francis de Sales would say.


   And the other sprite - “HURRY”? While the human birth remains precious, and ‘time and tide wait for no man,' are no doubt true assertions, they are only half-truth. Swami Satchidananda makes an important point:

   “When I began to learn the English language, I noticed that everything related to time was tense: ’Past - tense...future - tense...present - tense.’ It made me wonder if I wanted to be on time - it seems that every time in your culture is tense!” (6)

   "HURRY: 16th c. - commotion or aggitation, physical, social, or political; disturbance, tumult; a confused crowd, a mob." (Oxford English Dictionary)

   To hurry, as opposed to 'make haste from a basis of thoughtful deliberation', is to take on the above confused qualities. The 'two sprites' might be seen as the opposite of the practices of calm-abidance (samatha) and insight (vipassana). When we worry, we lose access to insight; when we hurry, we are not calm-abiding.

   This is not meant as a heavy moral imperative. We will do it as long as we do it. There is no guilt or shame. It is human nature. But it bears pointing out, as it is symptomatic of our sense of bondage, the tension that is ‘choking us to death’.

   The world is simply too much with us. G.K. Chesterton is famous for saying, "the angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” Perhaps that is why the Tibetan masters laugh so much? For it is safe to say that one who knows God knows laughter. Here are a few things some others have had to say on this subject:

   “When you're in a hurry, take the long way around.” - Japanese proverb

   "Hasten slowly and you will soon arrive." - Milarepa

   “Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely.” - Chang Chao

   "Time is love." - anonymous

   "Compassion is the real essence of religion..I myself feel and also tell other Buddhists that the question of nirvana will come later. There is not much hurry. But if in day to day life you lead a good life, honestly with love, with compassion, with little selfishness: then automatically it will lead to nirvana." - H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama (7)

   All paths seem to have essentially two stages and/or messages. One, time is precious, and we have work to do, and, two, that very disposition is a stumbling block to realization. One has to try hard in the beginning, but then stop seeking for liberation. It is an inevitable paradox, given our human condition. Yet, even when in the ‘striving’ mode, one can still not ‘hurry’ or ‘worry’; it is possible and necessary to have peace while yet on the road to perfection.

   This is one way of saying it is necessary to love oneself, in order to love others. This, too, of course, is a paradox. The aspect of 'trying' in either case will fail, which in itself will lead to success! Nevertheless, the application of such self-love is not negative ego, but a negation of negative ego, which likes to hide behind a wall of denial and inferiority. Perhaps for those in the West, this is more important than the great battle or struggle with ego that the traditions are always talking about. I say, let it live, let it achieve, don’t harm it too much. Let it come out of hiding. Become unique. This is not to be naive, but rather, to be the divine expression. You are anyway. Know the fallible human person to be Atman as well. It’ll make things easier in the long run. Alan Cohen writes:

   "The universe does not reward us before we act. Life can teach us only when we are bold enough to venture into uncharted territory. healing always occurs outside the "safe" zone. Real learning comes when we try something we have never done before. You cannot know the result until you do it. Our ego wants guarantees, warranties, and promises of success before we even step onto the stage of life. But few great actors have been assured of acclaim for any role before they played it." (8)

   And:

   "There is a divine form of pretense that God just loves. It is to pretend that you are great. To act as if you are worthy of all of your good. To claim the authority of one who is born of royalty. To honor your passions and deeds as if you love yourself. To forge ahead with the confidence that nothing is impossible...Step beyond the gate of fear and you will hear a comforting bell echo in the temple of your heart. It is said that "the Spirit within us loves to hear the truth about itself." To behold our life through the eyes of God is to see ourselves as we are."

   But:

   "Be careful of the role you take on, because you may become what you lead other people to believe you are" [for better or worse]. (9)

   This is simple but powerful, practical advice which, when taken imaginatively and not through the lens of an exacting metaphysics, can work wonders.

   PB writes similarly on one of the central messages of the philosophic quest:

   ”Its practical application is: act as the Long Path requires by working on and improving the self, but think as the Short Path enjoins by holding the attitude, "There is nothing to be attained. Realization is already here and now!" (10)

   [click here for background on the “Long and Short Paths”].

   He further adds:

   “On the Short Path he becomes aware of the fact of forgiveness. He leaves out the constant self-criticism and self-belittling, the painstaking self-improvement practices, of the other Path, and begins to take full note of this saving fact.”

   “There is no wish on the Short Path to be better than he is, no desire to improve his character or purify his mind, no sense of being obligated to rectify the distortions brought about by the ego in both thought and feeling.”

   “You are in the Overself’s hands even now and if the fundamental aspiration is present, your development will go on without your having to be anxious about it. Let the burden go. Do not become a victim of too much suggestion got from reading too much spiritual literature creating an artificial conception of enlightenment.”

   “Once we become conscious of this truth the scales fall from our eyes. We give up our bondage to the erroneous belief in limitation. We refuse to entertain the false thought that there is some lofty conclusion to be attained in the far future. We are resolute that the Self shall recognize itself now.”

   “It was said in Palestine that those who seek shall find. But it was also said in India that those who do not seek shall find.”

   “The sense of time’s pressure which spurs the Long Path follower disappears from the Short Path follower. He becomes carefree of time and squanders it shamelessly, as if he has INFINITE LEISURE.”
(11)

   Too much struggle only keeps us back. Love speed is no speed! The Masters do the same. They work tirelessly in constant motion, yet without a care in the world. Dedication, striving, commitment, yes; worry, hurry, no sale. This is the ideal, for it is love in action. It is also who we are in this world.

   The concept is simple. We are inseparable from the Whole, the Self, the Creator. Work when inspired, or wait for guidance. And trust yourself. This applies in all areas of life, material or spiritual.

   Don’t worry, be happy”.....Sounds too simple? They’ll be time enough for tears - oceans of them - the advice is: 'don’t worry' about that either.

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1. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 6, 8:4.167
1a. Anthony Damiani, Standing In Your Own Way (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 14-15
2. Swami Ranganatahananda, The Message of Vivekachudamani (Kolkata, India: Advaita Ashram, 2008), p. 320-321
3. David Boadella, Lifestreams: An Introduction to Biosynthesis, (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 166
4. Hubert Benoit, Zen and the Psychology of Transformation (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1990), p. 17
5. Talks with Ramana Maharshi
5a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol 12, Part Two, 4.98,4.104
6. Alan Cohen, Dare To Be Yourself (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991), p. 106
7. Tenzin Gyatso, Kindness, Clarity, and Light
8. Cohen, op. cit., p. 192-193
9. Ibid, p. 327, 301
10. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988), Vol. 16, Part 1, 5.154
11. Ibid, Vol. 16, Part 1, 5

   "You'll see it when you believe it." - Dr. Wayne Dyer