"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, December 25, 2010

'My Own Small Self'

Rabindranath Tagore was the first person from the Indian sub-continent to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was recognized for his opus work, the Gitanjali - a marvelous collection of spiritual poetry that at once evokes the imageries of Sufi poetry and the rich literary and Vedantist heritage of India.

I first heard Tagore's pithy yet profound poem Who is This? on Wayne Dyer's audio recording of A Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. Dr. Dyer dedicates a chapter to Tagore and Who is This? in his collection of essays on his spiritual sources and inspirations: Wisdom of the Ages.

 Who is This? paints a universal picture of a spiritual aspirant taking a brief respite on a midnight walk to reconnect to the Source, only to be confronted with the incessant voice of the human ego bent upon "lending his voice" to every word the aspirant utters.

The poem richly illuminates the universal problem we all face, knowingly or not, in trying to reconnect to the Godhead (no matter how that Godhead is denoted in a particular sect, denomination or religion) always over the objections of the human ego - the eternal 'mind-chatter' that separates us from everyone and everything in the widest cosmos. Let us now channel Tagore's midnight wanderer:
Who is This?
I came out alone on my way to my tryst.
But who is this that follows me in the silent dark?
I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not.
He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger;
he adds his loud voice to every word I utter.
He is my own small self, my lord, he knows no shame:
but I am ashamed to come to your door in his presence.

* * * * * * * 

Picture the hot dusty Indian or Middle Eastern night, when our spiritual sojourner sets out in the dark to gain a greater conscious connection with the source of his being. The restless and relentless voice of the ego excludes the aspirant from the rich silence of his goal: the doorstep of his Lord.  Who is This? thus speaks to the insomnia of the sufferer who is all too separated from peace, and from blessed sleep by the constant demand of the ego's unceasing and disturbing voice.


  1. Thank you for posting this. You're a great writer. Keep it up!

  2. I think all of us one time or the other turn strange to our own selves. we act funny and petty erasing the definition of our own by our very imagination/ also, there are times when helpless and overcome by defeat we turn 'my own small self'


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