Take Refuge in the Self

In honor of Raksha Bandhan, let us reflect on the nature of spiritual protection and what it protects us from.

We normally understand protection as being a safeguard from harm or injury. On the spiritual path, we seek protection from a kind of suffering common to all human beings. This is the suffering that exists in the mind. A mind that thinks, “I’m not good enough,” a mind that worries about the uncertainties of the future, a mind that seeks fulfillment and yet never feels true happiness.

What is the root cause of this suffering? The scriptures and saints of India teach that the source of this suffering is a deep-rooted ignorance of our true Self.

Within each one of us, at the core of our being, there is love that is unconditional and boundless, a wisdom that guides our best actions, an independent joy deeper than we could have ever imagined. Gurumayi teaches that this is our true nature, our own Self. As our Guru tells us, the Self is the power of awareness that animates our being and all of creation.

What happens when we don’t know this inner Truth?

We feel incomplete and deprived of fulfillment. We go here and there looking for genuine happiness, and yet nothing seems to completely satisfy our yearning. This condition can foster fear, restlessness, anxiety, confusion, and even despair.

How can we become free from this suffering? How can we come to know our own Self?

The scriptures and saints of India tell us: it’s through the grace of the Guru, an enlightened spiritual Master. The sacred scripture Shri Guru Gita explains this in verse 34:

Salutations to Shri Guru, who with the collyrium stick of knowledge
opens the eyes of one who is blinded by the darkness of ignorance.

With the bestowal of grace, the Guru removes the darkness of ignorance that veils the Self. In India, people protect their vision from sun glare and dust by applying collyrium ointment to their eyes so they can see more clearly. In a similar way, the Guru cleanses our inner vision by awakening us to the ever blissful, serene reality at the core of our being.

“The collyrium stick of knowledge” stands for the power of Guru’s grace to reveal what has been concealed from our perception. Through shaktipat initiation, the Guru opens our inner eye to the love, the wisdom, and the joy that has always been there. This is the most important event in the life of a spiritual seeker. The Guru then imparts the Siddha Yoga teachings and practices so that we can expand our awareness of the Self. When we dedicate ourselves to sadhana, the spiritual teachings and practices, we stay connected to the Self, and we experience constant spiritual protection—protection from ignorance and suffering.

I recall a dream with Bade Baba that emphasized this point. In this dream, Bade Baba looked at me and said: “You go out a lot.”

A bit baffled by his words, I began to scan my daily activities. Then, respectfully I responded: “Bade Baba, I don’t think I go out a lot.”

He insisted: “Yes, yes. You go out a lot.” I replied: “Well, I do go out for things like the dentist, the doctor, for exercise.”

Bade Baba shook his head: “No, no. You go out a lot.” At that point, he opened his large, beautiful hand and pressed it down on my chest, saying: “Stay here. Stay here. Learn to stay here.”

With Bade Baba’s touch, I immediately entered into a space of great love and supreme contentment.

Reflecting on this experience, I became more conscious of the importance of centering myself in the Self, learning to stay “here” [Swami ji pointed to the heart region on his chest] where I experience spiritual protection. Throughout the day, I pause to ask: “Is this the space of the equanimity and love of the Self?” If it isn’t, then I take a moment to repeat the mantra or meditate. In this way, I draw my awareness back to the eternal buoyancy and joy of the Self.

Know that through the Guru’s divine grace and our engagement with the path shown by the Guru, the realm of spiritual protection is always present and available in our life, at all times.