Praise and you won’t have to raise your voice. Nothing improves our hearing better than praise. William Shakespeare rephrased, “Praises are my wages”, and Sant Tulsidas summarized, “Man lives for and lives on praises.” The deepest desire in every heart is the desire to be appreciated. Perhaps healthy appreciation is a need, but greed for appreciation is a disease.
I know of a successful person who pays people to praise him… at parties, in meetings… regularly through calls or messages. He feels depressed if he doesn’t hear great things about himself. If this is shocking, then what are paid columns, commissioned biographies and hired PR companies who artfully craft the public image of personalities? It’s sophisticated self-projection. Modern narcissism!
While we ridicule Narcissus for losing himself in his own reflection, are we not his mini-versions? Almost in every photograph we seek our face first. From the age-old compulsion of carving our names on tree trunks to the contemporary craze for selfies settles the case of our self-fascination.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan calls it ‘The bone of ego’ in the holy Vachanamrut (Gadhada II 41), “A dog doggedly chews upon a bare, bloodless bone till its own gums bleed. Tasting fresh blood, the dog relentlessly relishes the bone. But little does it realize that it is its own blood.” This is how egoists fool themselves. Their self-absorption, acute narcissism, drives them to spend their money, energy and time to self-aggrandize till they completely expend themselves. In living to impress others, they depress themselves. Egoists think they are becoming bigger and bigger, but the truth is they are becoming smaller and smaller. He who cheers ME, ME, ME, only hears ME, ME, ME, in reality, begins to fear ME, ME, ME.
Egoistic fears and inferiorities compel us to fake success, steal credit and usurp praise. Once an ant and an elephant were crossing a rope bridge. As it swayed and swung, the ant arrogantly said, “See my friend, together we sure moved the mighty bridge.” It’s like the man who pours a glass of water in the sea and spends his whole life running around the coast trying to measure how high he raised the sea-level!
Inflating our egos, distorts and disturbs our inner balance. Deflating it, unburdens us. The way to overcome ego is through Smallness, Greatness and Togetherness. First accept the Smallness of our existence. Mere ants in a forest or drops in an ocean, we are nothing in the vast universe. Our earth is an insignificant dot, so just be humble!
Think of the Greatness of God, who created the wonders of the universe. Even if you believe there’s no God, we know for sure that you and I did not create the world. So, be humble!
However, the easier way is to befriend someone who has mastered the art of Smallness and Greatness. Togetherness in mind and spirit with the enlightened reveals egolessness in ways much simpler.
Once, on my French book, Pramukh Swami Maharaj wrote, “i BLESS YOU.” I joked, “This is completely reverse. In English, the ‘I’ is always capital, and the rest of the words are small. Here you have dotted the i…” Swamishri gave me a timeless secret I can never forgo or forget. “In life, always keep the i small.” Let’s keep an eye on our i.