There is a humorous cartoon of a unicorn sitting in a therapist’s office where the therapist tells the unicorn, “You need to believe in yourself.” It is funny because the unicorn – being a unicorn – cannot see its own magic. But from the therapist’s point of view, it was clear how truly wonderful the creature was.
This cartoon is reminiscent of a question that someone once asked the Master. The questioner, standing at the microphone, voice shaky, hands trembling from nerves, mustered up the courage to ask: “Master, what do you see when you look at us?” The Master paused for a moment and said: “Potential.”
What does potential mean? According to the English dictionary, potential is defined as: ‘latent; excellence or ability that may or may not be developed’. This definition aptly describes us as satsangis. The first part of the definition specifies ‘latent’ meaning ‘present but not visible, apparent, or actualized’. What, in each of us, is present but not visible, apparent or actualized? The Bible says: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?” In the Upanishads it is written, “He is the one God hidden in all beings … dwelling in all beings.”
Can God truly be the potential that is latent within each one of us? On most days, between our endless chores and responsibilities, we feel satisfied if we can get an episode of Netflix in at the end of the night! Discovering that I am God is not something on our to-do list for the day. We do not believe that is who we truly are, or can become. And even if we do meditate, it is generally out of force of habit or duty – not because we are aiming to unleash the ‘unicorn’ within. However, the second part of the definition does specify that the dormant quality within us is one of excellence.
What is meant by excellence? The Oxford dictionary defines excellence as ‘the quality of being outstanding or extremely good’. When the Master looks at us, and says that he sees dormant excellence in us – what does he see? Does he believe we can reach new heights in our meditation? It is unlikely, given that he knows all our shortcomings and how difficult it is to conquer the mind. But we can definitely excel at one thing – and it is the only thing he asks of us – our effort. In Concepts & Illusions, the author aptly states: “In the language of realization, the most valuable word is effort.” No matter what walk of life we come from, we share this one core strength: we can all become extremely good at putting in our daily effort. In fact, the Master even believes that we can become outstanding at it! But ultimately, the decision to put in our effort rests in our hands.
Indeed, the third element in the definition of potential specifies that it ‘may or may not be developed’. As satsangis, many of us falsely believe that being initiated guarantees us salvation. In the same book, the author clarifies:
Just being initiated does not guarantee God-realization and spiritual liberation within four lives. We have to steep ourselves in meditation. If just the act of being initiated would guarantee liberation, then why do the Masters persistently remind us to meditate?
The Master, like the therapist in the cartoon, sits across from us patiently reminding us to meditate so that we can take the necessary steps to unmask our own potential. For it is only when we take that initial step that the journey towards self-realization can begin.
When he believes in us, why is it so hard for us to believe in ourselves? When we have no trouble believing that we can fail, why is it so hard for us to believe that we can succeed?
It is human nature to doubt the positive and believe in the negative because our mind naturally tilts towards negativity. They say that a zebra’s stripes never change and that a cheetah’s spots never move. Do we believe that we are inherently doomed in the same way? In fact, someone once asked the Master: “Can we ever really change?” to which the Master humorously replied: “I’d be in the wrong business if I didn’t believe people could change.”
Concepts & Illusions
Just like the unicorn, we are inclined to sit on the couch doubting our own potential, when what we really need is to believe in ourselves. There is a story of a disciple who once asked his Master: “Isn’t the end point of man’s journey his union with God?” The Master replied: “The end point of man’s journey is not union with God, because there has never been a separation. All that is needed is the flash of insight that makes one see it.” That flash of insight can come only from our efforts.
You cannot afford to live in potential for the rest of your life; at some point, you have to unleash the potential and make your move.
Eric Thomas, The Secrets to Success
May today be the day we get off the couch, turn off Netflix, and make our move.