It was Tuesday afternoon. Around 1:30 p.m., after his noon meal, Mr. Joseph was slumping into his office chair. Suddenly, the phone rang. Mr. Joseph extended his hand for the receiver, and in his very usual tone, he said, "Hello!" But the message from the other side made him jump from his chair: "Sir, your house is on fire. Come soon!"
Mr. Joseph rushed to the door, least bothered to arrange files and papers lying on his desk. He didn't even lock his room after exiting. Neither did he inform his boss. As he was hurrying through the corridors, he saw the Chairman of his company coming from ahead. However, Mr. Joseph had no time to stop and greet him. He walked right past the Chairman's side with a frown on his face and no sign of acknowledgement. In four jumps, he cleared the staircase, came out on the road, waived to a taxi, and got into it. In ten minutes, he was at the heartbreaking site.
Before his eyes, there was no longer a white, beautiful bungalow of his but only black soot? His heart sank and he fell on the ground crying like a two-year old child. After a few minutes, he summoned up courage and approached his wailing wife and mother. He looked around seeking something. But when he failed to find what he was searching for, Mr. Joseph enquired of his wife, "Where is Jack?" She could not verbalize the answer but just raised her hand towards the blazing house and burst into tears. Upon learning this tear-jerking fact that his only child was still upstairs in his cradle, Mr. Joseph was benumbed. His face turned ghostly white. Then he hollered, "I am ruined. I am finished. Oh! Someone please come forward. Save my little son. My little Jack! I shall give you whatever gift you would ask for; nay, I would give all what I possess- my savings, my possessions...but please, for God's sake, save my son!" None came forward, and the child perished.
Before proceeding further, let's pause here and get the spirit of the story. When Mr. Joseph received the message that his house was on fire, he dashed to the site like a mad man. Why? For, he loved his house and his materialistic possessions. But when he realized that his only son was trapped inside the flames, he was ready to forgo all his leftover belongings to save the life of his son. It’s apparent that his son was dearer to him than his wealth and possessions.
Let’s ruminate further. There was one thing that Mr. Joseph was not ready to relinquish in return for his son. What was that? That was Mr. Joseph himself! Yes, he himself never for a moment thought of walking into that burning house, darting through the flaming rooms and filching his dear son away from the cradle. Why? For, he loved his own person, his own self, more than his own son. He could give up his job, status, wealth, and everything to save his son except his own life. So, what is the most prized possession of man - money, house, children, or himself? The answer is quite overt: A man has the greatest love for himself. This same fact was penned down by our realised sages in the treasure books called Upanishad. One verse from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad clearly explicates that the mother loves the child not for the sake of the child but for the sake of the joy that the child can give to her; the husband loves the wife not because she is the wife but because of the joy she can give to him; the wife does not love the husband for the sake of the husband but for the sake of joy that the husband can give to her, and so forth.
Thus, for a man, all relations are but poor hostages to his own life? Man loves himself the most. Here again, a query arises- "What is that in man which he loves the most?" This question may sound very outlandish to many of you. But spiritual masters have very clearly propounded that man is a complex being. There are several aspects of him by which and through which he seeks delight and happiness. He has four different layers through which his life pulsates, four different levels with which he can identify himself. The grossest is the physical layer or the body equipment. Most of us identify ourselves with this layer. That's why, we exhaust ourselves day and night to satiate the cravings of our physical self. Whatever our senses hanker after, we afford them that. But the pleasures derived out of sense-gratification are fleeting; they are here today and gone tomorrow. Therefore, man looks for some higher pleasure.
Higher than the body is the mind. At this level, we experience the world of feelings. We have emotional attachments. So, we derive joy by fulfilling the wishes of the relations. And for this joy, we even renounce sensual pleasures. Let's apprehend the fact through an analogy. A woman is very fond of cakes. Her next-door neighbour has purchased a new car. So, the neighbour offers the woman a piece of cake to celebrate her new purchase. The woman readily extends her hand to accept it. Her tongue waters. But before she puts it in her mouth, her five year old child comes running and says, "O Mamma! What are you eating? May I have it?" Immediately, the mother in her comes to the surface. Her emotional bond with the son subdues the craving of her taste buds. She smilingly gives the cake to her child. Hence, she makes a ready sacrifice of the grosser in preference to the subtler layer in her. This means man loves his emotional self more than the physical self, as delight attained from the former is more than the latter.
Proceeding further, higher and subtler than the mind is the intellect in man. For the satisfaction of the intellect, he cedes even his mind and body. That is, man does not bother about emotional satisfaction and physical comforts when it comes to intellectual pursuits. Of such stuff are the scientists! They are least concerned about their corporeal gratifications and mind's appeasement. For, they revel in the higher realm, i.e., the intellect.
Therefore, the point is very lucid that man sacrifices the grosser for the subtler, i.e., he loves his subtler self more than the grosser self; for, the subtler the level, the higher is the pleasure derived.
But, the plight is that man is unaware of the subtlest layer within him. He continues reveling in lower layers throughout his life. He is not able to identify himself with the Supreme layer. He thus remains deprived of Supreme joy and bliss. Saints proclaim that if man will realise that highest aspect of himself, his sorrows will end. He will attain permanent happiness, eternal joy. He will forgo lower pleasures so as to revel in that subtlest Self.
History provides evidence. Mahatma Buddha left his royal palaces, his wife, and his son for this higher Self. St. Augustine gave up his intellectual pursuits for the sake of this higher Self. Queen Mirabai of India forsook all her comforts for this prized possession.
Now, the question arises, what is this higher Self? Scriptures drive home the point by stating that the higher Self is our Soul, Pure Consciousness, Spiritual Self. It is the substratum of all our activities at the physical, emotional, and intellectual level.
Let’s comprehend this point through the example of a movie. What makes up a movie? We usually think of the actors who portray the roles and the reel of film on which cameraman captures the show. However, one more part is equally significant - the screen upon which movie plays. Without a screen as the background, the movie has no reality. Similarly, our multitude activities at the physical, emotional, and intellectual level have no subsistence without the essential backdrop: Consciousness.
Consciousness is the subtlest and the most important feature of our being. Once man realises it, he is always in bliss, as pains and sufferings at lower levels do not affect him. Let's extend the previous example to elucidate this point. On the movie screen, buildings burn, cities are destroyed, untold people spill their blood, but the screen does not undergo a slight scorch, nor does it get blemished with a single drop of blood. It remains clean, untainted, unscathed. Analogously, Consciousness remains ever the same, unaffected by the dramas staged out by our minds and bodies. Thus, if a man desires to attain maximum bliss, he has to identify himself with his Consciousness, which is the real He. Revelling at lower levels will not provide him that nectar which he is really thirsting for. So, realise your Soul, Pure Consciousness, and be in love with it, as it only can bless you with eternal bliss.