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Surrendering is not a weakness. At the contrary it is strength. The surrender stops living in boiling water and starts living in a secure place.

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Shivaratri

By
Sri Swami Sivananda

Introduction
The Story of King Chitrabhanu
Spiritual Significance of the Ritual
Lord Shiva's Assuarance
Related Links

Introduction

This falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The name means "the night of Shiva". The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.

People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of Pushpadanta or Ravana's Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who utters the Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.
The Story of King Chitrabhanu

In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows.

Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.

The sage asked, "O king! why are you observing a fast today?"

King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth.

The king said to the sage: "In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged myself in plucking the bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.

"The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food.

"At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. I learnt then for the first time of the great merit I had earned by the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I unconsciously worship the Lord.

"I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I am now reborn as Chitrabhanu."
Spiritual Significance of the Ritual

The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Sastri and Atmanathan, giving the inner meaning of the above story.

Sastri: It is an allegory. The wild animals that the hunter fought with are lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle is the fourfold mind, consisting of the subconscious mind, the intellect, the ego and the conscious mind. It is in the mind that these "wild animals" roam about freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them because he was a Yogi. If you want to be a real Yogi you have to conquer these evil tendencies. Do you remember the name of the hunter in the story?

Atmanathan: Yes, he was called Suswara.

Sastri: That's right. It means "melodious". The hunter had a pleasant melodious voice. If a person practices Yama and Niyama and is ever conquering his evil tendencies, he will develop certain external marks of a Yogi. The first marks are lightness of the body, health, steadiness, clearness of countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken of in detail in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. The hunter or the Yogi had for many years practised Yoga and had reached the first stage. So he is given the name Suswara. Do you remember where he was born?

Atmanathan: Yes, his birthplace is Varanasi.

Sastri: Now, the Yogis call the Ajna Chakra by the name Varanasi. This is the point midway between the eyebrows. It is regarded as the meeting place of the three nerve currents (Nadis), namely, the Ida, Pingala and the Sushumna. An aspirant is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps him to conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It is there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within.

Atmanathan: Very interesting! But how do you explain his climbing up the bael tree and all the other details of the worship?

Sastri: Have you ever seen a bael leaf?

Atmanathan: It has three leaves on one stalk.

Sastri: True. The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves are threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, which are the regions for the activity of the moon, the sun and fire respectively, or which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Muladhara to the Ajna Chakra. That is the work of the Yogi.

Atmanathan: Yes, I have heard of the Kundalini and the various psychic centres in the body. Please go on further; I am very interested to know more.

Sastri: Good. The Yogi was in the waking state when he began his meditation. He bundled up the birds and the animals he had slain and, tying them on a branch of the tree, he rested there. That means he had fully conquered his thoughts and rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yama, Niyama, Pratyahara, etc. On the tree he was practising concentration and meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that he was about to lose consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he determined to keep awake.

Atmanathan: That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very well. But why did he weep for his wife and children?

Sastri: His wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal love. In Yoga also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace. Without practising universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must perceive one's own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to identify one's own mind with the minds of all created beings. That is fellow-feeling or sympathy. Then one must rise above the limitations of the mind and merge it in the Self. That happens only in the stage of Samadhi, not earlier.

Atmanathan: Why did he pluck and drop the bael leaves?

Sastri: That is mentioned in the story only to show that he had no extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of what he was doing. All his activity was confined to the three Nadis. The leaves, I have said before, represent the three Nadis. He was in fact in the second state, namely, the dream state, before he passed into the deep sleep state.

Atmanathan: He kept vigil the whole night, it is said.

Sastri: Yes, that means that he passed through the deep sleep state successfully. The dawning of day symbolises the entrance into the Fourth state called Turiya or superconsciousness.

Atmanathan: It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that mean?

Sastri: That means that in the Turiya state he saw the Shiva Lingam or the mark of Shiva in the form of the inner lights. In other words, he had the vision of the Lord. That was an indication to him that he would realise the supreme, eternal abode of Lord Shiva in course of time.

Atmanathan: So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights is not the final stage?

Sastri: Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a difficult one. Now think of how the story continues. He goes home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is one whom you have not seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter himself, transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and dislikes which he had killed the previous night. But he did not consume the whole of it. A little still remained. That was why he had to be reborn as King Chitrabhanu. Going to the world of Shiva (Salokya) is not enough to prevent this. There are other stages besides Salokya. These are Samipya, Sarupya and finally Sayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning from Vaikunta?

Atmanathan: Yes, I have understood now.



Lord Shiva's Assuarance

When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on the top of Mount Kailas. Parvati asked, "O venerable Lord! which of the many rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?"

The Lord replied, "The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my most favourite day. It is known as Shivaratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense.

"The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships Me in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to Me than the precious jewels and flowers. My devotee should bathe Me in milk at the first period, in curd at the second, in clarified butter at the third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next morning, he should feed the Brahmins first and, after performing the prescribed ceremonies, he can break his fast. O Parvati! there is no ritual which can compare with this simple routine in sanctity."

Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Loid Shiva. She repeated it to Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri broadcast all over the world.

The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the quality of passionate activity) and Tamas (that of inertia). The Shivaratri Vrata aims at the perfect control of these two. The entire day is spent at the Feet of the Lord. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee's constant presence in the place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust, anger, and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. The devotee observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas also. Constant vigilance is imposed on the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of the Shiva Lingam is conducted. Shivaratri is a perfect Vrata.

The formal worship consists of bathing the Lord. Lord Shiva is considered to be the Form of Light (which the Shiva Lingam represents). He is burning with the fire of austerity. He is therefore best propitiated with cool bathing. While bathing the Lingam the devotee prays: "O Lord! I will bathe Thee with water, milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do Thou kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of worldliness which is scorching me may be put out once for all, so that I may be one with Thee-the One alone without a second."





At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Shivaratri festival is celebrated in the following manner.

All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day, many of them without taking even a single drop of water.
A grand havan is performed for the peace and welfare of all.
The whole day is spent in doing the Japa of Om Namah Shivaya and in meditation upon the Lord.
At night all assemble in the temple and chant Om Namah Shivaya the whole night.
During the four quarters of the night the Shiva Lingam is worshipped with intense devotion.
Sannyas Diksha is also given on this day to sincere seekers on the path.

Offer this inner worship to Lord Shiva daily: "I worship the jewel of my Self, the Shiva residing in the Lotus of my heart. I bathe Him with the water of my pure mind brought from the river of faith and devotion. I worship Him with the fragrant flowers of Samadhi-all this so that I may not be born again in this world."

Here is another formula for the supreme worship of the Lord: "O Shiva! you are my Self. My mind is Parvati. My Pranas are your servants. My body is your house. My actions in this world are your worship. My sleep is Samadhi. My walk is circumambulation of you. My speech is your prayer. Thus do I offer all that I am to you.

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"When you are able to silence all views and words, when you get free from views and words, reality reveals itself to you and that is Nirvana, Nirvana is cessation, is the extinction. First the extinction of views and then the extinction of the suffering that is born from these views.

Otherwise, we can be trapped by our perceptions. We may be very concerned about our well being and the well being of our beloved ones. We want to be happy, we want our children, our partner, our friends to be happy; we don't have any doubt about that kind of good will.

But when we are not free, we think that our son can only be happy if he does this, if he does not do that… our daughter can be happy only if she does this and she did not do that… so we impose our views on our beloved ones and destroy them because of our good will.

To love is to offer freedom, to offer the conditions for the other person to be free and to get the right understanding about his or her happiness.”

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On entering the Heart's radiance, all journeys end. Only Heart prevails.

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"Some changes may happen... a different flow may happen. Are we ready to embrace this if it comes

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When the conditioned being (intimate as it is felt to be) is itself seen as a phenomenon, the very recognition of this places you in the Unspeakable.

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"You ask: ‘How to live my life?’
But with the question you are suffocating life itself, for life is spontaneity.

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Varanasi, Feb 16 (UNI) The presence of Ardh Kumbh returnee pilgrims, including the naga sadhus doubled the consumption of 'bhang' -- considered to be the treasured 'prasad' of Lord Shiv -- on the festival of Maha Shivratri here today. State Excise Department sources said keeping in mind the rising demand for 'bhang' on Maha Shivratri, the department had released nearly 5,000 kgs of the intoxicant worth Rs 15 lakh to 49 government approved shops in the city during the month, up from normal monthly release of 2,400 kg. The sale and consumption of 'bhang' on Maha Shivaratri today was pegged at over 500 kg, costing more than Rs 1.5 lakh, sources added. The additional 'bhang' was also released in the market in the wake of Ardh Kumbh returnee 'sadhus' camping in the city who have a craving for the must have intoxicant on the festive day. The bhang shops in the city served to the rush of festival revellers, who purchased the intoxicant in various forms including 'bhang golis,' 'bhang barfis,' 'bhang powder and monakka'. ''Offering bhang at various Lord Shiv temples across the city, considered His abode, is an integral ritual on Maha Shivratri. The same offering is then consumed by the devout either in the same form as offered or else with 'thandhai' -- cold drink made from milk, butter and yoghurt laced with the essence of saffron and almond,'' said Kailash, one of the bhang sellers. ''The daily consumption of bhang in the city is between 150 and 250 kg, but the sale, as in the past doubled on this festive day,'' he added. The thandhai shops also reported a more than double rush in consumers, especially for 'bhang' laced 'thandhai' on Maha Shivratri. ''Maha Shivratri and Holi are the two festivals which all thandhai sellers wait for. As expected the sale has doubled on Maha Shivratri,'' said Manish, a thandhai seller.

Read more at: http://news.oneindia.in/2007/02/16/bhang-consumption-doubles-on-maha-shivratri-1171631307.html

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When creation had been completed, Siva and Parvati had been living on the top of Kailas. Parvati asked: “O venerable Lord, which of the many rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?” Lord Siva replied: “The thirteenth night of the new moon, Krishna Paksha, in the month of Phalguna (February–March) is known as Sivaratri, My most favourable Tithi. My devotee gives Me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths, and offerings of flowers, sweets, incense, etc.

Just hear, My Beloved, of an episode which will give you an idea of the glory and power of this ritual, said Lord Shiva to Parvati.

“Once upon a time, there lived in the town of Varanasi a hunter. He was returning from the forest one evening with the game birds he had killed. He felt tired and sat at the foot of a tree to take some rest. He was overpowered by sleep. When he woke up, it was all thick darkness of night. It was the night of Sivaratri but he did not know it, He climbed up the tree, tied his bundle of dead birds to a branch and sat up waiting for the dawn. The tree happened to be My favourite, the Bilva.

“There was a Linga under that tree. He plucked a few leaves dropped them down. The night-dew trickled down from his body. I was highly pleased with involuntary little gifts of the hunter. The day dawned and the hunter returned to his house.

“In course of time, the hunter fell ill and gave up his last breath. The messengers of Yama(Hinduism) arrived at his bedside to carry his soul to Yama(Hinduism). My messengers also went to the spot to take him to My abode. There was a severe fight between Yama’s messengers and My messengers. The former were easily defeated. They reported the matter to their Lord. He presented himself in person at the portals of My abode. Nandi gave him an idea of the sanctity of Sivaratri and the love which I had for the hunter. Yama surrendered the hunter to Me and returned to his abode. Thereafter, Yama has pledged not to touch my devotees without my consent.

“The hunter was able to enter My abode and ward off death by simple fasting and offering of a few Bilva leaves, however involuntary it might be because it was the night of Sivaratri. Such is the solemnity and sacredness associated with the night”.

Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Lord Siva on the sanctity and glory of the ritual. She repeated it to Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Sivaratri broadcast all over the world.

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Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa (India), was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.

The sage asked the king the purpose of his observing the fast. King Chitrabhanu explained that he had a gift of remembering the incidents of his past birth, and in his previous life he had been a hunter in Varanasi and his name was Suswara. His only livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. The day before the new moon, while roaming through forests in search of animals, he saw a deer, but before his arrow flew he noticed the deer's family and their sadness at its impending death. So he let it live. He had still not caught anything when he was overtaken by nightfall and climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a Bael tree. His canteen leaked water, so he was both hungry and thirsty. These two torments kept him awake throughout the night, thinking of his poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously waiting for his return. To pass away the time he engaged himself in plucking the Bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.

The next day he returned home and bought some food for himself and his family. The moment he was about to break his fast a stranger came to him, begging for food. He served the food first to stranger and then had his own.

At the time of his death, he saw two messengers of Lord Shiva, sent to conduct his soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. He learnt then for the first time of the great merit he had earned by unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. The messengers told him that there had been a Lingam (a symbol for the worship of Shiva) at the bottom of the tree. The leaves he dropped had fallen on the Lingam, in imitation of its ritual worship. The water from his leaky canteen had washed the Lingam (also a ritual action), and he had fasted all day and all night. Thus, he unconsciously had worshipped the Lord. As the conclusion of the tale the King said that he had lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for a long time before being reborn as Chitrabhanu. This story is narrated in the Garuda Purana.[6]

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This teaching, of my teacher Papaji & his teacher Ramana, is the invitation to rest in the natural Stillness that is your birthright.

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OM OM OM!
Hail to that Supreme Spirit! The One Self. Brahman/Atman.

Om is Brahman, both the unconditioned, impersonal & the conditioned personal.

By meditating on It the wise one may attain to the One.
The Self.

~ Prasna Upanishad

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There is a fountain inside you.
Don't walk around with an empty bucket

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TROTA | CHAPTER 1 | SEL0028 |

The central problem of every one of us is the overcoming of the illness of individual life and the attainment of the state of perfection , peace and bliss .

The Upanishads point out the " End " as well as the " Means " and , since those sages had the Integral Knowledge of Reality , the method of approach to it they point out is also befitting the Ideal , viz . , it is integral .

The practice of such an ideal " sadhana " for deliverance from the thralldom of relational life leads one to the shining region of unalloyed happiness .

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Swami Krishnananda

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TROTA | CHAPTER 1 | SEL0027 |

The task of the Seers was to remedy this defect in life , which , they realised , was due to the consciousness of separateness of being and the desire to acquire and become what one is not .

The remedy lies in acquiring and becoming everything , expressed all too imperfectly by the words “ Infinity ” , “ Immortality ” , and the like .

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We may assert that though the fundamental view presented in the declarations of the Upanishads is the one taken by the highest class of the seekers after Truth — a thorough-going intuitional Absolutism — one will not fail to find in them deepest proclamations touching all the aspects of the psychological constitution of the human being in general .

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TROTA | CHAPTER 1 | SEL0032 |

This Integration of Being can be achieved even in this very life . It is not necessary to take some more rounds of births and deaths for the purpose , provided the integration is effected before the shaking off of the physical sheath , through persistent meditation on Reality and negation of separative consciousness .

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TROTA | CHAPTER 1 | SEL0034 |
|| THE TRANSCENDENT BEING ||

The teachings of the Upanishads are expressed in the language of the Self — not of the intellect — and , hence , they do not easily go deeply into every soul , unless it possesses a responsive and burning yearning for Absolute-Experience .

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TROTA| CHAPTER 1 | SEL0033 |

The quickness of the process of Attainment depends upon the intensity of the power of such meditation , both in its negative and assertive aspects .

A dehypnotisation of the consciousness of physicality and individuality is the essential purpose of all methods of spiritual meditation .

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On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and
the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.

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| SECTION: III | CHAPTER: 100

The jiva is at the junction of consciousness and matter ; and because it is a reflection of the absolute Brahman , it is said to be in Brahman .

See the entire universe and also the ' I ' as the absolute Brahman , for the self ( which is Brahman ) is omnipresent .

When that self thinks , it is known as mind .

It is nothing but the power of the absolute Brahman which is non-different from Brahman : in it all this arbitrary division into ' I ' and ' this ' are but apparent reflections .

The very reality of the mind is Brahman alone .

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| SECTION: III | CHAPTER: 100

In embodied beings , it is the cit-sakti ( the power of consciousness or intelligence ) .

It is motion in air , stability in earth , void in space , and it is the power of self-consciousness ( ' I am ' ) in created beings .

Yet all this is nothing but the power of absolute Brahman .

It is the power of disintegration , the power that causes grief in the grief-stricken and the power that causes elation in the joyous ; in the warrior it is valour ; it is the power that triggers creation and the same power brings about the dissolution of the universe .

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| SECTION: III | CHAPTER: 100

The individualised consciousness ( the mind ) has arisen in the supreme being , O Rama : it is both different and non-different from the infinite consciousness even as a wave is different and non-different from the ocean .

To the enlightened the mind is the absolute Brahman and naught else .

To the unenlightened, the mind is the cause of repetitive history ( samsara ) .

When dualistic concepts are used by us , O Rama , it is only to facilitate instruction : the division is not real .

The absolute Brahman is omnipotent : and there is nothing which is outside of it .

It is his own power or energy that pervades all things .

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| SECTION: III | CHAPTER: 102

There is no division in the self , for the absolute Brahman is all this .

What then is called bondage and what is liberation ?

It is only in a state of ignorance that you think you experience pain , though you are untouched by pain .

These things do not exist in the self .

Let the body fall or rise or let it go on to another universe ; I am not confined to the body , then how am I affected by all this ?

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TROTA | CHAPTER 1 | SEL0035 |

The soul , due to its deviation from the Truth and wandering among the shadows , finds it difficult to hear the voice of the Silence .

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| SECTION: III | CHAPTER: 102

Only a fool , not a wise man , is deluded by his own ideas ; it is a fool who thinks that the imperishable is perishable , and gets deluded .

Egotism is but an idea based on a false association of the self with the physical elements .

When one alone exists in all this as the infinite consciousness , how has what is called egotism arisen ?

In fact , this egotism does not exist any more than the mirage exists in the desert .

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