My spiritual master, Swami Sivananda used to say, “The sannyas (swami/renunciate) ego is the worst kind of ego. You have renounced everything, but you have not renounced the egoism of renunciation itself.” That’s what you see when someone demands: “Do you know who I am? I am a renunciate!” It’s very, very difficult to truly renounce, so one must be extremely careful and constantly vigilant. Ego can creep back in by many ways. That’s why the scriptures say to give up everything, to understand that nothing belongs to you.

So, what is even the basis for your egoism? You may explain, “Oh, well I’m a very rich man,” but where did the money come from? It’s not your money, it just came and it will go one day. The same is true of knowledge. Where did it come from? For years and years you studied in a university, recorded everything you learned, and then you reproduced it. A student is the one who is recording, but a professor is the one who is producing the knowledge. How did you become an engineer, a doctor, or a philosopher? Only by recording all that information into your mind. So even that kind of egoism has no real substance.

Since there is nothing that we can call ours, there really is no egoism! And that understanding is what is meant in the biblical beatitude that says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This type of poverty refers to the humility and selflessness required of a true spiritual seeker. For that type of humble seeker, the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Remember that nothing belongs to you. Some things are given to you and then they are taken back. An example of this is the fact that I just walked into this room to give this talk. A nice platform was made for me to sit on and so many microphones have been put in front of me. Everything seems to be working very well. I am using these things but I have no right to misuse them; I have no right to possess them. When I walk out, can I take this microphone with me? If I just walk away with it, what will you think of me?

That is why we pray: I am thine, all is thine, thy will be done. Since nothing is really mine, even my actions are not mine. As the spirit, you are simply using the body and mind. They belong to the Higher Power or God, or whatever name you give. So, it is thy body, thy mind and whatever you do with it is your business. All I know is that I am aware of that spirit, working through my body and my mind.

A great saint questioned God: “Hey, what do you mean by all this, do you think that I’m responsible for all these things? Sometimes people say to me, ‘You’re doing all great things,’ and sometimes people say, ‘You’re making so many mistakes.’ Why should I worry about it? You are working through me and I know that it all belongs to you; nothing is mine. This force that works through me is yours; it makes the body work and the body is your instrument. Why should I take responsibility for this?”

When you truly understand that, you give everything into the hands of the Cosmic Consciousness, the Cosmic Will. You might question, Why should I be given the idea that I have free will in the first place? What should I do with that will? Don’t you think that I should do this and that to help people?” You don’t need to help people; the One who brought them, will take care of them. God brought you as well, and is taking care of you.

You may further question, “Oh, so you don’t want me to have any ambition?” Sure, you should have an ambition. You have a free will so you have to use it. But in what way? To know, that the Divine Will is working through you. That’s all. Your free will, is just to know that the Divine Will is working through you and you have freedom to accept or deny it. If you deny it, you are in trouble, but if you accept it, you are in heaven. Sometimes people ask, could it really be that simple? It is.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda