Sai Baba says you need not try to bring God and man together, they are already together naturally. They are always one. Without God there can be no man and without man there will be no God. But then, why don’t we always experience them together as one? It is because the false ‘I’, what we have been calling the I-thought, gets in-between. This ‘I’ is the ego. Ego imposes itself between God and man, or in Vedantic terms, between Atma, the Self, and Jiva, the soul, the individualized life-stream. Sai Baba tells a story about the ego.
In the story, the marriage is between Atma who is the bridegroom and Jiva who is the bride. The wedding ceremony was to take place in the bride’s village, at the house of the bride’s father. The bridegroom, that is, the son-in-law-to-be and his party, were put up in a separate bungalow. Soon after they arrived and settled down in their quarters, a very important-looking and boldly-acting person appeared at the bride’s house, and began to order that family around, asking for better accommodations for the groom, for a better dowry, for a greater number of invitations for the wedding, and stating various other conditions and demands. Since this unknown stranger appeared shortly after the bridegroom’s family had come into the village, the bride’s family naturally thought that he represented the bridegroom, and was their spokesman. As the demands went on and on without end, everyone in the bride’s party soon became totally miserable.
But then, this same forceful, selfassured spokesman appeared at the bridegroom’s bungalow, and there also began ordering people around, asking for so many things and making so many special demands that they too were soon feeling thoroughly miserable. As a result of the machinations of this character, both parties began to lose the natural joy that accompanies such a happy occasion. Both sides got very disturbed and irritated. They got so unhappy and discouraged, they didn’t even want to go ahead with the wedding arrangements.
As this stranger continued his visits to both parties, making more and more demands, each side began to realize that it was the same person going back and forth between them. In each case they thought he had represented the other side, but now they had some doubts. They finally got together to inquire about this person. The party of the Atma said, “Who is he?” The party of the Jiva said, “Who is he?” As soon as this inquiry was made, the meddlesome trouble-maker vanished from the scene and was not heard from again. He was a complete impostor; he had no credentials at all to be there and no authority to make demands, no less to order anyone around. He was the false ‘I’, the ego. Within our spiritual hearts, Atma and Jiva are always already married. But we are not aware of this in our minds and we believe we must bring them together in marriage. But somehow, in the absence of inquiry, ego manages to come between Atma and Jiva and foments misery.
In the spiritual field, ego first claims to represent the side of Atma, the bridegroom, and makes such statements as, ‘You must be holy and perfect before you can relate to me. You must spend every moment in spiritual practice and study all the scriptures. You must fast and go on pilgrimages.’ It is all just ego talking, making demands on the one side. But then it will switch over to the other side, the side of Jiva, the bride; and there it will make statements like, ‘You must wipe away my karma and give me a good future and good spiritual experiences. You must take care of my health, my wealth, my family, my position, my name in the community, all my needs. Since I have been so persistent and earnest in my devotion to spiritual life and I have reached great insights of spiritual understanding, you must now give me liberation.’ Like this the dialogue goes on... demands from both sides, made by the same questionable character.
When, as a result of inquiry into the true identity of this character, the sun of knowledge shines and rises to its zenith, the illusory character disappears like a passing cloud, or like our shadow that merges and disappears into our feet when the Sun is directly overhead. Then only the pure ‘I’ remains, which of its own accord silently dissolves into the depths of being, the limitless ocean of consciousness which is the Universal Absolute, the one Self.