Clean Our Windows
There is an interesting story about a young couple who had recently moved into a new neighbourhood.
One morning, while the couple was having their breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbour hang her laundry out to dry. She commented to her husband, “That laundry is not very clean. She doesn’t know how to wash properly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”
This became a daily occurrence. Every time the neighbour would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. Her husband would look up to peek, but always remained silent. About one month later, the young woman was surprised to see nice and clean laundry on the line. She said to her husband, “Look! She finally learned how to wash properly. I wonder who taught her?”
The real surprise came when her husband replied that no one did. He said to his wife, “I simply got up early this morning and cleaned our windows!”
This story highlights how our ego makes its presence felt even in the most ordinary situations, and the amazing part is that we are not even aware of it.
Ordinarily, we never consider ourselves to be egotistical. The average person thinks he or she to be logical, objective and even humble. However, the words “I”, “me” and “mine” are direct expressions of the ego, and we use them countless times during a single day. We are also possessive and jealous, judgmental and critical of others -these weaknesses too are born from ego. Ego is associated with the desire for self-aggrandizement, honour and prestige. Undeniably, all these traits and expressions are strongly intertwined with human nature, and we see them in people from all walks of life.
Egotism distorts our ability to understand people, situations and even ourselves for what we really are. Egotism is like ‘dirt’ on our mind and soul, and it becomes denser whenever we are praised, or when we judge and criticize others. All saints affirm that our ego is the greatest barrier between us and the Lord. As long as a particle of it exists in our mind, we cannot connect with the Creator.
Our dilemma is that if ego is such an immense and intricate part of our thoughts and actions, and virtually impossible to eliminate, then what chance do we have of meeting the Lord?
Herein lies the appeal of the window metaphor. Through a single action of the young man, a profound message was conveyed – clean the windows through which you see the world, and you will see what is real.
Connect this moral with the teachings of the saints and we have our answer. According to Guru Angad Dev, the second Sikh Guru:
This ego is a long-standing disease,
But its cure is also within;
If God in Heaven sends his grace,
Then through the Guru’s Shabd
The disciple does the self efface.
Guru Angad assures us that if the disease of ego is part of us then so is the cure. The Guru’s Shabd is the sound current which originates from the Lord. It is the life essence, root and the quintessence of every created thing. It is the string which connects everyone and everything to the Almighty. By perceiving the Shabd, all doubts and misconceptions about being higher than others or separate from the Lord are completely washed away. As Guru Angad writes: “The disciple does the self efface.” In other words, we see ourselves as we truly are – a drop of the Lord himself – and thus, any individuality or ego is completely erased.
We can only perceive the brilliance of the Shabd with the grace of the Lord. His grace initiates us into the method of focusing our attention inwards, so we may connect with the Shabd within. All we have to do is practise that method of meditation.
Just as the solution to the wife’s egotistical misconception was to clean the windows through which she looked at her neighbour’s laundry, similarly the solution for the removal of our ego is the practice of meditation according to the instructions of our Guru. Simran is how we cleanse the mind from the dirt of ego which separates our soul from the Lord. The more simran we do, the more dirt is washed away. This will ultimately cleanse the windows of our mind, allowing us to experience the Shabd within.
With meditation, our positive qualities begin to show. Tranquillity replaces anger, contentment replaces greed, devotion replaces lust, humility replaces ego, and detached loving kindness to all replaces attachment and selfcenteredness.