Babaji said, "Do You Want to Avoid a Disaster? Then, Never Outshine Your Master."
Some lessons I learned from Babaji were in the moment, like when I was faced head on with the burning jealousy in my own heart at the sight of the young, pretty blond girl in the basement. Other lessons I learned from Babaji were in an after-the-fact kind of way, like years after the event happened. The lesson I’m about to share with you fits into this category. In fact, the event took place over 10 years ago. But I didn’t actually learn the lesson from the event until I had the good fortune of meeting Babaji. Hearing his wise words smashed my ego, which was the bitter medicine required for me to get the point.
One fine day when Babaji and I were working on our Vedic Psychology book, he asked if I knew any publishers in the USA that we could contact. I shared with him that actually, yes, I used to work for one of the largest spiritual publishing companies in the USA, and I was personally selected by the CEO for this senior executive position within the company. I proposed that I contact the CEO and float the idea past her about our book to see if she bites. Babaji loved that idea. Without delay, I shot off the email. A few days later, no response. Babaji asked. Nope, still no response from the CEO. I emailed a second time. No dice. A third time, and still, she did not respond. But her secretary did this time. She coldly replied that the CEO does not take personal emails from old employees and she has no time to talk or meet with me. I was shocked. The CEO would not even respond to a simple email? This book we were writing was right up their alley. She didn't even want to consider it?
I nonchalantly explained to Babaji what had transpired and figured that was the end of that. Without further ado, I moved on quickly and began babbling about our book.
Babaji was silent, like he so often was. So, I thought nothing of his response, or lack of response, I should say. After 5 minutes when I finally took a breath to ask Babaji what he thought of my idea, he calmly lobbed up a one-liner. “Why did you leave that job at the spiritual publishing company?”
“What Babaji? Why? Because the CEO was jealous of me and so they fired me. There was nothing I could do about that.”
“That seems strange. What do you mean she was jealous of you? What happened?” he pressed on.
I felt uncomfortable, so vulnerable, so exposed under Babaji’s hot interrogation lamp with nowhere to run or hide. I explained, "What happened was that the CEO hired me as the Director at the company, with the responsibility to make partnerships with other spiritual companies, which I did. But I guess I did it too well because within one month, the VP of the company was telling me that the CEO was jealous of me. What could I do? I was doing what the job description said."
Babaji continued with his relentless questioning. “There must be more to this story. Why would the CEO be jealous of you if you were doing what she asked you to do? I don’t get it.”
Not having thought about this situation for 12 years, I couldn’t remember all of the details to pacify his precise line of questioning. Furthermore, I was starting to feel annoyed, like he was blaming me for getting fired from the job in which I excelled at. Trying to keep my composure and not show my irritation at Babaji’s questioning, I politely revealed, “The problem was that the partnerships that I made were with the CEO’s long-time friends. The CEO gave me a list of her friends and told me to make friends with them. So, I did. Yet at the same time, the CEO perceived me as a threat. For some reason, she thought that some of her friends liked me better than her. The VP told me that some of the CEO's friends had been calling her and praising me. Apparently, she did not want to hear that. What could I really do about it though? She was jealous of me for doing my job description. She should just get over herself.”
Babaji persisted, “So what did they say when they fired you? They must have had some good reason other than that the CEO was jealous of you.”
I felt defensive and my face flushed, red with anger at this injustice. Wasn’t Babaji supposed to take my side, and see things from my point of view? I was the victim here after all, in this situation. I stammered, “They said that the reason for my termination was because they were discontinuing my position. That’s it. But I know the real reason is because I got fed up with the VP harassing me and I snapped. One day in our weekly Friday afternoon meeting, I finally told the VP to stop telling me that the CEO is jealous of me because there is nothing I can do about it and I don't want to hear it. A few hours later, the HR Director and the VP came into my office and promptly fired me. It was a lose-lose situation. I can’t help it if the CEO is jealous of me. That is her problem!”
Babaji laughed, which annoyed me even more. How could he think that this is funny? With a big grin on his face, he said, “Oh really? There was nothing you could have done differently?”
Now I was too angry to deliberate. I blurted out, “Yes, there was one thing! I should have quit that damn job the first time the VP told me that the CEO was jealous of me. I should not have hung on for months taking their emotional abuse!”
Babaji did not seem disturbed by my angry mood. When he had a point to make, he continued on unabated. He kept hammering, prosecuting me in his calm, cool, and collected manner. “You got fired from a very good job that paid well, and you were in a senior-level position. You did not have to get fired. It was actually your fault that you got fired.”
Feeling humiliated, I sarcastically fumed, “Okay, thank you, Babaji.”
He laughed again. “Don’t you want to know what you did wrong?”
“Not really,” I honestly admitted, hoping he would just drop it.
He continued badgering, ignoring my disinterest. “There was actually a different way to act in which you could have kept the job, made good money, and paid off all of your student loan debts, by the way. But you don’t know how to be in relationships with people at work. You are not good in polity. You are so simple, which is good in some ways. But your simplicity hurt you in this case. You need to learn about polity in human relations.”
Realizing that I was not going to get out of this situation until Babaji made his point crystal clear, I humored him, even though I felt aggravated that he was not validating me or seeing my side of things. I grimaced a smile, and feigned interest in hearing from him about my stupidity. What I actually wanted more than anything was to hear from him about what a jerk the CEO was and how stupid and immature the VP was. I wanted to hear his empathy for me, the victim. But Babaji did not mention anything of the sort.
Instead, Babaji explained, “You have to understand people. Everyone has an ahankara (ego), and no one likes to feel that someone is better than them. Especially the CEO of the company. She surely did not want to feel that the new girl has stolen her friends away from her, and that they like her better. You have to put yourself in her shoes. Can you see that much?”
“Yes, but, that was my job description, Babaji. So, what was I supposed to do?” I defended myself.
“Forget your job description. You are missing the point. What you are supposed to do is to know where you stand and then act accordingly. You were not the CEO, right? So, don’t act so high and mighty. You were not even the VP. So, you should know that you never talk back like you did to your superior. You were the Director who reported to the VP. So that means your job was to support the VP, who supported the CEO. That was actually your job description. But you didn’t do that. What did you do? You told the VP to stop advising you, which was a very stupid move. Can you imagine how that made her feel? Completely disrespected by you. And the CEO was already upset with you for months. What you should have done was to meet with the CEO and tell her how much her friends love her and praised her when you met with them. Your job was to keep her ego intact. But instead, you were worried about keeping your ego intact. If you knew anything about how people’s minds work, you would have told the CEO how impressed you were with the empire she had built and how fortunate you felt to be working at her company. But no, you did not do that. You were only thinking about how they did not understand you. But the truth is, it was your job to understand them. You should have had an attitude of humility, gratitude and surrender. But you did not. You thought you were greater and smarter than the people higher up than you. Your ahankara is what actually got you fired from this job.”
“Wow, Babaji that is harsh!” I said, wanting to run away into the woods, like a wounded animal. I didn’t know how much more I could bare.
Babaji took this as his chance to make his punchline, which felt more like a punch in the stomach than a punchline. “Remember, you should never outshine your master.”
Just then, I got it. His words resonated with me. Maybe it was because I felt so beaten down that I could not defend myself anymore, so his point finally got through my thick head. I felt a sudden relief, like the monsoon rains showering and cooling down my frustration, agitation and anger that had been building.
Babaji elaborated, “If you can remember this one simple lesson, you can actually go very far in life. You are smart, kind, hard-working and creative. You have the key elements to be very successful. You are just missing one thing. If you can apply this concept of never outshining your master, then you can shine. But not too bright. Remember, never shine brighter than your master. Never. Think of it this way: you can shine, but not independently. Shine with the goal of lighting up your master. Let your light, light up your master. Then you will win in your work life, personal life and your spiritual life. This very same principle applies.”
“Wow, thank you Babaji. Your words are potent. I get it. I now see what a big mistake I made in that job.”
Babaji explained, “You have to develop your cognitive empathy, understanding how other people see the situation and how others see themselves. You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. The majority of people think of themselves as better than you, even if they are not your master. This is the nature of ahankara. So if you are smart, you will be humble, and treat others as your master, even if they are not in a higher up position than you. We are not trained on how to do this, and so we are not very good at it for the most part. Be curious. Try to figure out how it would feel to be them, and how they feel about you. I teach about ahankara in my class all the time, but nobody gets it. I teach about being humble. About how the ahankara lives on praise. But still, people come to me and complain on a daily basis. They could have heard my lectures and these concepts for years, yet they still blame others. They bitch to me about the people they work with, or live with. They want me to validate them and tell them that they are right, and the other is wrong. Everyone has such a sensitive ahankara. No one can take the truth. So I have to do what I am teaching you to do. I have to baby them, telling them, yes, they are right. The other is wrong. Yes, I love them. No, I am not angry with them.”
“Really Babaji? Why don’t you just tell them the truth?”
“Because then I will have no disciples. Everyone will run away. So I teach in my classes the truth about ahankara. It is up to the individual person to apply my teachings to their own ahankara.”
“Oh wow, the ahankara is really that sensitive?”
“Yes, it is very sensitive. And the higher position a person has, the bigger their ahankara. Look at your case. You were just a director at this company, but you thought you were so smart. Why? Because you used to be a CEO of a company, and because you have an MBA from an Ivy-league college. So you thought you were smarter than the others. How did you feel when I was asking you questions? Did you feel happy, and eager to learn? No. I saw your discomfort. That is your your ahankara. Ahankara hates criticism. Ahankara thinks it is perfect. Due to the nature of our ahankara, we think we are smarter than everyone else. Do you want to know what true smarts is? Being emotionally intelligent. Understanding how to have human relations. Of course, because of your ahankara, I know you must have thought you were good at making human relations, right? Everyone thinks they are good at this. But no one really is. To make a healthy human relation it takes high self-awareness of your feelings and thoughts, and high emotional, cognitive, and compassionate empathy for others feelings and thoughts. This is what you need to improve upon in order to be successful in your life.”
“Thank you, Babaji for explaining all of this to me. Even though my ahankara is bruised, I appreciate this beating. I am clear on what I need to improve upon.”
“Thank you for listening and trying to improve yourself. If you can learn this, then together we can teach these concepts in our Vedic Psychology book and courses. It is my desire to teach people about their ahankara at a practical level so they can see their ahankara up close just like what you just experienced.”
“I will work on it, Babaji, and my goal is to fulfill your desire,” I quietly said as I bowed down to this great master who was shining his light on me so graciously.