Many thousand years ago a young lad named Svetaketu came home after completing an elite education. He was now a learned man with many sought after skills. He had a bright future and was understandably proud. But when he spoke with his father he realized a bitter truth. It dawned on him that though his elite education had taught him a lot it had missed teaching him a crucial insight: The nature of his own identity.
The essential problem of identity can be boiled down to the fact that the word “I” sometimes refers to our ego and at other times it refers to our deeper Self. The fact that the word “I” points to two distinct entities is a source of endless confusion that leads to much trouble.
Svetaketu’s story records the first time when humans gained awareness of this duality. The problems arising from the confusion with dual identity are so severe that our ancestors have taken the trouble to document and preserve the story for thousands of years. (Svetaketu’s story is now also a youtube video that you can watch here.)
Unfortunately, even as was thousands of years ago so it is today. Our education does little to educate us on the essential difference between our two identities. We may be dimly aware of the possibility that we may have a deeper Self, but it is not something we are trained to work towards or understand. The entire focus of our education is about things external to us. All this focus on the external, without understanding who we are inside, creates a dangerous situation. We gain knowledge and power but we really do not know on whose behalf we are using it. It is like being in a ship where the captain has been imprisoned in the cellar and an impersonator is in charge. Nobody knows that the ship has been left to the guiles of an imposter. All our efforts to make the ship more secure from the outside seem futile as we remain unaware that the real captain is not in charge.
Many thousand years ago, humans decided to preserve Svetaketu’s story. They did it as a warning and a challenge for succeeding generations. We have yet to pay heed and we continue to ignore this only at our cost. Our education and training is still focused on the external and by doing so we remain trapped in our ego-identity. Living a life subservient to the whims of the ego is difficult and unnecessarily painful. The reason most of us do it is that we do not know better. But the light shining forth from Svetaketu’s story and the stories of countless other saints is like a beacon that we must use to wake up from the on-going nightmare with our egos.