A little earlier, the question came up as to the meaning of the word “Hare.” And I think the answer left a couple people a little puzzled, [the answer] was not fully complete. [Many] of you know of the Law of Karma.
Just to review, when a human being [completes] an action [where] their ego identifies that they are the do-er of that action, there is then a reaction that accrues to that. This is initially a potentiality, [which] means that you’ve done something, and the way that the vast synergetic cosmos works is that, for every action, there is a reaction. On the physical plane, that physical reaction occurs immediately. But in the psychic realm, there is some delay for the reaction to take place. [Thus], we sit with a whole body of potential reactions to our past actions that lie unexpressed, unless circumstances arise for that karma to get worked out.
We all have this potential reaction to our past actions, our past karma. When it lies in its potential form, it is called, in yogic philosophy, “Samskaras.” In spiritual life, when a person with great sincerity surrenders their ego to the Divine, this becomes the core of their spiritual practice. They no longer privilege their sense of self nor do they cling to this identity, the construct of mind, that “who I am is this small little ego.” Instead, they try to surrender and let go of this limited identity, and expand their sense of self through practices of surrender, of service, of remembering, and affirming who they truly are. This is often done through mantra meditation, and it is also done through devotional dance or singing, or other forms.
Different practices of mysticism have this as their essential purpose. When this “letting go of the ego identity” deepens sufficiently, there is a dissipation of that whole sense of identity. It no longer defines who one is. One becomes completely surrendered, and then the question arises, “what happens with all this body of samskara that has been attached to this ego identity, that is now surrendered?”
We have given up our small self to our Lord, to the Divine. And when we give up our small self to the Divine, the move that the Divine Entity then makes is that the Divine snatches all those Samskaras. There is no longer purpose for these Samskaras to be attached to an ego identity that no longer exists. The feeling is, like the feeling Jesus had, “I am He. The Father and I are one.” The great mystics who have attained great realization this becomes their essential understanding of their true nature. So God snatches all those Samskaras and for that reason, He has come to be called the thief, or “Hare.”
For this to work nicely, it helps when individuals have some sense of a spiritual ideal or personification of God that they surrender themselves to. This, in yogic philosophy, is called their “Ishta.” And depending on their proclivity toward their spiritual path, their Ishta may be Allah, or it may be Jesus. It may be Krishna, or it may be Rama. When this mantra was given by Mahatma Prabhu, 1300 years ago, in India, the two most prominent Ishta’s were that of Krishna and of Rama. That is why their names became associated with “Hare” — God as Thief. So then the spiritual ideal becomes, “The God who will steal, will take my burden of Samskaras and allow for my full liberation of Soul.”
There is one interesting story about the importance of Ishta. In South Asia, it is said that there were, once, two neighbors who were both great devotees. One was a devotee of Allah, perhaps they were a Sufi mystic. And the other was a great devotee of Rama, a yogic mystic. They were very close, but they would have disagreements as to whether Allah or Rama was the greater Ishta. This argument became quite heated, and they finally decided to put it to a test. For this test, they went to the edge of this cliff, and the test was that each would jump off the cliff and shout the name of their Ishta to see who would be saved and who wouldn’t be saved. So the Sufi goes first, and he starts to cry out “Allah, Allah, Allah!” and he lands quite softly and nicely on the ground. The devotee of Rama is still upon the cliff and saying “Oh my God! This guy was saved!” and he didn’t know what to do. But there was an arrangement and he had to jump. So, he jumps, and as he jumps, he starts “Rama, Rama, Rama” but then as he’s falling, he goes “Rama, Allah! Rama Allah!” and he lost his strict devotion to his Ishta. Unfortunately, he crashed, and was badly injured.
This article was transcribed from a talk by Acharya Ravi given in February 2020. Transcription by Rene Tricou, editing by Michele Renee.
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