The tale about the businessman asking Sri Ramakrishna to send the goddess Maha Kali to visit him is worth examining, for it displays a profound truth. In the world of business, it is considered useful, essential even, to have contacts – we cannot say friends, when the motive is material profit – and the man who approached the yogi was attempting to apply this method to the spiritual life. He knew Ramakrishna; Ramakrishna knew the goddess; why not arrange a visit? If a goddess stops by for tea, there might be many profitable opportunities in such an encounter!
But this logic ignores the lifelong devotion of the master that had opened the doorway to the divine. In the yogic tradition, intense devotion is called tapasiya, a word which also means fire, and by this devotion and austerity, the seeker is purified, or as we say in the prayer, raised ‘above the denseness of the earth.’ Being the friend of the friend, in other words, earns us no merit (as we know from the story of Nasruddin and the soup!).
Putting an ideal first in our life inevitably means relegating other matters to lower positions – particularly things like a self-centered concern for our comfort, or our need for self-display. In this connection, we might remember the teaching of Jesus, that wood that does not bear good fruit is only fit for burning – and selfishness bears nothing edible. By this tapasiya or purification, we discard illusions and come at last to understand who we truly are. As Hazrat Inayat Khan explains, there are two ‘egos’; one is the false ego that thinks the sun shines for us and all is made for our convenience, and the other is the real Ego, the Self of Truth, that holds all in its Heart and blazes with light both day and night.
When we know that Self, then we know our true ‘address’ – but if someone asked us to write it on a piece of paper, we could only laugh.