By Nayaswami Dharmadevi
August 20, 2019

We just arrived in beautiful Assisi, Italy after a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Rome. That’s a long time on a plane but a good time to catch up on things. I’d like to say I had my longest meditation ever, but rather I caught up on a couple of movies I’d missed! Thankfully, they both had an important lesson that makes for good blog material.

Most of you probably know Dumbo, the flying elephant. I watched the Disney animated movie when I was little but didn’t remember the story. Well, in watching the newly released live action film on our flight, I was pleasantly surprised.

Spoiler alert!

Dumbo discovers his ability to fly when he inadvertently inhales a feather. Many feathers later, he finds himself and his friends in dire straights and summons his courage to walk through his fears. Through the help of a friend he remembers that his power doesn’t come from feathers but from inside himself.

Next, I watched Captain Marvel. I’m a superhero junky so I was pretty sure I would be entertained, but again, I was pleasantly surprised by the underlying message. 

The heroine has lost her memory and believes she is from another planet. Her race of people have been given the gift (from an outside source) of extraordinary power to help protect the world. She realizes what she thought was the source of her power (a device embedded in her neck) is actually keeping her own, much greater power, limited and controlled. She breaks free from these bonds and finds the source of her power within.

Being in Italy, you hear the word “adomani,” which means, “see you tomorrow.” I like to use mental association to remember words and this one reminded me of a character from the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Abhimanu is a great warrior on the side of the Pandavas (the good guys). Paramhansa Yogananda said he represents the positive quality of “self-transcendence.” 

When Swami Kriyananda was in Los Angeles, he attended the premiere of a movie called The Titans of Yoga. Swamiji had a small part in the documentary that featured mostly Western hatha yogis, famous for their expertise of the yoga postures. When asked about the philosophy of yoga, they talked a lot about loving your body and loving yourself.

After the film, Swamiji and the others were invited onto the stage to share a few words with the audience. Swami’s words cut right to the point – he said, “I don’t know about all this ‘loving yourself,’ love the Self.” 

Self-transcendence (Abhimanu) is transcendence of the ego, the soul identified with the body and personality. One way to transcend the ego is to expand your sense of self to embrace infinity. The other way of transcendence is through self-forgetfulness. You become nothing in the contemplation of All That Is.

In practicing self-forgetfulness, we realize that without God’s grace in our lives, we wouldn’t exist. A moment without the animating creative life force flowing through us and we would be less than a sack of potatoes! This humbling thought can fan our desire to give all the credit for everything we do to God. “God is the Doer” is the mantra for one practicing self-forgetfulness. 

Jesus Christ said, “the kingdom of God is within you!” The mantra “God is the Doer” can sometimes conjure up in our minds the thought that God is somewhere outside of ourselves. But He is the creative life force animating us, He is every thought we think, He is everyone and everything around us, He is all of creation… and so much more!

To transcend the little self, we must realize that our power doesn’t come from anything outside of us – not a feather or some alien power source embedded in our necks – nor (to put it in terms we might relate to more) from any fame, fortune, or authority over others, nor anything we can acquire in the world. True power comes through transcending the ego and tapping into God’s infinite power, right within us and all around us. When we truly feel God as the Doer of everything, He can do anything through us!