This Self cannot be gained by one devoid of strength

Nayam atma balahinena labhyah – This Self cannot be gained by one devoid of strength
– Mundaka Upanishad iii:2:3
This mantra has always appealed to me, made me feel good when I think about it, say it… I think I like it because of two reasons:
the phrase “this Self” strikes me as personal – not pondering over some metaphysical conundrum, but rather something from myself, like my ear or my leg.
there is also the feeling that the writer of the mantra is writing from experience – a long trail of experiences, which were not easy.
I think about when my guru recently described someone as “strong, strong.” The person she is describing is, indeed, a strong , strong yogi. He looks it. There is no doubt. But I immediately thought, “not ever so strong as you.” Because the strength fired by passion is what the mantra is referring to – clearly. We all know that, seen from far above, the strong man is indistinguishable from an ant. Indeed, proportionately, the ant is much stronger. But both Man and Ant can be brushed off the surface of the earth by the eyelashes of Satan (I use this name because it invokes fear in many people, from diverse cultures.)
Because the strength of the Upanishad mantra is that strength needed to combat the greatest power in the human universe – fear. Fear of This Self. When you are alone, are you alone? No. You are always trapped with You. It is in utter aloneness that humans feel the most wretched, nauseating fear, and this is because they do not recognize the frightening being that surrounds them in this aloneness. It is us. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Incidentally, my dad used to read me Pogo, incessantly, insistently. He wanted me to know something. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” What the mantra is saying, however, is that we do not run from This Self – we must gain it. Tame it? Embrace it? Yes. I think so. And for this, we need that special strength. Do you know what it feels like?
Because you have to feel it once, before you can recognize it. It’s likely not one of those alternative strengths that someone has preached to you in the past, like “moral strength” or “strength of character.” No. Indeed, this strength feels exactly like physical strength, only, inside you. It feels like the cows are tied to your arms, and pulling you apart. But, you feel the sinews wrap around the pain and the force, and counter it. We who practice Ashtanga and Yi Jing Jin feel it in our practice, once we have surpassed the deceptive feelings of physical strength.


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