Marie Louise Burke, in her diary entries (“A Disciple’s Journal: In the company of Swami Ashokananda”), gifts us a view of her struggles, and her relationship with her Teacher, Swami Ashokananda (a monk of the Ramakrishna Order). It is remarkable, among other things, for the reason that there is clearly no whitewashing 😊
Introducing the entries for 1956, she writes that “when I came to know Swami Ashokananda”, she saw “the ocean of selflessness for the first time.”
“My only thought was “Oh! That’s it.”….He was not merely unselfish — there was just no self, no ego to affirm or to efface. Out of that emptiness….came a strength and a wisdom without shadows or doubts.”
Writing about Jesus Christ in “The World’s Religions”, the scholar Huston Smith points out that “it seemed to those who knew him best that here was a man in whom the human ego had disappeared…..” It was this, “what he was”, Huston writes, that “edged his disciples toward the conclusion that he was divine”.
Abigail Marsh, psychologist and neuroscientist at Georgetown University, whose life-direction changed when a stranger (whose identify she still does know) saved her life after a potentially fatal road accident when she was nineteen, tells us in a TED Talk that she has devoted her work “to understanding the human capacity to care for others.”
She says that she has asked many altruistic people about what it is that makes them special, that makes them different from most.
“And what do they say?
They say, “Nothing. There’s nothing special about me. I’m just the same as everybody else.”
And I think that’s actually a really telling answer….They have no center. These altruists literally don’t think of themselves as being at the center of anything, as being better or more inherently important than anybody else.”