Friday, August 05, 2011


When I was a puberteen at summer camp, I used to look up from my bug juice and the din in the dining hall, and see a wooden sign with this quote hanging on the wall:

First God. Then the other guy. Then me.

And I would think, "What a bunch of bullshit!"*

There were other signs on the dining hall wall:

"It is a wise boy who knows he isn't."

"Dream big. Then put on your overalls."

Those made sense: Don't think you know everything. Have a goal and do the work.

But the other one got to me, and got stuck in my head.

First God. What God? Whose God?

Then the other guy. What if the other guy is a douchebag?

Then me. Last again? If I don't take care of me, who will?

Now, decades (and years of therapy and yoga) later, it's starting to make sense.

Now, it has echoes of yoga in it.

Dharma often quotes the Bhagavad-Gita at the beginning of class:

"Fix your mind on Me alone.
Rest your thoughts on Me alone.
And in Me alone you will rest hereafter.
Of this there is no doubt."

First, God.

Then there is the yogic idea of serving God by serving others - in whom God also manifests, external douchebaginess nonwithstanding.

Then the other guy.

And then, taking care of your small-s self.

Then me.

As Swami Radha says, The Divine comes first - then everything else.

Easy to say.

Difficult to put into practice.

Unless of course one puts on her overalls....

and does the work.


*The mind had a similar reaction to Autobiography of a Yogi the first time around.


  1. C. K. posted: "First God. Then the other guy. Then me." And I would think, "What a bunch of bullshit!"*

    (*The mind had a similar reaction to Autobiography of a Yogi the first time around.)
    I missed this (*) the first time I read this. I also had a similar reaction to reading Autobiography way back when I was in high school (around 50 years ago).

    In the late 50’s I had a friend that today we would call her a spiritualist. She was around 60 at the time and had taken on the role of ‘my spiritual advisor’. She had just returned from a Spiritual Fair that was held annually in Chesterton, IN each year. While there, she was told to loan me two books that would help my spiritual growth. One book was ‘Autobiography’ and the other was C. W. Leadbeater’s ‘The Masters and The Path’.

    I started with ‘Autobiography’ and had a reaction that was similar to yours – pure bullshit!! However, I found the Leadbeater book so interesting, I read it in one day, contacted the Theosophical Society (publishers), and joined shortly thereafter. I have been a life member since then.

    Of course, I wasn’t ready for Yogananda then, but eventually re-discovered him and found his book one of the best!!!
    As you also pointed out: “Now, decades (and years of therapy and yoga) later, it's starting to make sense.” As with Dharma quoting the Gita; each time you read it, a new lesson is learned.

    Ralph from Dekalb

  2. That is why the gurus come back.

    Call me dear.


  3. Bug juice--that's made from bugs right? ;) I went away to camp for 6-8 weeks every summer starting at age 9 or 10.

    I loaded Autobiography of a Yogi to my Kindle several months ago (it's free!)and quit 1/3 of the way through due to the "bullsh*t" factor. A lot of people love the book so I can only assume I'm missing some essential prerequisite to "get it." Kind of like how quantum mechanics doesn't make any sense until you take linear algebra and multivariate calculus maybe?

    But I have to ask, for curiosity's sake, what is it you and Ralph love so much about the book?

  4. @Gail: Excellent question Gail.

    A quick history lesson will kind of answer my story. Remember my mentioning C. W. Leadbeater of the Theosophical Society (TS)? For a number of years he had a secretary by the name of Ernest Wood. You will find this name mentioned is some of the early history of Yoga. Several well know teachers as I remember studies with him in an academic way (in India and England?) He wrote a book called ‘Yoga’ from the many years he spent in India. Because this was more of a scholarly book, I gained some ‘faith’ in this whole genre. Once, I returned to ‘Autobiography’, it not only made sense to me, but I ‘sensed’ the spirit of the book – as if Yogananda put his whole heart and soul into it.

    BTW: Are you a scientist? I was, but retired now. Anyone who studied QM, knows what you are referring to. Actually, I would have included differential equations as well. Also, I’m on FB if you want to friend me – Ralph Hannon

  5. Stick with your practice and read it again in five years; perhaps it will resonate.

    Radha's book is a preparation for it; as you know, it too is about the guru-disciple relationship, but told from the western ("This is BS!") perspective.

    Perhaps your next read could be Paul Brunton's A Search in Secret India.

  6. Thank you for the second book suggestion CK. I'll hunt down a copy and give it a shot. I'm a bit "slow" apparently though. It's going to take quite a while to figure out the first one.

    Oddly, the ashram reminds me a little of getting a doctorate. Students come from far away and give up things to learn how to think like a scientist, becoming uttely dependent on their thesis advisor. Grad school pretty much becomes one's whole life. Perhaps not coincidentally, chemists get passionate about lineage and trace them back centuries.

    Ralph and I are FB friends now, so we can take quantum mechanics elsewhere.

    Ralph and I are facebook

  7. Gail said:

    “Oddly, the ashram reminds me a little of getting a doctorate. Students come from far away and give up things to learn how to think like a scientist, becoming utterly dependent on their thesis advisor. Grad school pretty much becomes one's whole life.”

    Ralph says: Absolutely!! A one-to-one correlation can be made relating the two.

    I like the phrase: “utterly dependent on their thesis advisor” with the operative word being UTTERLY!!! The Western version of an Academic Guru.

  8. For most, it's important to observe a guru for a long time before making a commitment.

    Part of the commitment is total obedience to the guru (unless it goes against one's conscience). That's why it's so important to be certain.

    But the goal is independence, not dependence.

    The guru gives the tools to clean up their act so the true Self may shine forth. Then, the inner guru becomes available.

    Doing the work is up to the chela.

  9. C. K. said:

    "But the goal is independence, not dependence"

    I say:


    Ralph from DeKalb

  10. Well, I might add:

    1) The point of a PhD program is to turn students into independent research scientists.
    2) It's important to choose one's thesis advisor very carefully. A bad one causes much misery.
    3) When I started in lab, someone had to show me (one-on-one) how to do everything, because it's not possible to learn from a book.
    4)I had to go into the lab every day, even weekends and holidays.

    Getting my chem PhD was the most intense and difficult thing I've done, but it's nearly impossible to explain to "civilians."

  11. That kind of focus and dedication will serve you well on the path to self-realization (aka the razor's edge) if you choose to pursue it.

  12. There are no grades or exams or pats on the back to show that one is headed in the right direction; just a long uphill climb that requires a certain amount of faith.....

  13. They say that “suspicion leads to suspension.” Without some modicum of faith in guru and what he or she has come outside the body to tell us, we cannot practice. Doubt is the enemy of sadhana. Doubt keeps us in bed in the morning (literally in some cases). With faith, though, we can break from the suspended animation of doubt and begin to think and act in our ultimate interest.

  14. Well, thanks much for the book suggestions! #1 was interestng. We'll see how #2 goes.

  15. You may like it. Brunton was a journalist / skeptic. So it's well-written *and* he has a lot of reservations about the spiritual path.