There’s a story I read several years ago; it comes and goes like a familiar ghost, but lately it’s more and more present. To me, it’s one of the simplest, most poignant allegories on the human condition—as long as you’re willing to look beyond theological constructs. Sometimes, when I bump up against labels and the like, I find approaching any information as one would a fable or a childhood story yields a refreshing flexibility of mind.
This excerpt is from How To Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. If you’re unfamiliar with Eastern Philosophy, as I am, the only term that’s helpful to know beforehand, ahem, is “Atman.” Simply put: it means the real Self.
"There is a story," writes Swami Vivekananda, "that the king of the gods, Indra, once became a pig, wallowing in mire; he had a she-pig, and a lot of baby pigs, and was very happy. Then some gods saw his plight, and came to him, and told him, 'You are king of the gods, you have all the gods under your command. Why are you here?' But Indra said, 'Never mind; I am all right here; I do not care for heaven, while I have this sow and these little pigs.' The poor gods were at their wits' end. After a time, they decided to slay all the pigs, one after another. When all were dead, Indra began to weep and mourn. Then the gods ripped his pig-body open and he came out of it, and began to laugh when he realized what a hideous dream he had had; he, the king of the gods, to have become a pig, and to think that pig-life was the life? Not only so, but to have wanted the whole universe to come into the pig-life!" The Atman, when it identifies itself with nature, forgets that it is pure and infinite. The Atman does not love, it is love itself. It does not exist, it is existence itself. The Atman does not know; it is knowledge itself. It is a mistake to say that the Atman loves, exists or knows. Love, existence and knowledge are not the qualities of the Atman, but its essence. When they get reflected upon something, you may call them the qualities of that something. They are not the qualities but the essence of the Atman, the Infinite Being, without birth or death, established in its own glory. It appears to have become so degenerate that if you approach to tell it, "You are not a pig," it begins to squeal and bite. This pig-which-is-not-a-pig can, on occasion, become a very dangerous animal. The power of tamas in our nature is so great that we hate to be disturbed. We loathe any new idea, especially if it implies that we shall have to make some change in our own lives. And so, when the spiritual teachers come to tell us that we are not pigs but God, we are quite apt to persecute and crucify them.