Identities: A Letter to Eric Estep (Sundaram)

October 17, 1982

Dear Sundaram:

I think if you took a new approach to certain problems you face in yourself you would find a degree of inner freedom that has eluded you up to now. You share a defect with the rest of your family (we all have them, and they often do run in families, so I don’t mean to single you out in this regard): all of you live with a considerable inner insecurity. Each of you copes with the problem in his own way. Your way is to build around yourself an aura of infallibility and unapproachability. It makes you seem proud, selfish, and cold to all but the few who are willing not only to penetrate that veneer, but to accept wholly your personal view of things. While this is a defense mechanism, the danger of assumed attitudes, no matter how alien to the inner man, is that they may end up becoming adopted as natural and real.

You are not really as proud, selfish, and lacking in graciousness, as you seem. But you are becoming all of these, and will indeed become them wholly, at least in your human personality, if you don’t give up erecting these ego-defenses. And if you don’t act soon, it may become too late to change, at least for this incarnation. You have the will power and the intelligence to continue the charade for years longer, if you so wish. But your every effort to do so, to date, has demonstrated a lack of discrimination that cannot but assert itself, also, when attitudes of bitterness, disillusionment, and isolation creep in, as other people, and circumstances in general, continue to deny you the appreciation you feel you deserve.

One of the surest keys to understanding people is to listen to the criticisms they level against others. You leveled certain criticisms against me, and I listened, hoping to learn something from them. But again and again what I heard was Sundaram describing himself: his defensiveness; his lack of graciousness; his lack of attunement and humility. When he complained that I never listened, I saw that, indeed, he had never listened, never even heard any point of view but his own. When he told me I wasn’t really a friend to others because I never gave them the freedom to be or to express themselves as they were, I saw, as if down a long corridor, all the years that Sundaram had insisted on his opinions, his views and actions as the only right ones; all the times he had expressed himself in ways that made it impossible for people even to converse with him except on his own terms; all the times he had taken criticism of others to the farthest limit of negative possibility; all the times he had failed to give others the love and respect due to fellow human beings, and certainly due to friends.

Love is the key, Sundaram. Until you learn to love others, you will never understand them. Until you learn to love and accept yourself, and stop buttressing that protective ego-wall, you will never understand yourself. And all your hours of daily meditation will only further strengthen your pride; they will not accomplish the one thing which meditation ought to be accomplishing for you: the dissolving of your ego.

Become a devotee, Sundaram. You are falling into the chief trap of Raja Yoga: pride.

You have complained that I never responded to your offers of friendship in the past. My dear, words are cheap. You haven’t won my response. Your very paintings of me have always made clear your true feelings—or I should say, rather, your lack of them for me. Your talk with me the other day made clear your analytical attitude towards me, an attitude that has been obvious virtually every time we’ve been together.

Yet I know there is much goodness under that cold exterior. There is a vulnerable ego that hungers to be loved, that needs love—as indeed we all do. I could be your friend, if you really were open, and didn’t insist that all association with anyone be on your own terms.

But, frankly, I haven’t the time to work at penetrating that thick protective wall of yours. Others have done so, though some, having done so, have been deeply hurt by you. I wish you happiness with Naomi, but I hope you don’t end up hurting her, too—especially as she has sacrificed so many other worthwhile relationships to preserve yours.

I am sure, for all that, that you are well worth getting to know. And I sincerely wish for you the spiritual progress you so obviously want. Seek it more humbly, and it will be yours.

In Master’s love,