Silence the Inner Critic – Story of Dhruva

Story of Dhruva

Today is about finding love. It’s about overcoming our insecurities, our self-doubts, criticisms and fears, and realizing that the love that most seek on the outside already and always lies within us. The story I’m going to share today is a story that’s quite special to me. When I started reading it the message on the surface seemed really nice and sweet. The more that I got into the story and the more versions of the story that I read the more it came alive.

I’ve been chanting a lot. A lot of these stories and a lot of deities, they have particular mantras that are associated with them. Often when I’m creating the stories I spend a lot of time chanting these mantras. I was spending a lot of time with this particular mantra associated with this little boy in the story and have really just completely fallen in love with all the layers of the story and the message that it holds. It’s something that, especially since my transition from more of the wild yogi off in the jungles to the more domesticated father and husband living in the world, I’ve struggled at times finding a new way that doesn’t include such strong intense practices that I was doing when I was living abroad for so many years. This story is something that gives me so much comfort and warmth in my heart that I’m really excited to share it.

We’ll get through all the layers as we go along and we’ll add in some new elements and some other possible ways to see things but essentially we’re still looking at why we’re seeking love, why we seek it on the outside instead of the inside, and we have this beautiful example of this little boy, Dhruva. Once upon a time there was a little boy named Dhruva and Dhruva was the prince. His father was Uttānapāda and he was the king of all the lands. Dhruva’s mother, her name was Suniti and she was the king’s first wife, which means that Dhruva was actually the crown prince, he was the next in line to inherit the throne. King Uttānapāda actually had another wife named Suruchi who was a very beautiful woman but she was also terribly insecure and jealous.

They had a son together as well named Uttama. Now, so Uttama being younger than Dhruva was not in line to be the king but Suruchi, being as she was, she wanted her son to be king. She constantly manipulated the king to try to withhold his affection from Dhruva and this obviously made Dhruva really, really sad. Now, one day Dhruva goes to the throne room to visit his father and already Suruchi and Uttama are there. Uttama’s sitting on his father’s lap. Dhruva comes up and he’s obviously a little sad that he’s always trying to see his father and he’s not around very much but he is spending a lot of time with little Uttama, his little stepbrother or half-brother. He approaches the king and he asks the king, he’s like, “Hey, can I come sit on your lap?” Of course the father’s like, “Oh, of course my son, hop on my lap.”

He’s got Uttama on one leg and Dhruva on the other and Suruchi sees this and she’s kind of furious. She comes over and she actually shoves Dhruva off of the king’s lap and onto the floor. In that first moment the king actually reaches for his son like, “Oh my gosh, my son just got knocked to the floor.” He looks up and he sees Suruchi and this evil vile look on her face telling him, like, “Don’t you dare touch that little boy.” She goes on this awful tirade. She tells him that she doesn’t deserve the king’s love, that no one will ever love him, no person could ever love him. She tells him that the biggest problem that he has is that he wasn’t born from her womb. She goes on to say that, “You know what? You’re so unlovable that what you need to do is you need to go and pray to Vishnu, hope that he’ll kill you and that you could be reborn again in my womb. Then at least you’d be my son then and maybe you could sit on your father’s lap, maybe then you would deserve love.”

This is a five-year-old little boy, all right? Imagine this little boy, dark brown curly hair, olive eyes, just sweet as can be coming up and just wanting essentially a hug from his father and this woman comes and just throws him away and she’s always getting the king to reject that love. What’s going on here? What, other than the obvious of the situation, is that Suruchi is taking on that evil stepmother archetype. What that usually represents is our insecurities, the sense that we’re plagued with fears. It’s our inner voices, our negative self-talk, our criticism, our doubts. This is that aspect that’s coming to pull us away from the affection of others. The king actually tries to go over and help the boy but he can’t because when you’re so shut off from self-doubt and fear even the divine has a hard time reaching you.

When we’re in our own lives and we’re listening to all those little demons in our head that are telling us, “Well, you’re not good enough, you’re not lovable enough”, this is Suruchi. This is her doing this to Dhruva telling him, “You are not worth loving.” For a little boy that’s absolutely devastating so he runs out of the throne room and he goes to see his birth mom, Suniti.

Suniti is a wonderful woman but she’s quite simple. She’s beautiful in her own way and she’s a wonderful mother but she doesn’t really know what to do. She doesn’t know how to console her son, she feels powerless. Here is little Dhruva and he’s crying. He’s like, “Is no one ever going to love me? Am I not worthy of my father’s love? If my father doesn’t love me then who could possibly love me? If no person can love me well then maybe God can love me.”

That’s where he goes. He’s like, “Well, maybe my one salvation in life would be Vishnu. Maybe Vishnu will love me. Maybe he’ll love me enough to do as Suruchi suggested and let me die so I could be reborn by her womb and then maybe I’d be worthy of my father’s love.” The seductive thing is thinking that all of your self-doubts, all of your fears will lead you in the right direction. Thinking that going to Vishnu so that you can be re-born as Suruchi’s son, thinking that that’s going to fix it, that that all of a sudden, then you’ll find the affection that you’ve been longing for. That’s the temptation of those little voices inside of us of self-doubt, and criticism, and fear, and worthiness.

Of course, Vishnu’s going to love him anyways but what he’s going to grant him is different than from what he thinks, we’ll get to that. The boy asks, he’s like, “How can I find Vishnu?” Of course Sunuti she doesn’t know of these things, she just says, “Well, the god men they go to the woods to find God, to find the divine, so maybe that’s where you should go.” The boy decides to change his princely robes. He puts on the clothes of an esthetic and he heads off into the woods. Now, on the path he meets a sage named Narada and Narada is a great devotee of Vishnu, a great spiritual teacher. Narada, when he sees this boy he’s like, “Boy, what are you doing out here in the middle of the woods? This isn’t a safe place for you to be.”

Dhruva tells him, he’s like, “I’m here to find Vishnu, I’m here to find God.” Narada tries to dissuade him. He’s like, “Look, you’re really young and this is a really hard thing to do. Why don’t you go and live your life and then come back maybe when you’re older and then that would be an appropriate time to do this. Right now you’re just a little boy.” The sage knows who this little boy is and says, “When you’re the prince won’t your father and your mother be sad that you’re not around?” Of course, Dhruva’s now in tears and he explains that, “My father doesn’t love me. My mother, I think, she gets more abuse because I’m around. Maybe because I’m not around now she’ll be able to get more love from my father because Suniti won’t be as much of a threat to Suruchi because her son now will be first in line to be king.”

He keeps persisting. Dhruva keeps showing this determination that he will not give up, that he is determined to find Vishnu so that he can sit on the throne again. This is one of the variants of the story of, well, he’s talking about sitting on the throne. He wants to get the throne of his father but we’re talking about this, again, from the perspective of a five-year-old boy. Some people say that, like, “Well, here’s this little boy who wants this material thing, he wants his throne. He wants to become the crown prince, again, and make sure that he is going to be king. Here he is going off to find God for material reasons.”

Again, what is the throne to a five-year-old? What is that treasure? It’s his father’s love. A child doesn’t feel like they have anything if they don’t have their parent’s love. The throne itself actually represents that love, that self-love, not even the love of the father but to finally sit on the throne is to sit in that embodiment of love. Right now, little boy Dhruva thinks that that love is going to come from his father and that’s where he needs to find it so he’s got to go find Vishnu to give it to him to bring him full circle so he can get the love of his father again.

If we take it here at face value it’s the material thing, it’s him wanting the throne. If we understand what these things in the story represent, including the stepmother, we understand that what he’s really looking for is love and he’s been separated from that feeling of love because of his doubt, his criticism, his fears. Eventually Narada takes pity on the boy. He’s like, “Okay, this boy is obviously going to do this with or without me so I might as well give him help,” so he gives the boy some practices to do. Most importantly, he gives the boy a mantra. He says, “This is the name of the Lord that will most assuredly bring you the blessings of Vishnu.”

That mantra is om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. The little boy went off into the woods and he started doing these intense yogi practices and chanting this mantra over and over and over again. He said that if he goes through this process over these months of eating less and less food and breathing less and less … At first he’s actually standing on one foot for a long period of time in these practices. Some actually associated a tree pose, Vrikshasana in yoga asana with Dhruva because he’s there standing on one foot doing these practices, saying these mantras, completely committed and determined to find God.

We get something very similar that we do mirroring the story of Hanuman in the Golden Mango ,which we had episodes ago, of drawing in the breath or the super long retention that starts to shake the earth and make all the gods panic. These lesser gods, these are essentially the faculties of the mind and senses. When you’re doing these deep meditative practices and you’re doing these breath retentions, these kumbhakas, and starting to peel the layers quite literally your body can shake, that means you’re going too long but it feels like your cells are vibrating and expanding in these moments. You’re at that bridge where you’re about to go beyond the ego, beyond the mind so the things that control all of that in the senses they start to panic, they start to freak out. They say, “Take a breath. Bring life back in, bring the world back in,” when you’re going further and further deeper inside.

The gods, they rush off to Vishnu and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this kid’s doing these practices and the earth is shaking and shattering. You’ve got to do something before the whole world explodes.” Vishnu says, “Okay, I’ll go check this out,” and he goes down to where little Dhruva is. Dhruva’s just completely immersed in meditation. He’s seeing the image of Vishnu inside himself, inside his own heart and he’s completely fixed on that inner vision. Vishnu’s standing in front of him with his brilliant, radiant self and the boy still has his eyes closed and he’s not even moving, he’s not even acknowledging.

You have Vishnu kind of standing there being like, looking around, scratching his shoulder being like, “Hey, kind of a big deal. I’m standing in front of you, how come you’re not noticing me right now?” Vishnu takes his conch shell and he taps the boy with it to snap him out of his meditative state. The boy startles awake and he looks at Vishnu and he doesn’t really know what to do or to say. The image that he’d been seeing on the inside for so long is now standing in front of him in the world.

Now, this is a really big deal because what this is signifying is that he’s not finding him on the inside, he’s not connecting to him through deeper and deeper states of meditation, he’s actually seeing him on the outside, he’s seeing him out in the world. This is a different angle on things because many of the paths out there are telling you keep meditating, keep meditating, keep meditating to find God inside. Of course, that is what he does but what he’s now experiencing is actually God on the outside. This isn’t a path that takes you so deeply inward that you completely lose the body, you lose the senses, and everything is dissolved away merging with the infinite.

This is a path that, sure, he found it going through these practices but now God is on the outside, God is in front of him, in front of his physical body. This isn’t the dying and being reborn archetype, he receives the gift of his life. What Vishnu when he awakens him, he says, “Little boy, you’re doing all these amazing practices and I see you’re so devoted to me. You’re chanting my name. What is it that I can do for you?” The little boy tells him his story, tells him what happened with his father and his love. Vishnu’s kind of there just listening to the whole thing lovingly.

The boy says, “I want to sit on the throne. I want to be able to sit on my father’s lap. I want his love again.” Vishnu consoles him. He says, “You have my blessings, you have my love. My blessing and my love is always with you and inside of you. Don’t worry, don’t worry about your father, I’ll make sure that he loves you.” The little boy is kind of like, “You don’t know my stepmother, she is pretty wicked. She’s a pretty tough cookie.” Vishnu kind of just continues to console like, “It’s okay, it’s all going to be fine. Not only will you have this love and not only will you feel your father’s love and be able to sit on the throne, you will be king. You will have everything that you wanted.”

In fact, he promises Dhruva a place in the sky. Dhruva will be the brightest star. He is the pulse star. Now, pulse star is our true north, that thing that helps us find our way home. It’s the center of our very being. Interestingly enough, when you look at the pulse star in the sky … Different in the north and south hemispheres, but when you look at the north star in the northern hemisphere all the other stars and the planets are all moving around it so it seems like it doesn’t move and it helps guide you back home. This is really significant because here you have the center, that focal point in the heart and that is God’s love resting there. You’ve got the whole world spinning around, and the whole universe is spinning around.

Even though the world is spinning and spinning and spinning at the very center of it all is that still point, is that place of love. That love is what takes us home. Here we have Dhruva … Again, when he’s getting the kingdom, he’s getting the throne it’s in a way representing him stepping into society, stepping into his proper role in his community as well. The truth being is that we can’t really step into our role as a collective, as a community, until we have found love inside of ourselves. If we’re operating on a place of fear, and self-doubt, and criticism we’re never really open to that space of love, we’re exiled from really sitting on that throne.

That throne isn’t being a king or a queen, that throne is sitting in that royal place where you are guiding your own life. When you’re doing that that’s a very powerful thing, you’re guiding your life in the world. Again, this is Vishnu eyes wide open, not eyes wide shut. He’s out in the world. He is in everything including inside you even though the world seems like it’s moving around, crazy around you, all it takes is that moment of looking inward maybe chanting his mantra and finding that still place of love. That empowers us then to move through the world without getting knocked over by every insecurity, every feat that we have.

Myself, creating these podcasts, my inner critic, my self-criticism meter goes through the roof. I have a really hard time even listening to my podcasts because I just start criticizing every tone from my voice, every word that I say. If I messed up anything I get really down on myself. Stories like this and the mantra of this story have been so powerful for me. Learning to let go and just accept and love myself, and that love that I find inside myself transcends, it goes beyond. It goes past my fears, my self-criticism and doubt about myself, my self-worthiness of like, “Well, this is a crap episode. Nobody wants to listen to this, this is awful.”

Those things come up, they flash into my head. It just takes that remembering and that settling into the self to say, “You know what? I love me, this is great, this is fine. I’ve got God’s love inside of my own heart.” I know some people get worried about the word God, we say the love of the divine in my heart. That allows me then to sit in my seat, sit on my throne and be in the world and share. Of course, I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to have all this stuff but it matters less when you’re in love. In love with yourself, and I don’t mean in the narcissistic way but rather in the way of caring and loving ourselves so much that we accept ourselves. By accepting ourselves we’re free then to accept others.

He gets these blessings from Vishnu, Dhruva gets these blessings from Vishnu and he heads home Of course, everything is fine now, he becomes the king eventually. Some versions he’s said to rule for thousands of years beyond that but then eventually takes his place amongst the stars to become the pole star, to become that center, that reminder for all of us that your true north, your fixed position is actually inside of you. If you think, “Well, it’s out there, it’s in that star,” it’s like no, no, no, that star is Dhruva and Dhruva’s you, he’s that little boy inside of you looking for the love from the world and from his parents and from himself, and he finds it by looking inward, by going inside.

I think a lot of us if you’re plagued by these feelings of self-doubt and fear it doesn’t really do any good to try to fight it or resist it or even fix it. It’s only through that love that we really come to embrace the totality of the experience of life, the various challenges of life. We can meet them because and if we have that love within ourselves, feel that love within ourselves. When you’re feeling self-doubt, when you’re feeling your inner critic buzzing or you’re feeling like you’re unworthy of love there’s no need to try to fix it. There’s no need to try to search for it outside of yourself. Look inside of yourself.

Sure, there are plenty of practices and there are different traditions and different practices for those traditions but really all the story wants to do is invite you to look inside, look inside your own heart and find the love that dwells there already.

Listen to the story here: