Why should we follow the spiritual path?
Why not live life eating, drinking, shopping, making money, partying and pampering our senses?
After all, this world too has been made by God, and He has placed us in positions in our family, society and in the world. So why not get to God through enjoying the material world and its pleasures? Wouldn’t we get to know God by living this way too ?
The problem with this choice of life is that it draws you into a maze where you cannot find yourself, God, or any peace of mind, and you certainly can’t find lasting joy.
How do we come to follow the spiritual path?
Some of us are drawn to the path because of our prarabdha or sanchit karma. Having lived a God-dedicated life earlier in past births, we are again drawn to such a life in this birth, and it is our natural tendencies due to accumulated good karma.
Equally common is the case that we take up the spiritual path hoping and expecting that something unusual will happen to us through the ‘spiritual’ life we lead. It might be like undertaking an experiment, to see if there is any merit in the stories we have heard about miracles, visions, and spiritual powers, or if it’s just some kind of mass hypnosis. When we embark on the ‘spiritual’ path with this mindset, skepticism, not sincerity, would colour the experience, and it’s probable that we wouldn’t have the discipline or endurance to actually lead a spiritual life. We might quickly drop away at the first sense of inconvenience.
Some need miracles to support any belief in the validity of the spiritual life. Now, a miracle is exactly that…it may happen or it may not. If a miracle doesn’t happen, or if one happens in a way too subtle for us to take notice, we are not convinced of the validity of the spiritual life and its goals, and would normally fall off of it, concluding that it’s all humbug.
Others are attracted to the spiritual life by a half-acknowledged or hidden desire for spiritual powers. For these power-oriented aspirants, the spiritual life is one of sadhana and certain practices with definite goals to be achieved. This approach is self defeating. Pursuit of spiritual practices with such objectives ultimately leads to increased ego-centeredness, and strengthens the delusion of the little self as the doer. True spiritual growth means transcending a limited, ego-oriented existence into a much larger, more expanded awareness.
So, what is the best approach to take for a spiritual life, for the spiritual path? If we are not to pursue definite goals, what is the purpose of such a life? What advantages does it have over a normal life devoted to the pursuit of worldly pleasures?
Does bliss really accompany a journey on the spiritual path?
In answer to this question, I’d like to narrate my own experience.
After being a seeker for many years, I found the path of Kriya Yoga, and I found my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. On this path I followed the teachings and a certain way of life, which included positive, open attitudes to life, to people and to relationships. Meditation and certain exercises were also an integral part.
Over the years, this way of life has helped me develop a connection with what I feel is Divine Consciousness. There is an awareness within myself of a deep, underlying peace and calmness, and a general kindness and love for all creatures which stays with me throughout the day.
The truth of the teachings of the countless saints and sages has established itself within me as an abiding sense of stillness. My daily life has taken on a glow of interest and intrigue. I feel an increasing awareness of others. Sometimes an awareness of their reality seems stronger than that of my own, as though my own reality although tangible, exists only by way of an aside. My thoughts and mind feel connected with everything happening around me; nothing is surprising. Nothing seems impossible. Duties and chores I need to perform are easy, the jobs I can undertake are seemingly without limits. Mental blocks have melted away. Physical limitations remain, but the mind itself is willing for undertaking any opportunity to serve that comes up. This feels like freedom. In my mind and heart I feel free. There is no sense of fear, whether of the unknown, or of any harm that can affect me. I have a sense of freedom from desires, of strength in my own self and a joy in the simple process of being alive and well.
I feel I’m experiencing the truth of this quote by my guru, Yoganandaji: “When your mind is free from prejudice, when narrow-mindedness vanishes, when you unreservedly sympathize with everybody, when you hear the voice of God in the chorus of churches, tabernacles, temples, and mosques, when you realize that life is a joyous battle of duty, and at the same time a passing dream, and, above all, when you become increasingly intoxicated with the joy of meditation and in making others happy by giving them God-Peace, then you will know that God is with you always, and you are in Him.”
The answer then is this: Give spirituality and the spiritual path a sincere effort. Give it time to take hold in you, to experience true inner peace and stillness, before you make a conclusion as to its usefulness and benefits to your life. Through following the spiritual path, we can have the true nature of our own Self and our place in creation. Through sincere and dedicated spiritual practices, you can experience that blissful, awakened state, which will be a confirmation that the spiritual path is worthy of your time and effort.