I’ve been putting off writing this article for some time but I now feel the time has arrived.
There’s such chaos outside that I need to clarify for myself my basic values, to remind myself what course I want to steer.
To do that, I’d like to describe a spiritual path that derives from Hinduism. I follow this path myself and consider it to be very effective.
I’ve said that the basic spiritual movement is turning from the world to God. That is, turning from the world outside to the God inside.
We turn from the distractions of life to the contemplation of the Divine to accomplish the purpose of life – Self-Realization. (1)
This path covers the same ground as that statement but in much more detail. Put in its briefest form it is:
Discriminate between the Real and the unreal; detach from the unreal; and devote yourself to the Real.
I’ve followed statements of it by Sri Krishna, Sri Shankara and Paramahansa Ramakrishna primarily. Here’s Sri Shankara stating it:
“He alone may be considered qualified to seek Brahman [God] who has discrimination, whose mind is turned away from all enjoyments [i.e., detachment], who possesses tranquillity and the kindred virtues, and who feels a longing for liberation [devotion].” (2)
“If discrimination and dispassion are practiced to the exclusion of everything else, the mind will become pure and move toward liberation. Therefore the wise man who seeks liberation must develop both these qualities within himself.” (3)
“Seek earnestly for liberation [devotion], and your lust for sense-objects will be rooted out [detachment]. Practice detachment toward all actions. Have faith in the Reality [discrimination]. Devote yourself to the practice of spiritual disciplines, such as hearing the word of Brahman, reasoning and meditating upon it. Thus the mind will be freed from the evil of rajas [busyness; i.e., a busy mind].” (4)
And here’s Sri Ramakrishna:
“The gist of the whole thing is that one must develop passionate yearning for God [devotion] and practise discrimination and renunciation [detachment].” (5)
“By meditating on God in solitude the mind acquires knowledge [discrimination], dispassion [detachment], and devotion.” (6)
This path gets a bad rep in western society where creative expression is the dominant modality: Let it all hang out. Cool, man, cool.
But, if you think about it for a moment, how else are we going to realize God than if we set other things aside to do it? Whatever we give our attention to is what grows, expands, and manifests.
Critics of this path have often held a basic misconception. They think that its followers shun possessions and experiences, etc.
This path does not require you to give up possessions or experiences. It’s the attachment to them that needs to be let go of.
Jesus said, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. I think we’d find that very few of our hearts are really on God much of the time, if we were honest about it. (Mine is not, much of the day, more’s the pity.)
Our hearts are more on survival, looking good, catching that man/woman, having enough money, and so on. We’re attached to the world and, as long as we are, we have no attention on the God we want to realize if we wish to fulfill the purpose of life.
And we don’t have to. We can wander in the world as long as we like. But heaven awaits us.
Starting tomorrow, let’s have a commonsensical look at these three elements – an alternative “Life in 3D.”
(To be continued tomorrow.)
(1) See The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment at https://gaog.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Purpose-of-Life-is-Enlightenment.pdf and Back to the Basics: Introductory Essays to a Cross-Cultural Spirituality at https://goldenageofgaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Back-to-the-Basics-R2-Cross-Cultural-Spirituality.pages.pdf
(2) Shankara in Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher lsherwood, Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1975; c1947, 35.
(3) Ibid., 60-1.
(4) Ibid., 62.
(5) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 183.
(6) Ibid., 82.