Going the Distance in Spiritual Life – Part 1
Going the Distance in Spiritual Life, Part 1
This forthcoming series of blogs is dedicated to those just entering into spiritual life and studies, with an earnest appeal to those who are under 35 years. Dharma, spiritual precepts that transform the mind when practiced, and spiritual life itself, require a teacher. It is odd that in our western society, people take teachers in all earthly studies and seek degrees that are conferred by teachers to better their lives, but when it comes to spiritual life, people demure. This is a cause for detours and failure in spiritual life. Yet, a truly spiritual life is the highest station, the greatest benefit for oneself and others possible in any single lifetime. And it is rare in our society.
Why is it rare? The list is lengthy, but includes the following: failure to take a teacher, changing teachers and spiritual pathways in midstream repeatedly, choosing an unqualified teacher, not making an effort to qualify oneself, running hot and cold in spiritual discipline, failing to commit, not overcoming doubts about the goal of spiritual life, giving heed to the opinions of others who believe in matter as the source of everything or who do not value spirituality. Other reasons include being unable to prioritize earthly life in order to put dharma first and thereby remain immured in too many activities that generate more karmas that must be dealt with, which thus compounds the level of distraction. This creates an all but unbreakable impression that there is no other way but to give oneself to activity – job, family, academic schooling and all their peripherals – without cessation. This includes engaging in merely social activities and rituals under their influence – “But I have to…..,” becomes the lament of people who do not stand their ground for their own highest good. This leads to the notion that those who do strive spiritually and have time for meditation, study, worship, etc, are “lucky,” when in fact, it is simply (not that it is easy) a matter of putting the “1” before the zeroes and persevering against the obstacles that arise until they give way. And they will, if one is adamant and willing to undergo whatever it takes to attain peace of mind, the vision of God, Enlightenment, Liberation, Nirvana, true Bliss – whatever one thinks of as the highest attainment.
Being willing to “undergo whatever it takes” is proof of one’s sincerity and a necessary qualification for Guru, Dharma, and Sangha. One of its priceless features is the absence of bartering with God, with Guru, with practice, even with karma. There is no, “I will do this if I get that.” “I will love God so long as my life flows easily;” “I will listen to the teacher so long as he or she does not offend me;” “I will do good actions to avoid bad results.” Spiritual life, according to my teacher and Tradition, is to be done for its own sake; it is to become a divine preoccupation. It consumes earthly life and makes it blessed.
An authentic spiritual teacher is an invaluable guide, and if one has humility and reverence, sincerely desires to attain the goal of human life, and will make the self-effort that requires, then one’s success in spiritual life is assured, whether one leads the life of a dharmic householder or that of a monastic. To all new seekers, and especially to the youth, do not waste time. Get qualified for an authentic teacher and commit.
This upcoming series of posts are drawn from Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination, Vivekachudamani, which is a virtual handbook of Advaita Vedanta that begins with what one needs to know to qualify oneself for a true teacher and the highest spiritual teachings. We will focus on teachings culled from the first 50 verses that include topics such as the three great boons, causes for lack of spiritual success, solutions for lack of spiritual success, and many more. Contemplating these teachings will bring clarity and inspiration.