What is Spiritual Life?
by Swami Jyotirmayananda
From time immemorial, there have been saints and sages who have proclaimed the glory of spiritual life above all material prosperities and pleasures of the world. There have been great beings like Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ who both adopted the path of renunciation from a very young age and considered nirvana or the “Kingdom of Heaven” as greater than all the glories of the Earth. The scriptures of every religion further declare that man must not drift away in this world process through the temptations of the senses. Rather, he should discover the Light of God operating through his reasoning faculty and through his Spirit to attain mastery over the senses and the mind, and thus realize the Supreme Being within his heart.
It is necessary therefore to understand – “What is a spiritual life?” “How can a spiritual life be adopted?” and “What do we expect by adopting a spiritual life?”
Many people misunderstand the true implications of spiritual life. Their minds are often burdened with values that are illusory and transient, and their intellects are clouded with numerous cravings and desires. They are unable to understand that realization of the innermost Self – or movement to the Spirit – is not a perishable achievement, it is not a means to an end, but an end in and of itself. It is the goal of all movements and manifestations of life.
It is this misunderstanding which creates a sentimental conception of spiritual life in the minds of many. Whenever one encounters a baffling situation in life, he or she turns to spirituality or to religious prayers and meditations, not for realizing the Self, not for attaining unity with the Indweller of the Heart – the Divinity within, but rather for alleviating suffering and acquiring the pleasure that the mind eagerly expects. It is true that the experience of pain in day-to-day life turns one’s reason to philosophical analysis. However, when pain has not been understood correctly, a person endeavors vainly to avoid one form of misery in order to court another.
For spiritual movement to be healthy, it must not be based upon complexes of the mind and impressions of frustration. Rather, it must be based on the clear understanding that all attainment in the world are imperfect and therefore painful in the long run. It is this knowledge that is the basis of real spiritual movement.
Spirituality is not an escape from the bitter conditions of life, or from difficult responsibilities, or from the concrete realities of day-to-day values. It is a process of living one’s life more fully and more intensively. A truly religious life integrate as it flows, sublimates gross sentiments into profound feelings, and converts reasoning into intuition as it communes with its innermost depths. Such a life is truly spiritual and religious.
Living a life of spirituality is totally different from spiritualism, or adopting communications with spirits. Spirituality is the integral movement of life towards the intrinsic perfection of the Spirit. Spiritualism on the other hand, is a specialized study of the phenomena of spirits that exist after the death of the physical body, and often seeks to demonstrate to man the awe-inspiring mysteries of life that supposedly exist beyond the grave.
What should you expect from a life of spirituality? Do you expect to acquire wealth, fame, power, material success, health, or pleasures of the world? If you do, you have not understood what spirituality truly is – though spirituality can bestow upon you all these and much more. A real spiritual life considers all the attainments of life as simply means towards the ultimate goal of Self-realization. It does not consider spirituality as a means to these various petty ends.
Many often develop serious doubts such as: How can spirituality help me in removing my worries and day-to-day life? How can it assist me in lifting the burdens of my responsibilities, or in solving the baffling problems that arise? How can it resolve the dark clouds it for board fearful circumstances? In the state of desperation, a person may say, “O’ God, I shall never forget you if you let me succeed this time.” And having strained his heart in tear-soaked prayers, and finding that the expected conditions have not developed, he goes to the other extreme and expresses bitterness: “There is no God! There is no truth in spirituality. All these are talks that don’t make any sense.”
Spirituality does not provide any magical performance or unfolding of miracles. Rather, it is the natural unfolding of your entire life and soul. When you adopt the spiritual path, you integrate your personality in the light of profound facts about your inner self, and remove complexes from your mind. Moreover, you develop greater concentration of your mental and vital energy and are able to feel more genuine love towards your friends and relatives. These are the foundational bases for success in every sphere of life. Spirituality bestows upon you the fountain source of success in the form of mental poise, clarity of intellect, and invincibility of the soul. When you have acquired all of these, it is up to you as to the direction into which you focus your energy and to what end you wend your steps. You will be successful in everything material, and you will be able to attain the highest success of life in the form of Self-realization!
May God Bless You! Hari OM Tat Sat!