The Spiritual Life

'The Soul cannot be won by the weakling'

– The Upanishads.

This is certainly no idle observation of the Upanishads.  To aspire for a divine consciousness in a world filled with imperfection, discord and disharmony is not easy: to live in the world, but be un-swayed by the world. It seems that the spiritual life has always been a minority choice. At times, it may seem much easier to go along with the perceived wisdom of seeking a little pleasure here and there. To have a family, get a well-paid job and save for your retirement. Why throw away these certitudes for the doubtful joy of washing dishes without attachment to the result?

Yet, sometimes, you really don’t want to accept conventional wisdom. No matter how strong the supposed attractions of a material life, there comes a time when you get that glimpse of another reality, another world that unmistakably draws you into the spiritual quest. At times, the temptations of the world may even feel alluring, but once your soul has gained a glimpse of that real joy, it always remains with you. Like a persistent child tugging at his mother until he gets the sweet he craves, the soul can never be satisfied when it has tasted a glimpse of the divine nectar.

From one perspective, it is hard to maintain the discipline of a spiritual life: to meditate early in the morning, to be satisfied with the intangible rather than more obvious rewards and pleasures of life. But, it is also very hard to give it up. After gaining a few glimpses of a sublime consciousness, it is the only thing that you really want. 

Sri Chinmoy teaches that the essence of the spiritual life is to be happy. He would frequently say that when we are happy we make progress. I frequently read one of his talks entitled ‘Don’t Suffer’. Outwardly, we would never admit we want suffering. But, inwardly, we can unconsciously hold onto suffering, even though we are not really aware of what we are doing. Part of us is drawn to an emotional state of injured pride or suffering.

“Do not cherish suffering. Don't act like a fool. Don't think that your suffering is going to accelerate your spiritual progress. Don't think that your suffering will bring God closer to you sooner than at once. Don't think that your suffering is the only way, the sure way, for you to make progress. Never!”

Sri Chinmoy, Everest Aspiration Part 2, Agni Press, 1977.

Guru taught me to question the seed thought behind actions and thoughts. A surface thought may be that you want to be happy. But, behind that, you are clinging to an experience of suffering. At a few impromptu talks, Guru said he just wants us to be happy. If we are sincerely happy, we can make progress. Before entering the spiritual life properly, I imagined it involved studying ancient scriptures and learning Sanskrit. But, to Guru, the spiritual life could be dramatically simple – Don’t suffer, be happy!