By Rudra Shivanananda

In ancient times the sages emphasized the development and practice of ethics above all as the pre-eminent spiritual practice. However, in present times this has become unfashionable and there is much greater emphasize on the Guru’s grace or in the effectiveness of techniques. It is understandable because the effect of grace or the techniques are more apparent while that of morality is difficult to ascertain from our worldly perspective.

clasped-hands-comfort-hands-people-45842.jpegIs there any harm in neglecting the development of moral character as part of one’s spiritual practice?

Effective spiritual practices which lead to self-realization have to release the past karmas so that they can be either worked out positively or removed by further practice.  However, such a release usually gives rise to emotional or mental reactions that can cause new karmic consequences. For example, memories of past traumas can give rise to emotions such as anger or despair and if one cannot detach from such emotions, they will be expressed outwardly against another person, thereby causing new negative karma. In this example, the spiritual practice, rather than help in progressing towards less karma would increase one’s karmic burden instead – a step backward.

When you are firmly grounded in positive virtues such as truthfulness and harmlessness, then you can easily process all the “stuff” that come out from your practice without being negatively effected.  Rather than an emotional catharsis which causes more emotional ripples around, you would be able to release the negativity by detachment or transformation.

Transforming a negative emotion such as anger into a positive emotion such as love takes practice and does not happen automatically. That is the reason why we must form ethical habits and the moral injunctions such as those given by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras are a reminder that they are necessary. Living life under these ethical rules helps to generate the behavior patterns that will enable us to deal with the unfolding of our karmic burdens successfully. From a subtle perspective, our nadis and chakras are purified through them so that the chakras can be awakened. Only after years of life training in purifying our emotions and negative mental patterns will the light of transformation into higher consciousness arise. This is the basis of a form of yogic practice called Karma Yoga and should be a part of all the spiritual systems.

Please do consider the importance of ethical rules in your spiritual life – it will smooth out a lot of the negative events in the practitioner’s life.

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