Spiritual Awakening

By Rudra Shivananda

A sign of spiritual awakening is the dissatisfaction with popular modes of dealing with the meaning of life and the role of humanity in the universe.  The seeker after higher consciousness examines the acceptable ways presented by society to understand the essence of our existence only to find them wanting is some respect or other. This leads to despair until the path is shown that gladdens the heart and illumines the mind.

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There have been and still are three traditional ways in the West that sought to understand reality – the paths of religion, philosophy and science. Those of us who try to hide from the mysteries of life and focus on the forgetfulness of desires and “living our lives,” try not to think about these paths except in passing or disinterest. Others have tried some variations of these three paths. Some of us merely flirt with them while others commit themselves to one or the other. However, each one way has its benefits and limitations.

Religion starts with the vision of some great soul who tries to communicate his enlightenment to others in their culture but soon becomes a narrowing and exclusive institution run by unenlightened souls who substitute dogma for spiritual experience. Instead of loving all of humanity, religion becomes sectarian and compartmentalized, with its leaders justifying all manners of atrocities by twisting the words of its founder and inventing some new dogma.

The genuine seeker who can find so much good and commonality between the words of the great Masters who have given rise to these religions are mystified and horrified by the actual state of their institutions.

Through philosophy, great souls endeavor to understand through their minds the great secrets of human existence in this vast universe. In the past these seekers after the truth have tried to provide answers to others and satisfy their thirst for meaning in life. They engaged in sincere inquiry and honest debate. Although the great philosophers have not been able to formulate one single model of reality that can satisfy everyone, their attempts have yielded all manners of mental heights.

Unfortunately, in the last one hundred years, philosophy has become institutionalized and compartmentalized as well, becoming more and more academic, divorced from the concerns of both religion and science. It has become arid, yielding profuse numbers of lackluster academic papers rather than the fruit of a life-long pursuit of truth. It has become a hobby, a university discipline, or a trivial pursuit having little relevance to how one lives ones life.

The material benefits of science have been quite evident from the technological tools and toys that have made life easier, more comfortable and enjoyable. Science has greatly enhanced our understanding of the physical body as well as the physical aspects of our universe, from sub-atomic particles to black holes. However, it cannot provide any answers for those who wish to understand the spiritual life because science has restricted itself to what can be detected by the five senses or instruments which are the extensions of these senses. Before science will consider the spiritual world, it demands that we provide detectable and measurable proof of its existence. Unfortunately, all of science’s instruments and tools have been designed for the material world and are not suited for anything non-material. This is like footballers in a football field trying to tell swimmers to demonstrate their skills in the field.  Science can only satisfy those who wishes to belief that there is nothing beyond this lifetime and the material world.

Is there another solution for the sincere seeker? We need to consider the way of the East, especially the Masters of India who have always insisted on an integrated path. Only a way that combines the principles of religious devotion to one’s higher Self or Divine nature as the goal with scientific methods of experiencing these higher states of consciousness and the appropriate philosophy to support the mental needs of inquiry is satisfying for us.

True Yoga is such an integration of the higher aspects of religion, philosophy and scientific methodology. Without devotion, yoga becomes mechanical and mentally dry. Without philosophy, the mind will wander and doubt such that the practice cannot be sustained over long periods. Without methodical and proven techniques, one merely engages in wishful thinking or emotional hallucinations. When a seeker rejects a non-integrated path, it is the beginning of discriminative wisdom and an awakening to higher consciousness.

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