Spiritual Progress

Spiritual Progress

By Desmond Yeoh

from the ebook ‘Candles of Celebration’

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Six months after the spiritual retreat at their Master’s ashram, Gopal visited James at his home in California. They got along very well during the retreat and were eager to meet each other again.

They were seated in the patio, enjoying the bright morning sun and cool spring air.

Gopal asked James, “I have been practicing the techniques learnt during the retreat diligently for the past six months but I do not see any progress”. James had attended the spiritual retreats at the Master’s ashram annually for more than five years and during the recent retreat, Gopal benefited from James’s knowledge and experience.

James pondered the question for a moment and responded, “That depends on how you define spiritual progress. Most people define it as the development of some supernatural powers or experiencing some spiritual visions”. That was what Gopal was expecting but he did not voice it out.

James continued, “But really, that is not a true measure of spiritual progress”. James reached for a book on the coffee table. Gopal recognised the book immediately. It was the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. James flipped to a page in the book and said, “I think you will remember this story”.

Gopal took the book from James and began to read the page that James pointed to. It was the story of Yogananda meeting Gandha Baba, the Perfume Saint. After twelve years of practice, the Perfume Saint developed the art of manifesting any scent desired. Yogananda commented to the Saint about this, “For manufacturing scents by astral means! It seems, my honoured saint, you have been wasting a dozen years for the fragrances which you can obtain with a few rupees from a florist’s shop”. The Saint was not offended by the remark but was actually impressed by Yogananda’s wisdom.

Later, a friend told a story to Yogananda about the Perfume Saint, “I was present with a hundred other guests at Gandha Baba’s home in Burdwan. It was a gala occasion. Because the Yogi was reputed to have the power of extracting objects out of thin air, I laughingly requested him to materialise some out-of-season tangerines. Immediately the luchis which were present on all the banana-leaf plates become puffed up. Each of the bread proved to contain a peeled tangerine. I bit into my own with some trepidation, but found it delicious”.

The Perfume Saint

Yogananda wrote in his book, ‘Years later I understood by inner realization how Gandha Baba accomplished his materialisations. Performances of miracles such as shown by the Perfume Saint are spectacular but spiritually useless. Having little purpose beyond entertainment, they are digressions from a serious search for God’.

Gopal closed the book and gazed into the distance, “Just the other day, I met someone who could put a burning hot iron into his mouth and make metal objects stick to his body. But after talking to him, I realised that he did not enjoy much inner-peace… He was still very concerned about becoming famous and wealthy”.  Gopal sighed and continued, “How then do you measure spiritual progress?”

James daid, “Even Yogananda was confused about this. His Master, Sri Yukteswar,  once granted him the boon of experiencing God. Sri Yukteswar tapped him lightly at his heart and he felt his consciousness expand out of his body until he became one with the universe. He felt exhaustless bliss and heard the creative voice of God resounding as Aum. For months he entered the ecstatic union.  However, he was not sure if he has met God and so he asked his master, “I want to know, sir, when shall I find God?”

“You have found him,” replied Sri Yukteswar.

“Oh no, sir, I don’t think so!”

His Master was amused, “I am sure you aren’t expecting a venerable Personage, adorning a throne in some antiseptic corner of the cosmos! I see, however, that you are imagining that the possession of miraculous powers is knowledge of God. One might have the whole universe, and find the Lord elusive still! Spiritual advancement is not measured by One’s outward powers, but only by the depth of his bliss in meditation”.

Gopal said softly as if thinking aloud, “I admit that supernatural abilities have been my measure of a competent master…well, it’s not that bad, considering that Yogananda made the same mistake”.  They both laughed.

“What encouraged you to walk the spiritual path in the first place?” asked James.

Gopal searched himself and responded, “So that I can be happier. Chasing after material wealth brings more worries than the false security I imagined. I have read many self-improvement books. They were helpful but I felt that something important is missing from them”.

James nodded in agreement, “Osho said that the role of the Guru is to help us find our Inner-Guru. It is only in the past few years that I realised the truth of these words”.

Gopal’s eyes narrowed and tilted his head slightly, “How do you know when you have found your Inner-Guru!”

“It is so subtle; you hardly notice the blessings of the divine. You may have a question and the answer spontaneously comes to you while you are brushing your teeth and is not thinking about it; or you meet someone or stumble into a book that gives you the answer. When you are faced with problems, insights arise within you in such a forceful manner that you may even laugh at the problem”. James search within himself for an example and then said, “Just the other day, someone said something rude to me and got me angry. I did not respond to the provocation but after walking away, I was boiling inside. Suddenly my own voice echoed in my mind, ‘you know, you are only hurting your own health by holding on to the anger. The other person has probably already forgotten about the incident’. My anger immediately faded”.

Gopal concurred enthusiastically, “Yes, last week I read somewhere that we should trust our ‘intuition’.  It is a commonly used word but I did not really understand what it meant. A few days later, like you said, I stumbled on a book titled ‘Intuition’ by OSHO. The book gave me a true understanding about what intuition is and how to apply it”.

“That’s exactly what I meant. I bet you did not count that as making spiritual progress”.

“Not then, but I do now” said Gopal with a wide grin.

James continued, “Living a happier life is a gradual process. It is the process of removing the causes of suffering and increasing the causes of happiness in our life. The extent that we are successful at it  is the true measure of spiritual progress. This is what our Master teaches”.

Gopal sighed, “He will not get many followers”. He was thinking about the other Gurus who openly demonstrated their spiritual powers to attract followers.

“Master is not concerned about gathering followers. He shares his spiritual treasures with those who are sincerely searching for God. There is nothing more that he wants,” James explained.

James continued, “Coming back to spiritual insights. They are different from knowledge.  Once, a famous pundit visited Sri Yukteswar. He proudly poured out passages from the Mahabharata, Upanishads and other scriptures. After listening patiently until the pundit finished, the Master said, “I am waiting to hear from you”. The pundit looked puzzled. The Master clarified, “Quotations there have been in superabundance….But what original commentary can you supply from the uniqueness of your particular life? What holy text have these timeless truths renovated your nature? Are you content to be a hollow victrola, mechanically repeating the words of other men?”

“Ouch!” Gopal smiled. He can’t help imagining the shock felt by the Pundit.

“Insights bring changes within us. It changes our nature, as mentioned by Sri Yukteswar. Knowledge that does not create changes within us, just adds to our ego. We cling to that knowledge and reject everything that goes against it, even those that could bring us happiness. Spiritual insights that cause us to let go of our habitual ways of thinking are the true blessings of spiritual progress”.

Gopal agreed, “Yes, the ego always wants one to add to itself; to have more of everything. The Divine wants one to let go and be at peace. The more things we have, the more things we need to think about. Our ego is made up of out thoughts. Therefore, the less we have to think about, the closer we are to the Divine.”

James nodded and smiled, “I cannot agree with you more”.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eimear
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 17:53:14

    Follow your dreams, work hard, practice and persevere. Make sure you eat a variety of foods, get plenty of exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Sasha Cohen


  2. Duradundi Babu Gavani
    Jun 02, 2014 @ 13:43:02

    Pray my God soulfully. I do practice Kriya Yoga. I pray Babaji for His serene and benign blessings.


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