The path of the Yogin demands dogged persistence because final perfection depends on two qualitatively different factors: one’s own refractory psychological habits whose complete dissolution requires multiple rounds and a whimsical Divine power which intermittently showers its Grace but leaves you in the dark at other times. These are a couple of progress reports that Sri Aurobindo had jotted down in his diary The Record of Yoga during his early years in Pondicherry. They indicate the ceaseless struggle and the subsequent reversal of consciousness that he underwent in the quest for yogic perfection.
“How would the lives of Western women have been different if they had been raised to believe that God was a Mother, all loving and all powerful?” It is with this thought-provoking question that Lisa “Prajna” Hallstrom opens her book Mother of Bliss on the life of the Bengali woman saint, Anandmayi Ma(1896-1982). Hallstrom, through this book, sought to understand the phenomenon of female spiritual Gurus in India. (See her website)
In moments of despondency, we tend to wonder if the efforts that we make through meditation, incantations, devotion, selfless service and other austerities to become a better and more spiritual person are having any positive effect. They do have a substantive but invisible effect on our aura or subtle body but we lack the occult insight to discern such changes. It is only a genuine Guru who can perceive changes in the subtle body of the disciple. In the absence of a Guru, one can assess one’s spiritual progress by observing the psychological changes that have transpired in one’s responses to external situations. These are two talks by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on the topic of spiritual progress.
Most people in the initial stages of the spiritual path attain what may be called a “passive calm”. The glow on their face lasts only as long as they are surrounded by kind and gentle people like themselves. Faced with a protracted conflict, they either shrink from it in revulsion or unexpectedly lose their composure in exasperation. One must strive to attain an “active calm” which doesn’t dissipate even in the midst of conflict. The ability to handle vicissitudes in the hustle and bustle of daily life has to be developed. It is in the darkest hour, when circumstances are the opposite of one’s spiritual ideals, that one must be able to survive solely by the power of the inner lamp.
In the world, we generally find two kinds of people: there are those whose minds are so entangled in a complex web of moral laws that they are afraid of sin and live in awe of God; and there are those who derisively mock any notion of morality and flamboyantly engage in unrestrained hedonism. In the spiritual path, one has to anchor oneself in the narrow pathway between these two extremes – between morality and immorality. One has to adopt an inner discipline which is conducive to growth of one’s consciousness but which may or may not adhere to any moral laws. To convey this difference, the Mother Mirra Alfassa made contradictory observations on this topic.
During meditation, one may lapse into brief periods of mental silence and wake up refreshed with no memory of what happened during that interval. Various sages have pointed out that this condition verges more towards unconsciousness instead of greater consciousness, and does not imply that the goal has been reached or is nearer. One has to go further by making the meditation more conscious, active and dynamic. For that to occur, the Higher Self must always remain awake during meditation even though the mental consciousness has become immobile. These are some passages collected from various sources on this topic.
Cultural values tend to vary across countries, civilizations and time. This frequently creates confusion as to which actions are spiritual in nature. Those who are raised in traditional societies prefer to conform to some ancient norms while those who are raised in secular societies tend to propound a freewheeling lifestyle. Furthermore, in the frenetic pace of life, it is difficult to distinguish the activities which please the surface personality from the activities which bring deeper joy to the soul. Which movies to watch? Which music to listen to? Which books to read? Which friends are better? The discernment required to choose correctly is often lacking because that discernment itself may not develop until one has advanced in Yoga. Often, it takes an epiphany to awaken and correct oneself after having gone down some wrong path.