The Mother Divine
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By Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari
Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari (Kolkata, India), is a globally acclaimed motivational and spiritual teacher, author, social advocate and peace maker. He was recipient of the Man of Peace Award from the World Organisation for Peace in 2012. He is recognized as a visionary social advocate for his development of groundbreaking programs that serve thousands of poverty-stricken individuals in slums of Kolkata and remote villages of West Bengal. He founded Lokenath Divine Life Mission in 1985.

Most aspirants in the path of spiritual enlightenment start the journey with some preconceived ideas and expectations. One of the major reasons why many people cannot sustain the practice or the intensity of involvement with which they begin is this preconceived notion about the progress in the path. Many suffer with self-criticisms, and at times low self-esteem, when they make the grave mistake of comparing themselves with others on the path.

Don't forget it is patience and perseverance that is the prize. It is our deep self-appreciation for our baby steps that will make our journey less arduous and more joyful. We need to enjoy the travel, our unique experiences, and our dry and wet paths, to be sure the one who walks reaches.

What we need to recognize is that spiritual experiences are not the point of our Spiritual Journey. Yes, we will all have inspirational flickers from time to time. Experiences will come to tell us, “Yes, I am listening to you. I am watching you. I know, step by step, you are crawling toward me like a small child.” That is what spiritual experiences are about. They encourage and inspire us to keep going through the arduous journey. But they are not the journey itself.

Spirituality is not something that we are trying to experience through our senses or our restless mind; it is essentially the fragrance of the flower that is our Soul. The bud of spiritual opportunity or our Divine potentiality takes its own natural time to blossom into a beautiful fragrant flower. Spiritual experience is only for those who have patience and perseverance. It is for those who have a tremendous willpower to keep alive their efforts in the midst of all opposing forces.

The experience comes only when the mind is purified in the fire of worldly tests and tribulations, only when the intellect is distilled by the conscientious endeavor to discriminate between the temporary and the permanent, between the relative and the absolute. Spiritual experience is essentially a transformational and transcendental experience. We cannot remain the same after the experience, for we shall be elevated to a higher self.

This may take lives, it may take only a few minutes; it all depends upon the preparedness of the soul to realize that there is no individual and that all is universal. Nothing goes to waste when we practice with sincerity. Enjoy the journey. Don't ask. Don’t complain! Don't put conditions and waste energy on expectations. Rather, we need to un-condition ourselves, empty ourselves and then the Cup of Life will overflow without our even knowing it!!

So, how do we know if we are making progress on our Spiritual Journey if our Spiritual Experience or lack thereof is not to be our gauge? One thing we can do from time to time is a self-assessment to see where we are on our Spiritual Path. This can help to encourage us and reassure us that all our hard work is not in vain. Here are five questions we can ask ourselves:

1. Are my expectations blocking my spiritual progress?

When we create expectations for the practice of meditation and spirituality, then we have created a block to hinder progress. We collect information about spiritual life, the highs that meditators experience, and hear from our friends about their experiences, and compare notes. Each of these gives us nothing but a wrong assessment about our progress.

Normally when something good happens to us spiritually that is exactly according to our expectations, we are elated and happy, and when something defies our expectations, we are down. The goal is to rise above these two states of opposite forces, and reach a point of equanimity, where happiness and unhappiness mean nothing. We realize we are the mere witness of the play of the Divine and that our Self is beyond good and bad, success and failure, and thus we will be Free forever.

2. Am I consistent and resilient in my Spiritual Practices?

In the path of Yoga, tapas is considered to be the bedrock of practice. Tapas is the heat that is generated when we go through the roller coaster of daily life and how we transform that heat (stress) into a flame of Self Awareness. It is the most important single factor that determines the awakening progress of the soul. Tapas is the resilience which holds us together when we are faced with the storm of life.

We may not like to practice daily yoga and pranayama; we may not like to eat healthy food timely and mindfully, we may not like to go to bed early and rise early, we may not find our time for daily meditation, but that is the essence of tapas, to do it, and do it lovingly against all excuses to postpone it for the next day. If we are serious spiritual seekers we need to continually assess where our priorities lie and if our spiritual practice is number one!

3. Do I respond or react to situations and people I don’t like?

If somebody behaves in a manner most unacceptable to us do we take a few deep breaths and allow the fruits of meditation to come to our rescue?  How else would we know our spiritual progress until our most adored beliefs are put to the acid test? Pricks and provocations give us the tools for transformation.

During the day even if we can prove once that we have not surrendered to our usual mode of habitual behavior, for example, instead of being angry we could be calm and compassionate, then we know that we are progressing in Spirituality.

Each baby step takes us to our adulthood in spirituality! But don't forget to recognize and acknowledge that it was our Soul's aura that made the baby step possible. Our Soul is our eternal Mother, right inside of us!!

4. Am I holding on to past wounds, unable to forgive and forget?

One of the most difficult things to do is to forgive and forget our past wounds. In spite of understanding the undercurrent of pain it creates, people just cling to it. It is only because the repetitive thoughts of the same wound now have gone deep into our psyche. We may try to pull it out, but the roots are deep! Spiritual progress is hindered under such conditions.

It is essential to release and create space in our minds. The best way is: relax our body, focus on our breath, and when the mind calms down visualize the wound and the person and say "I release you from all my anger and pain that you caused me into the Light of forgiveness and peace.” Repeat this every night before you go to sleep, till you feel it is released and you are free. It truly works.

5. Am I in a mindful, meditative state when I try to help others?

Regular practice of meditation, impartial self-analysis, continual vigilance over one's own mind, mindfulness, and surrender to the ultimate will of the divine are the practices that need to be practiced before we can truly help others. These practices bring about the inner divine spark that has its own pure energy, the essence that makes the difference in the lives of others. 

We will see that as we become more and more spiritually centered, we are able to understand what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to anyone regarding any situation that the other faces. Our guidance will no longer be treated as an imposition or unwanted advice, but as a loving gift with an open heart.

Thus it always boils down to the single point that we need to uplift ourselves before we are ready to help others. And when we are ready, we help without helping, we are compassionate without being compassionate, we love without loving, and we do without doing. When this happens then we know we are progressing on the Path of the Spirit.

We need to keep persevering on the path of life and ask ourselves these five simple, yet profound, questions from time to time. When we answer with awareness and mindfulness, this will be the biggest gift that we have with us in order to explore the ground of our true Being, and unravel the mystery of the essence of Who I Am.

Always remember, we are all born unique, our path is unique, our experiences are unique, and our realizations are unique. We realize this reality when we walk the path and discover our uniqueness. Spirituality reveals our own secrets to us first and then the world sees it. Don’t imitate, for imitation is always fake!! Be who you are!!