Seven Secrets of Meditation, Part 6: Finding Your Path
Finding Your Path
The secrets of meditation are all linked and sequential – each prepares us for the discovery of the next and each contains within itself, like Chinese boxes, the essence of the others. Each path will have it's own secret keys, but in meditation some are universal. Let us briefly review the secrets so far considered.
At the beginning, sincerity is the resolve to practice meditation every day and to resist the innumerable challenges from life that so easily, and so usually, persuade us to lapse. Too tired, too busy, too uninspired – we each have our little dragons to confront. But sincerity is a powerful word and a powerful attitude that gives us patience, determination, a warrior's resolve and – akin to a far-off whisper from our soul – a reminder of another reality in our lives beyond the everyday things. We have entered the stream of enlightenment, we are awakening.
If you develop sincerity, you will be unconcerned with today's 'good meditation' or yesterday's 'bad meditation' – you will meditate to make progress, not just to have experiences, and the regularity of practice will carry you forward, nourish your strength, prepare you to advance ever forward on the journey.
Meditating in the spiritual heart is the next key and a powerful technique in both bypassing the restless mind and immersing ourselves in the peaceful, vast consciousness of this powerful meditation centre. Here in the heart the soul sleeps, now begins to stir. And from within the heart – secret number three – aspiration grows, the impulse of the soul towards self-unfoldment, towards its penultimate purpose. Heart and soul tell us – "Arise, awake, you are the sons and daughters of God and nothing less than the full blossoming of your divinity will satisfy you."
Next secret – a gift endlessly regiven – is the great secret of grace. Our aspiration-cry – even if faltering and faint-hearted – draws to us the love of God, the loving Mother or Father. Sincere effort always attracts grace, and grace renders all effort fruitful. Grace is the compassion of God that responds to our aspiration and takes care of us, an unseen Hand guiding us onward. Trusting in this grace (a long apprenticeship sometimes!) and forsaking our self-determination in favour of God-reliance is the beginnings of spiritual surrender, the 'let Thy will be done' maxim of Christ and so many of the great Masters.
Now too, our slowly blossoming meditation practice is making us more conscious of our outer life – the manner in which its details and activities help or hinder our spiritual development. And we can respond to this understanding by introducing new positives, dropping the obvious negatives; looking at support practices like physical fitness , an exercise regime; less TV/parties; diet modifications; inspiring the mind and deepening our knowledge (jnana yoga) with daily reading on spiritual topics; and goal setting to deepen our commitment to practice. This willingness to change, a makeover of lifestyle, is the fifth secret of our transformation.
Animated by the grace of God, inspired by the glimpses won in meditation, all of our life is swinging around, magnet-like, towards the pole of liberation, realigning itself to achieve a new unanimity of purpose.
Secret Six: Finding Your Path
The next secret is also a consequence of effort and grace – finding our spiritual path. In the maze of life, many paths lie before us – which to take? Each spiritual path is one of many possible routes to the summit of the mountain – liberation – and our own nature will determine which way we choose to go. Each path has its own particular practices and recommendations for those choosing to travel that way, and we are truly ready for a spiritual path when we have an inner hunger. Sri Chinmoy comments:
"When you have an inner cry, that inner need for something, then you are ready for a spiritual path [...] If you have a hunger to learn more, or to learn something which you do not know, you go to school. Your hunger compels you to go to a teacher and study; your hunger prepares your readiness. In the spiritual life also, when you are hungry for Peace, Light and Bliss, that means you are already prepared for the spiritual life."
When contemplating a path we often feel that we must review all of the options before reaching a well-informed decision as to what is best. But it doesn't work like this. The path best suited to us will often involve subtleties and inner connections not apparent to our rational mind – perhaps an inner link with a Guru or teacher, or an inner trait that will predispose us along a particular pathway, for example. Often our mind is the last part of our being to recognise our path – but in a certain sense it is the path which finds us or is given to us. The way best suited for us emerges instead out of our own spiritual practice and our meditation, an inner wisdom that comes into our awareness as a feeling in the heart, not rational choice in the mind.
"The easiest, fastest and most convincing road is the psychic road, the road of the heart... inside the heart is the soul. The soul is the divine messenger, the divine representative of God. If you really knock at the heart's door, everything is achieved because when the heart's door is opened you will find the soul within. Everything that you want from God, in God and for God must come directly from there."
Someone will take the path of devotion to God – bhakti yoga – another will incline to action and service – karma yoga – another to knowledge and wisdom – jnana yoga – yoga meaning union with God, higher Self, the mountain summit.
"If people are really hungry and they find the fruit that will satisfy their hunger in the first shop, then they just eat it there and don't bother going from store to store. Of course, if they don't like the food offered there, they have every right to go to some other place."
"But if you feel that this is your path, then don't allow the mind to come forward and bring in doubts. You may think that the mind is being sincerely cautious in questioning the heart, but the mind is only showing its insecurity. The mind is helplessly insecure, and that is why it always creates confusion. Have faith only in your heart and soul. If the soul conveys the message to you through your heart that this is your path, accept this path and stick to it."
"No matter what path you follow, it will lead you to one destination. You may call it Christ-Consciousness, another will call it Krishna-Consciousness or Buddha-Consciousness. But there can be no conflict, since truth is one. Any path you follow will help you realise the truth."
Spiritual paths are never at variance with religion, and will never find fault with other paths or other religions. Sri Chinmoy expresses this very succinctly:
"Spirituality is not merely tolerance. It is not even acceptance. It is the feeling of universal oneness [...] Spirituality is not mere hospitality to others' faith in God. It is the absolute recognition and acceptance of their faith in God as one's own."
He compares religion to a house in which we live, spirituality to a school where we meet together and study.
"Your house is good for you; my house is good for me. Your religion will certainly help you to reach the Highest and my religion will help me to reach the Highest. All the religions are one. God is the tree and the religions are the branches of the tree."
The further we advance along our own path, the more we understand the universality of all paths:
"Yoga transcends all religions. Here we don't want to be satisfied only with my house or your house. We want to claim all the houses of the world as our very own because God is inside all of them. In Yoga, all religions become ours because Yoga means union with God. When we have this union, we transcend our limited feeling of 'my' and 'mine', my religion, your religion. At that time we go beyond the boundaries of religion."
"God is our aim, our goal. If we enter into Him, we enter into the infinite Consciousness. If we pray and we meditate, we accept all religions as very own and place them in the very Heart of God."
It is interesting that we very often do not think of ourselves as seekers, even though we are. We neither feel special, nor are we consciously looking for a teacher or a path – but in another reality of our being we are ready, our life has been preparing us, and only our mind has not yet recognised this truth. But here grace plays its part – the path is there right before us and has found us itself.
Sometimes people think "I am not worthy, I am too impure, I have too many bad habits to follow a spiritual path, to be a student of a Master." This is not so. What distinguishes a student on a path is not their lack of problems and blemishes but a desire to transform the many they may have; not their spiritual maturity and their perfection but their wish to one-day achieve this. If we wait until we are 'ready' or 'pure' we will postpone our journey forever. 'Now' and 'today' is the best mantra!
A path refines our practice down into clearer guidelines and specifics – the spiritual master or guru who established this path will have his or her own recommendations. A teacher at this level is like a loving parent who wants his child to blossom and fulfill its highest potential – not sleep all day in bed, waste time in bad habits, indulge it's wish for unbridled freedom. For real freedom is not self-indulgence but freedom from ignorance, from suffering – it is the liberating freedom of God-oneness. The guidelines of each path are the recommendations of the teacher, the steps which, if taken will lead to the great freedom of enlightenment.
"Choose whomever you want to have as your spiritual master. God will eventually bring the right one for you [...] The ignorance-sea has to be crossed and without a boat nobody can cross it. Even if there is a boat, without a boatman, who will row? Who will sail the boat?"
A path means a new velocity, a new purposefulness, a clear direction forward – where before we were hesitant and uncertain, now we are confident and growing in our inner commitment to the journey.
"We shall all reach the goal. But it depends entirely on our aspiration. Those who have inner wisdom never waste a single second. They feel that time is most precious, time is golden. This same time will not come again. A seekers life is meaningful and fruitful only if he can use each moment for a divine purpose. The seeker who believes in God but who has no time for God, who believes in meditation but does not meditate, his life is not much better than the atheist."
All the paths cannot be the same, Sri Chinmoy writes, only the ultimate goal will be the same. There are different roads but each road leads to the same goal. And no sincere effort ends in vain.
"If someone makes a sincere effort, then I wish to say that his inner life and outer life are bound to be crowned with success."
(All quotations in this article are by Sri Chinmoy.)
- Our Path – on Sri Chinmoy's website.
- Q&A regarding Sri Chinmoy's path and Bhakti Yoga.
- Q&A regarding Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga.