Qualities essential for spiritual practice are belief in sādhanā, expressed bhāv (Spiritual emotion), faith and unexpressed bhāv.
1. Qualities essential for spiritual practice – Belief
It is the jīvātmā and the Shivātmā (God-realised soul) that get anubhūtīs (Spiritual experience) of spiritual nature and their source is not the five senses, mind and intellect. In that case, someone may question, ‘Why are spiritual lectures organised in which the five senses, mind and intellect are discussed ?’ The answer to this is – To comprehend the importance of Spirituality and commence sādhanā, belief is essential. The topics narrated in the spiritual discourses can be understood intellectually. After understanding the importance of sādhanā intellectually, a jīva (Embodied soul) begins to perform sādhanā.
2. Qualities essential for spiritual practice – Expressed bhāv
Unless belief in God’s Saguṇ (Materialised) form (for example, an Idol) is established, bhāv of the individual unto God is not awakened. When bhāv is awakened, it primarily passes through eight manifestations of sāttvik bhāv, that is, through expressed bhāv. Flowing of tears or getting goose bumps on the body on being aware that Deity/Guru looks after our welfare or getting the vision of the Deity/Guru is an example of expressed bhāv. We get anubhūtīs only when there is bhāv in us. Anubhūtīs help develop faith. Ordinarily, those following Bhaktīyoga (Path of Devotion) are more emotional. Such seekers develop expressed bhāv quickly. Conversely, those performing sādhanā according to Dnyānyoga (Path of Knowledge) do so by understanding the intricate principles in Spirituality at the level of intellect, and in the process remain emotionally unaffected. Hence, instead of bhāv in expressed form, faith develops faster in them. Therefore, generation of either bhāv or faith in an expressed form in a seeker can differ from individual to individual.
3. Qualities essential for spiritual practice – Faith
Please refer to following table to know the difference between belief and faith
|1. Subject Maya/Spirituality||In world affairs, the word belief is used; because, aspects associated with Maya are based on belief||Spirituality is based on the faith an individual has in God. Greater the faith of the jiva in God, greater is its spiritual progress|
|3. Ego||Normal||Thoughts arising in the mind are not about self but about God-realisation and hence, ego is less; therefore, in Spirituality, faith has more importance than belief|
|5. What is that which is comprehended||Information||Knowledge|
Understandable to the intellect
|7. How is information/knowledge gathered?||Through the medium of the five senses, mind and intellect||Without making use of five senses, mind and intellect, the jiva gets it from the soul|
|8. What is information/knowledge called?||Experience||Anubhuti|
|9. Who gets the information/knowledge?||Jiva||Jivatma or Shivatma|
|10. Importance from the perspective of spiritual evolution (%)||2||98|
Since faith is based on strong belief, it is wrong to term it ‘blind’: In materialistic life we normally use the words belief and faith as synonyms; but in Spirituality there is a difference in these words. In materialistic life when we are not sure about an individual, on the advice of others we believe in him/her. Here, since there is no experience about the individual, the belief could be shaky. Conversely, when speaking about faith, the meaning of faith itself means strong belief; because, when sādhanā is performed after developing belief in Spirituality, we get spiritual experiences and after getting spiritual experiences, faith develops. In short, when the original belief becomes strong due to the experience, it is transformed into faith.
A. Importance of faith
To make gains in the form of spiritual progress, ‘faith’ is the only currency. To put it metaphorically, the currency in USA is Dollar, while in Bharat it is Rupee. To buy something in USA, only Dollars will come in handy. Similarly, to make spiritual progress, only faith is essential and it should be strong too. Normally, we believe in our bank balance because we can withdraw money from the account according to our need. We should repose even greater faith in God and Spirituality.
Meaning of verse 27:287 from Shrī Ēknāthī Bhāgvat : Of all the aspects of the entire pūjā (Ritualistic worship) it is faith which is most important. He who has unshakeable faith, is God’s most favourite.
Primarily, faith is essential in Spirituality; because the fruits of Dharma (Righteousness) are invisible. For visible fruits, not much of faith is required; however, faith is essential in order to make efforts in the direction of the task whose fruit is invisible.
B. Advantages of faith
Faith is necessary for a complete life : Just as calcium is necessary for proper development of bones, vitamins are necessary for good health, so also faith is necessary for a complete life. More expansive and subtle the concepts of an individual about ‘what is meant by leading a complete life’, greater will be the realization of necessity for faith. Without making efforts we will not comprehend its precise benefit in life.
That faith helps in healing various physical and psychological ailments has now also been proved through research in western countries.
Faith disciplines life.
It is on the strength of faith, that Divine virtues such as sacrifice, courage etc. manifest in a person’s life.
Faith provides the strength to endure unhappiness.
Faith shows the path to a contented life.
It is faith that makes us realize that ‘materialistic life is not everything’.
Sattva component in an individual having faith is enhanced.
It is due to faith that an individual comprehends or obtains knowledge about objects that are beyond the comprehension of the intellect.
It is faith that makes it possible to achieve materialistic objects that appear seemingly impossible.
It is due to faith alone, that ‘Ultimate Truth’ or ‘Supreme God’ is realized.
It is faith that brings about progress of the society and the Nation : Shankarāchārya defined Dharma thus – ‘That which accomplishes the three tasks of bringing about the worldly progress of every living being, causing progress in the spiritual realm and keeping the social system in an excellent condition is termed as Dharma’. Dharma makes the social life healthy and strong. Considering it in the context of the Nation, Dharma is the life of the Nation. Only if Dharma lasts, will the Nation last. If the Nation lasts, the society will survive, and if the society survives, we will survive. Hence, in order to protect the Nation, it becomes all the more important to get rid of the Dharma-related fatigue that is afflicting the society. To get rid of this fatigue, the society should become Dharma-abiding and proud of Dharma. Only those who have faith can follow Dharma, have pride in Dharma, prevent harm to Dharma and reinstate the radiance of Dharma.
4. Qualities essential for spiritual practice – Unmanifest bhāv
Once faith is generated, yearning develops in sādhanā. Due to sādhanā performed with yearning, the level of anubhūtīs experienced rises and the devotion unto God is enhanced. This accelerates sādhanā further. As a result, level of the anubhūtīs is further raised leading to further strengthening of the faith in God. This culminates into deep devotion. Such pure devotion teaches the seeker about unmanifest bhāv. An example of unmanifest bhāv – the belief that, the Guru’s mission pertaining to Dharma is the supreme mission of our life and performing it consistently, without any expectations, with earnestness and realization that the Guru Himself is getting it done through our medium. Unmanifest bhāv does not manifest at the gross level such as flowing of tears, getting goose bumps etc. Hence, it is termed as unmanifest bhāv. Seeker with unmanifest bhāv is constantly connected to God from within. Manifest bhāv is triguṇ-oriented, whereas unmanifest bhāv is beyond triguṇ. Only through unmanifest bhāv we can reach the nirguṇ (Without attributes) and formless God; meaning, we can get ātmānubhūtī (Spiritual experience of the soul) and attain Ānand (Bliss).
Example of an inferior anubhūtī is fragrance in the absence of any external stimulus, which is related to the Pruthvī–tattva (Absolute Earth Principle). A moderate anubhūtī is, getting a vision related to the Tēj–tattva (Absolute Fire Principle) or hearing a sound associated with the Ākāsh–tattva (Absolute Ether Principle). A superior anubhūtī is the experience of Ānand.
From this, it will be clear, that the tool to develop unmanifest bhāv and attain the state of Ānand is none other than sādhanā, and the beginning of sādhanā lies in the belief developed through words.
5. Few more qualities essential for spiritual practice
A. Listening to the spiritually evolved
First, let us discuss which sādhanā should be performed by those who have not been performing any. This will also help those who are already performing sādhanā to decide whether their sādhanā is appropriate or not. If sādhanā is inappropriate, you should attempt to change it right away. If you have been performing sādhanā for some time, then it will become difficult to change it all of a sudden. Our guide H.H. Dr. Jayant Athavale had been chanting the Name of Deity Pānḍurang for some years out of His own choice. He was advised by two Saints not to chant this Name, but to chant the Name of His Kuladēvatā (FamilyDeity) instead. Initially, for five-six months, He found it difficult to chant the Name. His feelings were first of attachment. ‘How can I leave Deity Pānḍurang ?’ Later, it was possible to give up the attachment. Under the influence of His emotions, if He were to continue chanting the Name of Deity Pānḍurang instead of listening to Saints, He would never have met His Guru so early.
B. Overcoming the obstacle of ‘intellect’
The point to be noted from the above example is that H.H. Dr. Athavale was able to make spiritual progress because He listened to Saints instead of continuing to perform the sādhanā decided by His own intellect. Being more gross than the ātmātattva (Soul Principle), the intellect so becomes an obstacle. This is a difficult concept for an average individual to comprehend, because in worldly life, terms like ‘make use of the intellect’ are often used. We feel that intellect is the medium of comprehension and without it nothing can be understood. However, intellect cannot comprehend the subtle. On the contrary, intellect takes wrong decisions in the field of Spirituality and takes us away from our spiritual goal; hence, it is termed as an obstacle. When doubts are cleared, it helps the intellect take correct decisions; hence, emphasis is laid on clarification of doubts in satsangs (Company of the God Principle). Intellect is ignorance, meaning, the kāraṇ-dēha (Causal body). Then, how can God be attained using that intellect? Sacrifice of intellect is devotion. In short, the intellect is useful for converting itself to sāttvik intellect by shravaṇ (Listening to discourses), manan (Contemplation) and nijadhyās (Intense yearning). To comprehend that ‘the intellect does not prove to be of any importance whatsoever as far as Self-realization is concerned, that it can be accomplished only by surrendering unto the Sadguru’ also needs intelligence. This perhaps is its only use!
Doing something with ceaseless perseverance and consistency goes against the natural tendency of the human mind. ‘Resolve and doubt’ is the general manner in which the human mind functions. Hence, a lot many are beginners, but only a few are finalists in every field. This is noticed very intensely in Spirituality. Many people give up sādhanā midway due to sheer lack of perseverance. Seekers should possess the virtue of perseverance.
Reference: Sanatan Sanstha’s Holy Text on ‘Introduction to Spirituality‘ and ‘Spirituality‘