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A Practical Guide to The Spiritual Life
A Guide To The Spiritual Life
There is philanthropy, altruism, benevolence, inspirational and motivational books … and then there is the spiritual life. While they may all seem necessary and complement each other, they are at the same time very different. The first three would lead to kindness, generosity, unselfishness and self-sacrifice, all aspects of the spiritual life. The last two, while complimenting the others, may lead further to inspiration and a desire to serve, to be the best that one can be in a given situation. This may be work, duty to others, sacrifice … there are many.
So why is Spirituality so different? The spiritual life is, for the most part, conscious love of a Source or Truth, and the means required to tap into this Source. Like everything else in the outer life, the inner life also has a goal or purpose, and gives us methods to arrive at this Golden Shore, this deep peace within. The spiritual life is the song of oneness, self expansion, multiplicity and self-transcendence. It is the life of prayer, of meditation, of love of God, of inner longing and the aspiring cry to manifest this longing, in the world in which one lives.
Altruistic qualities, as well as some descent books, will lift us up and give us the necessary drive to succeed in outer excellence and affluence. They may, but need not elevate us to the Higher life. The spiritual life feeds the Soul, and will last forever. The great prophet Solomon knew this. His message was carried further by the great Christian Saint Thomas A Kempis, in his immortal book, The Imitation of Christ. (Book 1, chpt 1, P27).
“Vanity of vanities. All is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”
MEANS OF LOVING GOD
Speaking of prayer, the Indian Christian saint, Sadhu Sundar Singh, in his book, At The Feet of The Master, refers to prayer as ‘an effort to lay hold of God himself, the author of life.’ He continues, “For such men who pray, God reveals himself in the hidden chamber of the heart and there he speaks with them … prayer is breathing in of the Holy Spirit. God so pours his Holy Spirit into the life of the prayerful, that they become ‘living souls’.” Pages 47+48. Of course Sadhu Singh is speaking of advanced prayer, interior prayer. The 21st century Visionary-Seer, Sri Chinmoy, continues:
"Prayer is something absolutely intense and upward-soaring. When we pray, we feel that our existence is a one-pointed flame soaring upward. From the soles of our feet to the crown of our head, our whole being is invoking and calling upwards. The very nature of prayer is to reach God by going up."
"Meditation is something wide and vast that ultimately expands into the Infinite. When we meditate, we throw ourselves into a vast expanse, into an infinite sea of peace and bliss, or we welcome the infinite Vast into us. Meditation is constantly growing and expanding into peace, light and delight. When we meditate, we gradually see, feel and grow into the entire universe of light and delight.”- Sri Chinmoy.
“The way to get the utmost from meditation is to meditate according to the soul's necessities and demands. We must not feel that just because we are sitting quietly for five or ten minutes our meditation is going well. Meditation is not that easy. It requires conscious effort. The mind has to be made calm and quiet; at the same time, it has to be dynamic and vigilant like a fortress and not allow any enemies to enter. The heart must be like a pure and blossoming flower, opening fully to the light of the soul. The soul must come to the fore and spread its inner light all around. This is real, integral meditation.” Prayer-world; Mantra-world; Japa-world, Agni Press, 1974.
How to Meditate
Get a table or chair or something fairly flat at home. Add a white or a clean cloth. Add a candle on one side, flowers on the other and a point of focus in the middle. Buddha, Christ, etc, or simply look at the flame of the candle. Burn incense sticks. After some prayer, singing of devotional songs or restful in and out breathing a few times, simply look at your focal point in silence. Maybe the candle flame, the Christ, or a known saintly figure.
Concentration is the ability to focus our attention at a particular point to the exclusion of everything else. So simply look at the candle, let us say, and calm your mind with the gentle breathing. After a few days, you will increase the intensity of your focus and it will become easier. Then your mind will gradually fall still and you will feel some peace. Invoke God's presence, He is always present. Again, it is the Grace (energies) we receive that will transform our lives. We cannot do so by ourselves.
As regards sitting, simply sit with your back straight and spine erect. This will help the spiritual energy to travel upwards. Do not strain your eye and relax your shoulders. Do not force anything. Above all, God is inside your heart and knows your needs, even before you sit. Always remember that. The best time for prayer and meditation is when nature is most peaceful. Late at night perhaps, or early a.m. But a short 10 minutes at lunch or when one feels the need is also great:
Practically, one must attend to the present. Sort out the 'stressors' if there be any, accompanied by devotional practices. A certain amount of reading is necessary to inspire the mind. Try srichinmoylibrary.org;
http://www.srichinmoy.tv/category/meditation-silence/ there are several 5 min episodes here. Click on the picture, and then use it for a five minute meditation. Do at quiet times at 6.a.m or late p.m. http://www.temple-song-hearts.org/ click on the website here and then meditate with the music after having clicked again to get it to play. Let me know of any difficulties.
We should feel the gratitude that is inside the heart. One should be grateful to God, to humanity, to be thankful for where one is at any given moment. Always remember that it could have been much worse and seek God’s help while offering thankfulness or gratitude. Gratitude is the life-breath of the Supreme.
“The most beautiful thing on earth is our heart's gratitude to the Supreme, to the divinity in humanity, to God. This is the best and most valuable thing on earth. This is the beauty unparalleled, and it will remain so throughout Eternity." – Sri Chinmoy. A Galaxy of Beautiful Stars, (1974), Agni Press.
The ability to serve others, with the recognition that they are our brothers and sisters, without expectations. One should simply give and give to the Supreme in humanity. By doing so, we will increase our receptivity, and our hearts will grow.
These few pointers are by no means an extensive list, and I feel sure that the sincere aspirant will think of others. I have also written a book on this vast subject called: My Guru Sri Chinmoy: Life And Teachings. Should you wish for a copy, then do let me know, thanks.