There are several short pieces of writing that I carry around with me everywhere I go – because they have really influenced me, and continue to help me on my own path, focusing on what is most important and forgetting the rest. In the interest of sharing these I will post them here for you over the next little while. The first is an article published in Ascent Magazine, July 2004 by Swami Radhananda. I hope you enjoy it!
Chehel Sotun Palace, Isfahan, Iran
Why do we focus on the light? We need a symbol for the power that’s greater than we are. I call it ‘light’ because it’s the subtlest image. When I refer to Divine Light I am referring to the Essence, God, Divine Mother, Consciousness or Higher Self. The mind needs something to focus on. Light is a good symbol because it has the capacity to bring clarity or awareness. If you’re sitting reading and you have a dim light, it’s very hard to see the words on the page. So you get a brighter bulb. In the same way, if you bring light into your life, you begin to see your life more clearly, you begin to read it. Spiritual practice is bringing the Light of awareness into daily life.
I find it difficult to be in the Light for long without seeing what is going on. The light will unmask illusions as it enters your life. It’s the same with studying the Kundalini system, a teaching which is a precise blueprint of our spiritual evolution. On entering the system you will come in contact with the Light and the Light will reveal your root issue. You start at the beginning with the human condition of survival: anger, competition, jealousy, greed, pain, fear. These things will inevitably be revealed by Light. This is the reality. When you study yourself and do spiritual practices, what you are generating will nourish either your awareness of the Light or those basic survival tactics. Learn to read your life, take responsibility, because you will be shown what it is you need to do. You can choose growing into the light or you can stay in the dark and grow more angry, depressed, self important and deluded.
People starting on the spiritual path often think it is full of silence, light and Om sounds, but it’s a CRASH! Mental and emotional turbulence is not unusual on the spiritual path. The path is not la-de-dah. It is a working through of our conditioning. It is a turbulent thing, it has to be. We’re on this human plane, learning about being human. If we were perfect, then we would probably be on another plane where everybody’s perfect, learning something else.
It is difficult when you have an idea that spiritual life and daily life are separate. What does it mean for you to lead a spiritual life? You have to be realistic.
If you get liberated from your concept of what spiritual is and get real about what being a human is, your life will take on a different meaning.
If you take Eastern tradition without translating it into your own life, or you are rigid about Western religions taking their ancient ideals of meditation, prayer and austerities literally, you will be limited. When you go beyond the formality of the practices, to the Essence, to the Light, all the traditions basically say the same things. Milarepa, Christ, Buddha, Sivananda, Swami Radha, they have all taken life as a gift for learning. It’s not about the robe you wear or living in a cave or a convent, it’s about living with yourself and knowing yourself so you can be of benefit to others.
The purpose of spiritual life is to bring quality into life through the Light of awareness, understanding and compassion, not to get what you want or to be content in an illusion. People play games to get what they want on the spiritual path. Why? Because they are not committed to the Light and they are not serious about finding out who they really are. There are many games:
- The honesty game. You play at being honest, so honest that you’re spectacularly honest. You can admit anything. Next week you can admit something else. The “honesty” becomes a substitute for change.
- The child game. Acting like you can’t do anything for yourself, that you are “spiritually helpless”.
- The humility game. You act very humble. Behind these actions there is a strong desire to be recognized as humble.
- The justification game. Everything that you do has an excellent reason (for being done), so there is no room for the light to come in. There’s no room for anything to come in. The rational mind takes over, figuring everything out and making it tidy.
- The holy one game. Where you show all the actions and words of being holy, but there is no generosity or consideration, only the appearance of
- The pseudo spiritual language game. Using words like “transcendence”, “cosmic vision” or “one with the universe”. The words are a façade when people don’t want to look at themselves; the language loses its meaning.
- The spiritual partner game. Using your partner as an excuse to not go forward with your own evolution. You “wait” and “support” the other so you can both go together. Nothing happens. Neither goes anywhere. What are you supporting?
- The dream lover game. People often come to spiritual life looking for emotional gratification, “a dream lover” or “soulmate”. If you are not looking for your own soul, what is the purpose of a spiritual path?
One thing for certain, the Light brings pressure. You might have the expectation that when you get to that point of being lighter, life will be easier. But the Light is bound to bring pressure. That’s its job. Your faith will be tested. You may get into a painful situation or get despondent or depressed. Light will pressure you to question your life, your actions and what has brought you to this point. If you cooperate with the Light, it will give you the ability to see through your illusions.
If you don’t cooperate with your own evolution, or ignore the Light, things become worse. Look at your everyday situation. Is there tension, disagreement, conflict? The Light wants something changed so it will create this dissonance. This isn’t a bad thing; it creates awareness that something has to be addressed. Will you just let it go, avoid the situation? Would that be compassionate?
Compassion isn’t “niceness”. It can be fierce. The most compassionate action is to break the cycle of illusion. Illusions are built from unrealistic expectations. They create a sense of a false reality. That’s the thing with the Light, it keeps breaking the pots. Krishna breaks the pots and keeps things moving, so your life doesn’t become a museum. He frees the rich butter to become available instead of being hidden away.
You can ask for the Light of understanding to reveal what you need to see in yourself and it will happen. Reality takes on a different form. The Light keeps breaking the illusions and bringing us to a subtler and subtler place inside of ourselves. It becomes the building block.
Can you see what reality is and not just what you want to see?
Reality is always better than an illusion.