Obstacles 1 - Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir
Gabriel Pradīpaka --wrongly-written Pradipaka-- again. Along the spiritual path, you will come across many, many problems. Some of them are insignificant and easy to overcome, while others are extraordinarily difficult to resolve.
The first thing I want you to know is that the solutions I will give you are "always" theoretical. In other words, I can teach you a certain method to overcome a problem, then you practice that on a regular basis... but when you come across the problem, the solution is not always thoroughly effective. Maybe you will have to make some subtle changes in the process or even stop and try later on. For example, suppose you know the "theoretical" solution to vanquish a certain fear which comes up within you in a particular situation. However, when you are in that situation and the fear appears, you realize that you are actually powerless. Of course, if you try to overcome that fear over and over again by using the aforesaid solution, it is highly probable that you will succeed. But, do not expect to obtain a quick victory, especially when you have to deal with big problems.
Why is a solution not always effective, at least the first time you try it? The answer is as follows:
When you are told that you should do this or that to have your problem resolved, you are generally "out of the problem" at that moment. Afterward, you ponder over the solution again and again in solitude and conclude that you will do this or that when you face the problem later. And the problem returns one day, and you either forget the solution or you are unable to use it... or maybe you succeed. The first two situations are common, while the third one is rarely seen. 1) Forgetfulness and 2) lack of capacity are your two new problems now to solve the other problem. Well, these can be simply explained through the following example:
Suppose you are a bowman. You aim and hit the target like a real master when you practice in solitude. After that, you go to a contest for the first time, prepare your bow, aim and throw the arrow... but you miss the target. Why?... people looking at you, your desire to win the contest, etc. In solitude, those factors were not there, and your performance was excellent. But, when you went to the contest, all those factors suddenly came up and ruined your performance. Well, if you go to lots of tournaments, no doubt that your performance will improve. The experience is crucial to overcome the obstacles getting in your way as a bowman. The same is true as far as the spiritual path is concerned. If you want to become a real master in Yoga, Trika, Sanskrit and so on, you will need both solutions and experience. If you expect to be always successful the first time you apply a particular solution, you are probably too optimistic or inexperienced. Even though you might succeed the first time sometimes, it is generally seen that you will have to try and try for a period of time to be successful.
Attempt to hit a target with an arrow when you are moving simultaneously with the target itself. Undoubtedly, it is much easier when you and the target are "still", hehe. Thus, you may prepare yourself to face a particular problem as much as you want by using the method you prefer. However, be warned that when you face it in the real world, the things may not be as easy as when you were preparing yourself. Many other new factors that might ruin your performance are likely to suddenly come into play. Practice and experience are two wings of the bird called "success". You practice and practice... then you apply what you learnt to a real problem... and after many defeats and little victories, you finally overcome that obstacle once and for all.
Well, enough of this. Let us get down to work.
In this universe, all situations follow a pattern. Likewise, the process of solving a problem follows the same pattern. If you do not know the pattern, you will not be able to solve the problem properly. Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge... this is what you need first. Ignorance, ignorance, ignorance... you have to get rid of that if you want to solve a problem. Before going out to fight the enemy with your sword, listen to my words or you will end up taking a beating, be sure :-). The vast majority of people do not know themselves. They think that they are completely "free" to do practically anything. Granted, maybe they do not say that... they might appear to be very humble... but their actions clearly show their arrogant way of thinking. Those people only have "imagination" and no real power. Of course, they are terribly limited in their thoughts, emotions, body, etc. (that is why they undergo all that suffering), but somehow they act as if they were be able to overcome any obstacle in their way, hehe. Just imagination. They should firstly awake to a certain point and afterward learn from a proficient guru the way to deal with the problems in their lives.
So you have awakened a little and want to learn. Then learn:
This is the pattern to be followed by any process of "growth" or "evolution", spiritual or not. In turn, if the process is one of "decay" or "involution", the pattern is to be inverted:
For example, the process of universal manifestation, from Śiva down to the thirty-sixth tattva (See Tattvic Chart) is one of "involution", as the Divine Self "somehow" undergoes various transformations until He reaches the last tattva (Pṛthivī, tattva 36). Nevertheless, do not worry about processes of "involution" right now. To understand the processes of "growth" and "evolution" is your goal now.
As I was saying to you, you may divide every process of "growth" and "evolution" that way. And you may even subdivide every stage likewise. Look:
Note that I have only subdivided the first two stages for the sake of convenience, but I could've have subdivided the rest too. Again, every substage can be subdivided over and over. From this, you surely realize now how complex a process may be. An example: Let us study the process of learning Sanskrit (something that I do not recommend really, just kidding). I will only subdivide the second and third stages here. Firstly, the process as a whole:
|I sincerely want to learn||I learn Sanskrit from a Sanskrit teacher||Big problems||Temporary stoppage||I could read my first scripture in Sanskrit||I could write my first long text in Sanskrit||I could translate my first scripture in Sanskrit||Hey, I can speak in Sanskrit fluently||Temporary stoppage||I am quite a master... Superman in person|
It is to be noted that the guy called Gabriel Pradīpaka attained the sixth stage (he has translated several scriptures, as you know) in 1995 after 6 years of continuous study. Since 1996 to date (March 2003), he has kept studying and studying to reach the seventh stage some day in the future. I am giving you specific dates in order to show that it is perfectly possible to learn Sanskrit to a certain extent in a reasonable period of time. For that reason, regarding speaking Sanskrit in a fluent manner... well, he can chant long hymns, but his tongue is still too stiff to speak in a fluent way everyday, hehe. Oh, I thought that I was quite a master, grrrrrrrrrrrrr! I don't care!
Joking apart, this would be an example of a "complete" process of learning Sanskrit (from beginning to end). Nevertheless, your goal might be only "translating scriptures" or something like this. Besides, although the first three stages along the last one (the eighth one) are "universal" for all processes of learning, the stages 4 to 7 are suggested by me. For example, I think that it is easier reading than writing in Sanskrit. And, I sincerely think that translating is much more difficult than reading or writing. By "translating", I especially refer to "word for word" translations. Well, this is my viewpoint, but some other Sanskrit teacher may have a different point of view, and that's OK too.
But, as far as a mere student is concerned, just the first three stages are relevant for him/her. Take the gaps or breaches as places where the process is temporarily stopped. At those moments, the process might deviate and lead to an incorrect result. This is what happens for the most part. In the process of learning Sanskrit, all your "big problems" are to be found in the third stage. If you go beyond them "in a proper way", you will cross the gap and advance to the next stage (the fourth one) and so on. Your crossing the gap by resolving the big problems should be done "as fast as possible", because if not so, the process of learning is likely to deviate and you will end up obtaining a different result. By "as fast as possible" I am not saying "overnight", of course. Let us study the first three stages:
|I sincerely want to learn||I learn Sanskrit from a Sanskrit teacher||Big problems||Temporary stoppage||I could read my first scripture in Sanskrit|
Now, I will divide the second stage into eight parts again. Remember that all stages may be divided the same way:
|I sincerely want to learn||I learn Sanskrit from a good Sanskrit teacher||Big problems||Temporary stoppage||I could read my first scripture in Sanskrit|
Let us analyze the first stage which I will not subdivide for the time being:
|I sincerely want to learn|
|A sincere desire to learn Sanskrit language.
Sometimes, this good desire may be accompanied, from the very beginning, by profound love for Sanskrit too. But generally, this profound love is developed later.
If you do not sincerely want to learn Sanskrit, you will not learn it! The first stage is crucial, because it is the base upon which the whole building will be built. If you do not have that sincere desire, you will not succeed in your efforts. For instance, if you begin learning Sanskrit because it is a new fashion, you will not succeed, no doubt about it. Also, if you begin learning Sanskrit just for the sake of your stomach, that is, to make money, you will not succeed. Anything that is not a sincere desire to learn will not lead to good results, be sure. Sanskrit language is a Śakti or Power, and this Śakti cannot be deluded by any means. The first stage constitutes the "foundations". If you want the building to keep erect, you need good foundations.
And now, the second stage of learning. I will follow the scheme of learning that is used on this website:
|I learn Sanskrit from a Sanskrit teacher|
|Introduction, pronunciation, writing and transliteration (First Steps, Writing and Transliterating along with the Pronunciation pages)||Numbers, rules of Sandhi or combination, declension and verbs (Numbers, Combination, Declension and Verbs)||Problems||Temporary stoppage||Compounds||Affixes||Syntax||Translation (Translating)||Temporary stoppage||The rest|
It is to be noted that the fact that you learn how to translate (see Translating) does not mean you have completely dominated the art of translating texts in Sanskrit. According to the process, you will achieve that in the sixth stage really and not in the seventh substage of the second stage. Got it? Besides, this is my way of arranging the process. In fact, I designed the site by keeping this in mind. The system of learning you can see on this site was not chosen at random but follows a definite pattern. Other Sanskrit teachers might make some changes to my scheme, of course. Every teacher has his/her own system of teaching and it is OK. Despite the differences among the Sanskrit teachers, the process of learning Sanskrit follows approximately a common pattern. For example, you should not learn how to conjugate verbs (see Verbs) if you do not know how to use the Sandhi rules (see Combination), as you will have many problems with understanding conjugation.
The first barrier is situated in the third substage, right after you have started learning verbs. The symptoms: 1) your brain is about to explode, hehe; 2) you cannot memorize so many rules and subrules and subsubsubsubsubrules... despite me telling you that you should not learn by heart; 3) you learn something now but forget what you learnt a little while ago; 4) you realize that the ocean of Sanskrit is really BIG; 5) you begin to wonder "why the heck am I learning this difficult language?"; 6) you feel that "it is just too much"; and the like. What is the solution to these problems?:
1) Strengthening your sincere desire to learn Sanskrit (stage 1). If you can develop love for the language, it would be really helpful. This good desire and love are "emotional", not "intellectual". This kind of emotion works like a real "engine" that boosts your learning.
2) Re-learning the entire substage 1 (within the second stage). For example, you are learning how to conjugate verbs in Imperative Mood. Your intellect is about to collapse, as the guy Gabriel Pradīpaka keeps pouring into it tons and tons of rules, subrules, terminations, exceptions and all those funny things, hehe. Well, stop and go to First Steps, Writing and Transliterating, and read all you can there. Then, practice pronunciation. Try to forget about verbs for a while (perhaps one day or two). After that, keep learning verbs.
My point is that you must "strengthen" the bases before going on. If you "ignorantly" insist on going on without strengthening the foundations, your building will collapse sooner or later. Therefore, it is a good habit to re-learn the first stages before learning something new.
Well, suppose now that you have completed the eight substages of the second stage. In other words, you have learnt all I have taught you on the site (from First Steps to the very end). You wonder, what is next?... Big problems! The symptoms?: 1) You realize that even though you can read all the texts, scriptures, etc. that Gabriel Pradīpaka translated word for word, you cannot directly read other scriptures (e.g. you take Kulārṇavatantra --a celebrated Tantric scripture--, read it, but you cannot understand what is written there); 2) you also realize that merely knowing Sanskrit grammar is not enough to read some scriptures... you must also know the special jargon used there (e.g. if you read a Vedic scripture, you must know the technical terms exclusively used in the Vedic tradition); 3) if you can get an original scripture or a copy of it, you realize that handwritten Sanskrit is not so clear as that of the Sanskrit 2003 font, hehe; 4) you feel frustration; 5) so many years studying Sanskrit and you cannot read such a simple scripture as Kulārṇavatantra, just kidding... but the feeling is something like that; 6) many other bad emotions like depression, reluctance, disappointment, helplessness, wrath, etc. will appear all of a sudden; 7) you want to abandon it all, go to a remote mountain and cry disconsolately; I am exaggerating, of course, but the feeling of wanting to abandon it all is real; 8) and a long list of "etc."
What is the solution to those big problems?:
1) To strengthen the foundations (stage 1), that is, your sincere desire to learn Sanskrit. Ask yourself: "Why am I learning Sanskrit? Am I learning Sanskrit to make some money? Am I learning Sanskrit to be a famous superstar? Do I need praise to keep learning Sanskrit? What is the hurry? Why am I feeling disappointed? Am I attached to the fruit of my actions? Why cannot I merely perform actions without expecting fruits?" This kind of reasoning is Bhaktiyoga (Yoga of devotion) along with Karmayoga (Yoga of action). Devotion is not necessarily crying all night because of your love for the Lord. No, devotion is firstly that sincere desire to learn something new, and then it is gradually transformed into real love as you realize little by little the greatness of what you are learning. That love is mostly something occurring within you. It is not a show, but something "real". If your desire and love are sincere, you will go beyond all problems sooner or later, be sure. It is a matter of time!
2) To practice over and over again. After strengthening your love for Sanskrit, you must keep practicing again and again. The gap between the stages 3 and 4 is crossed via a) your own efforts and love; and b) divine intervention. What do I mean by "divine intervention":
Divine intervention is not necessarily manifested as an angel coming down from Heaven to help you, or as a dancing goddess that bestows boons on you, etc. No, by divine intervention I mean to say that your inner Self (Śiva in you as You) is somehow "moved" by your strenuous decision of learning Sanskrit at all costs and accedes to help you. Through your sincere efforts and love, you get "divine grace" from Śiva, which suddenly puts an end to your problems. Thus, you can happily go on to the fourth stage. When divine grace intervenes, it is something natural and spontaneous. As I said to you before, you do not need to have resonant divine experience as a confirmation that divine grace is upon you. Not at all. For the most part, it is something like this: one day you realize that all your previous problems are gone now. You wonder how that happened, but you cannot find any explanation. Divine grace generally acts in a silent way. Therefore, I would say that an indefinable combination of "sincere efforts, based on a genuine desire and love, plus divine grace" is the key to cross the first gap (between stages 3 and 4).
What about the gap between stages 7 and 8? Well, remember that I have only reached the sixth level... be merciful. Anyway, that level of learning is too "high" for you at this moment. Forget about it for now.
Now let us study the proper attitude when facing a problem.
It is very important that your attitude is the right one when a problem comes up. If it is not, the problem will become more difficult to solve. Why? The answer is the following:
Every time you have a desire, an opposite force arises. For instance: you want to be an engineer. Immediately, you realize that you will have to study for many years. Or you want to win the gold medal in the Olympic marathon... well, you will have to train very hard to get that. Anything you try to attain requires an effort on your part. Imagine the amount of effort you need to attain God Himself. Some people meditate for a while. As nothing happens, they become extremely disappointed because God did not appear before them. This is a childish attitude, no doubt, especially when you realize the extraordinary amount of effort you must "invest" if you want to get some spiritual realization. Well, you may think of other examples too, and you will always note that if you want "results", you need to strive for them. Everything requires an effort, however little it may be. If you want to go to a shopping center, you will have to walk or take a taxi, a bus or anything else to get there. Likewise, I have to write this document first if I want you to read it. It does not come to me "magically". Look at the following drawing:
Your desire is a kind of first force to which immediately a second force called "the obstacle" is opposed. Nonetheless, note that in one's own imagination, the obstacle "barely" arises. Obviously, when you "come down" to the real world, the second force is strengthened and will make things more difficult for you. I can imagine that I will build a long bridge in a couple hours... but when I try to "actually" build it, I find that I will need plenty of money, lots of knowledge, help, time, etc. Granted, in practice things are not so easy as in the imagination. I am not speaking of that imagination, which is useful (e.g. I mentally design the bridge in order to have an idea of how it will look) but of that, which is useless (e.g. I imagine that I will build that bridge in a couple hours without any difficulty).
But two forces are not enough to produce something, as they will be merely fighting against each other. A third force is needed then. This third force may be "proper" or "improper". If the third force is improper, you cannot overcome the obstacle... it is as if the third force was backing up the obstacle itself "as it were". This is not exactly so, but it is a useful manner to conceive the process. That is why I painted both arrows in black color:
In the spiritual path, this improper third force appears every time you want to do things "the old way". By "the old way" I mean the "common" manner to behave oneself in the presence of an obstacle. Worldly people are addicted to summoning this improper third force, but someone who looks to attain to Śiva Himself should behave otherwise. Most people do not know anything about their own Self and thus they fall prey to all kinds of suffering. Because they do not know themselves even a bit, their actions are also ignorant. For example, they frequently forget that life is too short to waste time on insignificant goals (e.g. an entire lifetime spent in search of fame). Neither do they know that they were born to follow a spiritual path and attain the Divine, which is their true nature. They waste their lives on family affairs, the search of money and pleasure, unnecessary problems that derive from their unnecessary deeds, useless suffering and other countless stupid senseless acts. Obviously, with this type of life, nobody can attain the Lord Himself. Imagine someone who spends his entire lifetime worried about how his physical body looks... well, it will be really difficult for that person to realize the Cosmic Body of God.
You can see all that foolishness for yourself. You do not need to go to a remote place. If you are not bold enough to go near a mirror, just turn on the TV set and watch. However, people do not act like that because they are inherently "wicked" but because they are spiritually ignorant. In this sense, they are not spiritually responsible for their acts. All that pain might be avoided through the spiritual wisdom passed on to us by great masters, but somehow that is not possible for "everyone" right now. Just a little group of people can at present realize their current condition and try to attain final Emancipation.
When you have the improper third force in your life, things do not go well. Your capacity to solve problems practically does not exist, and those problems are not overcome or they are resolved "by chance". Obviously, this ignorant condition is not something really "desirable".
My point is, if you are one of those people who spend their entire "precious" lifetime worried about the look of their body or worried about family, job, pet, house, etc., please do not expect to solve spiritual problems. First, make your life spiritually-oriented, and then, when you face some problems related to your sādhanā, you will be able to use my suggestions to solve them. Spiritual knowledge is only intended for people who really look to attain a higher level of consciousness and go beyond mere worldliness. To solve a particular problem during your spiritual practice, you must have energy. But, if you waste all your energy on trivialities, be sure that you will not be able to have that problem resolved, at least not in a proper manner.
When you approach a problem with the wrong attitude and knowledge, you will fail to solve it. To overcome that problem, you need a sincere desire (first force) plus a proper third force. The third force links both of forces (your desire and the obstacle) and brings about a result. If it is improper, the result is not adequate, but if it is proper, the result is a good one. Look at the following drawing where a proper third force has come into play:
Note that I have painted the arrow standing for the proper third force the same color as the one representing your own desire. I have done so because when the third force is adequate, it helps you fulfill your desire, as it were. Now, I will describe the main features of each of those two third forces (improper and proper, that is, mundane and spiritual). By "mundane", I mean all that is ordinary and not spiritually-oriented. On the other hand, by "spiritual", I mean all that is extraordinary and spiritually-oriented. It is to be noted that the improper third force, when appearing, does not need to have all those characteristics I describe, but it may have just a few. Still, you will recognize it because of those few features. The same is true regarding the proper third force. The improper third force is the outcome of worldliness and ordinary knowledge, while the proper third force consists of spirituality and divine knowledge.
Almost all that you have learnt from worldly people is practically useless on the spiritual path, because those people only know the improper third force. In turn, a lot of things that you learnt from spiritual people (e.g. true guru-s) may be really useful during your sādhanā, as those people have had some contact with the proper third force, which is divine. Another example: read a common newspaper and after that, read the Patañjali's Yogasūtra-s. You will immediately perceive a big difference. The former is the outcome of worldliness and ordinary knowledge, while the latter is the fruit of divine wisdom.
Nonetheless, I am not saying that worldliness and ordinary knowledge are always useless. No, what I am saying is that they are useless to solve problems in your sādhanā. If they are used in spirituality, they become an improper third force at once. For instance, you may speak ill of someone in your mind, even beat them, and you will not be arrested. However, from a spiritual viewpoint, you will have to reap the fruits of your mental actions sooner or later. Got my point? There are two realms of reality, each of them with their own laws and forces. Another example: sometimes, a little violence might help you out of a bad situation (e.g. you have to beat a thief to save your life). But the same thing is not true in the spiritual realm. Nobody can enter the divine tattva-s, or levels, with a machine gun or something like that. Well, I think that my point is clear enough. The chart now:
|WORLDLINESS AND ORDINARY KNOWLEDGE||SPIRITUALITY AND DIVINE KNOWLEDGE|
|AN IMPROPER ATTITUDE SUMMONS THIS IMPROPER THIRD FORCE TO SOLVE PROBLEMS IN THE SPIRITUAL PATH. IN TURN, THIS VERY FORCE GIVES RISE TO AND STRENGTHENS THAT ATTITUDE. A VICIOUS CIRCLE.||A PROPER ATTITUDE SUMMONS THIS PROPER THIRD FORCE TO SOLVE PROBLEMS IN THE SPIRITUAL PATH. IN TURN, THIS VERY FORCE GIVES RISE TO AND STRENGTHENS THAT ATTITUDE. AN AUSPICIOUS CIRCLE.|
|Some features||Their consequences||Some features||Their consequences|
|Violent means||More violence, fear, etc. A spiritual problem cannot be overcome through violence, ever! Use violent means, wrath, hatred, etc., and your problem just will grow. Violence makes the obstacle even stronger.||Peaceful means||More peace. Serenity to find a reasonable solution. You understand that the obstacle is something natural in all processes and try to overcome it by using peaceful means.|
|Searching for fruits||Disappointment, envy (if someone got those fruits before you), etc. You want "results", but this very desire for fruits only increases the strength of the obstacle. Even though this desire might be completely right in the ordinary life (e.g. you demand a payment for your work), in the spiritual realm is thoroughly useless. Get rid of it as soon as you can.||Absence of searching for fruits||Strength, good feelings, etc. You simply do what you have to do without worrying about when the results of those actions will come to you. You find a method to go beyond a problem, then put that in practice and nothing else. You are not the whole time expecting fruits. Thus, your mind is in peace and plenty of energy is not wasted, which can be then used to solve the problem.|
|Anxiety||Pain. It is usually a consequence of your searching for fruits. Nobody can find a solution to a problem in an anxious state. The final result: the obstacle is still there.||Absence of anxiety||Absence of anguish. You are relaxed, within and without. Your intellect is clear like a crystal. With this clear and pacific intellect, you may see the things as they are.|
|Hurry||Frustration, since almost nothing is "instantly" solved during the spiritual path, except you already are quite a master or you meet with a Divine Incarnation in person.||Patience||Understanding. You realize how complex a process may be. You approach the problems coming up with a relaxed attitude, which saves energy to face those problems in an effective way.|
|Harmful imagination||More disappointment and frustration, despair, etc. You realize that things do not work as you had imagined they would.||Clear vision||Good results, as it is another useful tool for finding a solution. A clear vision is indispensable to find a solution to a problem. If you do not understand the problem, you will not solve it.|
|Blaming others||Anger, rancor, doubt, uncertainty, etc. You think that the problem in your sādhanā was produced by others... and you are wrong from the start.||Absence of blame||More peace. You understand that nobody is really to be blamed for the problem, not even you. The obstacle, or problem, is something natural in every process. You try to find a solution to it instead of wasting your energy and time on blaming others.|
|Absence of real self-consciousness||Incapacity to solve the problem. If you attempt to overcome an obstacle without being conscious of yourself, you will not be able to do it.||Real self-consciousness||Power. Despite the imminent problem, you do not lose sight of your own nature. In other words, you remember your inherent divinity and do not get lost in the problem itself.|
|Absence of real consciousness of the obstacle||More incapacity and powerlessness. If you do not give thought to the fact that each desire manifests an opposing force (obstacle or problem), you will be surprised when that force appears at last. Lack of consciousness of the possible obstacles in your way is a signal of inexperience, which will bring about so much pain, disappointment and frustration later.||Real consciousness of the obstacle||More power and capacity. You clearly understand that for the most part you cannot merely desire something and get it immediately. For example, you want to attain a certain state of divine consciousness, but that generally does not come at once. It requires a strong effort from you. You are fully conscious of that, and thus, you avoid feeling surprise and frustration in the long run.|
|Mental turmoil||Absence of concentration. If your mind is not one-pointed, you will not find any solution. Too much mental distraction wastes energy that you should use to overcome the obstacle.||One-pointed mind||Great power. It is vital that your mind is concentrated to deal with the obstacle in a proper way. A distracted mind leads to nowhere, no doubt about it.|
|And so on||And so on|
So, have the right attitude when approaching a problem in your sādhanā, and you will summon the proper third force, which in turn will strengthen that attitude. It is a real circle: divine knowledge produces good attitudes in you, and later in practice, you summon that divine knowledge again through your proper attitude. This adequate third force, which is divinely-oriented, will help you overcome the obstacle and attain the goal.
When you have an improper attitude, you are "active". And when you have the proper one, you are "passive". What does all that mean? Listen: When you are full of violence and/or desire for fruits and/or anxiety and so on, you are in an "active" position, that is, you "want this", you "want that", you "demand this", you "demand that", etc. If your active state does not change, you will end up generating a process of "decay" or "involution"... it is a law: All "active" attitude lastly produces a process of "decay" or "involution". Thus, you cannot "jump" over the obstacle, but you bump into it and fall down. Look:
|Violence, desire for fruits, anxiety, etc.||Gradual or accelerated collapse (it is dependent on the amount of violence, desire for fruits, anxiety, etc. you put into the eighth stage of this process of decay or involution).||The obstacle is the winner|
Granted, after being defeated due to the erroneous attitude that triggered a similarly erroneous process, you can try again. The second time, make sure you have proper attitude. If you do not have it, you will keep losing and losing, and that is pure ignorance. However, if you are able to develop proper attitude through divine knowledge, you will win in the long run, since the process is one of "growth" and "evolution". When you have the right attitude to face the obstacle, you are "passive" (I am not saying lazy). In other words, you are not full of violence, demands, desire for fruits, anxiety, etc., but you are full of peace, self-consciousness, clear vision, etc. These good qualities "call in " a proper third force, which will help you find a solution. Look:
|Peace, self-consciousness, absence of the desire for fruits, clear vision, etc.||Gradual or accelerated process of solution (it is dependent on the strength of your good attitude).||You finally overcome the obstacle|
In short, develop a proper attitude and become "passive". This will summon the proper third force, which is divine in nature. This force will pave your way to success, no doubt about it.
Well, possible solutions to some common problems on the spiritual path now.
Some common problems and their possible solutions
I will now explain in detail some usual obstacles you are likely to stumble against during your sādhanā or spiritual practice. As I explained previously, every time you face a problem, there are two factors to keep in mind:
- The three forces participating in the process.
- The eight main stages in the process itself.
Remember that your desire is the first force, while the obstacle is the second force. The quality of the third force coming into play will determine the final result. If it is proper, you will achieve your goal, but if it is improper, you will not overcome the obstacle in an adequate way. If your attitude is not right, harmful emotions (wrath, frustration, greed, etc.) will arise in you, and an improper third force will be summoned. In turn, if you can keep the correct attitude, your emotions will be accordingly correct too, and a proper third force will come into existence. Understanding that is vital if you want to succeed every time you face an obstacle.
However, whether the process is one of decay and involution or of growth and evolution, it will go through 8 stages. Except for when the obstacle is insignificant, it is convenient to draw a graphic with those eight stages and their inherent difficulties. The process that you draw should be one of growth and evolution, of course, unless you are quite a masochist and derive pleasure from suffering and failure. Granted, there is no "template" available for every possible process of growth and evolution related to a particular difficulty. Nonetheless, there are outlines that you can always follow:
- The first stage is one of right valuation and attitude. If the first stage is poor, the process will be poor too. If it is improper, the process will follow the same pattern of inadequacy, and you will end up involved in a process of decay and involution.. and you do not want that, do you?
- The second stage is generally one of learning. You learn all that is needed to accomplish a certain mission. For example, you want to be a master of meditation. Well, in the second stage, you learn all the theoretical knowledge about meditation. Some minor problems will arise in this stage, of course.
- The third stage is the one full of big problems. Here you face the first important obstacle in your way. If you find the right attitude and keep striving to attain the goal, you go beyond the obstacle and enter the fourth stage.
- The stages 4, 5, 6 and 7 imply a relatively fluent process of growth.
- The gap between stages 7 and 8 indicates some difficulties before attaining the goal.
- The eighth stage represents your success.
- Also remember that each of the stages may be divided into 8 substages. Especially divide the second stage into 8 substages so that you may easily study the process of learning that occurs there.
Well, the first problem now:
Solution: They will leave by themselves. This is usually the first problem on your way home, that is, to Śiva. It is resolved by itself. Do not pay too much attention to it. For example, you may doubt your guru: "Is he or she a true master?" Well, you may try to test him/her (when the guru is a lady, the correct term would be "gurvī", but I do not want to make your life even more complicated and will only use the word "guru" for both) in various ways, but that is not always something "reliable", since many times you will not be able to understand the behavior of a true guru... that is why you are the disciple. For example, you may attempt to test your guru through an action-based procedure: "Is my guru behaving like a master should?" You may find some outlines in the scriptures about how a true guru is expected to act... but it is not reliable all the time. If you found a great master, he/she will generally refuse to behave like you expected of him/her. Remember that such a personage has attained a higher state of consciousness, while you probably have not... that is why you are the disciple. I am not talking about "complete insanity" of your guru, but about really strange actions, which are not supposed to be done by a great being according to the "usual" parameters.
If you do not keep that in mind, you may be surprised. Most guru-s do not look like "normal" people. They may be extremely peaceful or extremely irascible. However they may behave, you will note a common feature in all of them: they attack your ego really hard. Your ego is that person in you who is not you. It is difficult to explain. It is something artificially formed in your life, according to the conditions around you, usually during your childhood and teenage years. Family and "common" education (grade school, high school, etc.) participate in the formation of the ego. When you are born, you only have "essence". Essence is what you really are. For example: you may have the essence of a sculptor. Thus, as a child, your skills an that art are clearly shown to all. At the age of 7 or even earlier, the ego begins to be formed gradually through the pressure of "common" education along with that of family (mother, father, uncle, etc.). You begin hearing your teachers and absorbing their ideas, opinions, concepts, etc., which are not generally "divinely-oriented". Step by step, through the incessant flow of their ideas, opinions, etc., you start thinking that you are this or that person called John, Gabriel, Vijay, etc.
Through the influence of your family and first teachers, the ego is formed in you. Next, you should receive teachings from spiritual teachers... but that is not often seen. Thus, you are now a vulgar person completely oblivious of his divine nature... and, well, we have the world we have. Ah, regarding your essential skills as a sculptor... oh, now you are maybe an influential businessman. When asked about art, you might answer: "Oh yes, when I was a little kid, I made pretty sculptures... but all that is lost". You would be surprised at the amount of people doing things that are not their "essence". When this happens, there is disharmony in one's life, because the "essence" goes this way, while "ego" goes a different one. I can say that just a few handfuls of people are doing things which are "essentially" for them. They are in general living a life which is not "theirs" but their ego's. For that reason, they are not happy. Nobody can be truly happy when they do not follow their essence. The pressure of the present society (worldly-oriented for the most part) forces a person to get a job just for the sake of money. Obviously, as I said before, nobody can attain real happiness that way.
Another obstacle now:
When I talk to people about my sādhanā or spirituality,
they begin arguing or do not pay attention
The solution: Do not talk to people about your sādhanā (spiritual practice) or spirituality. I am quite a genius! Getting serious, remember that most people are ego-oriented, and all this spiritual knowledge in the end is "against" ego. Their egos will defend themselves... this is completely normal. "Hey, you cannot come and destroy all my egoistical life just like that. I will have to defend it at all costs". Some people will argue and others will just not listen. If you talk to a common person about these subjects, you will notice that there is a limit always. If you go beyond it, argument or indifference is the inevitable result. Those people are not ready to hear the spiritual truth yet. That is why you should not talk to them about your spiritual practice or spirituality until they are ready. How will you know that? Because they themselves will come to ask you. You do not go to people, but you wait for them to come near you, got it? Let them come to you on their own. In case that you are a teacher, a priest or something, you are probably bound to talk to a lot of people, but do not force anyone to listen to you. When someone is ready, he will come to you by himself. Remember that you must summon a proper third force, and if you try to "force" someone to hear you, no doubt you will attract an improper third force. Then, the process will be one of "decay" and "involution", and not one of "growth" and "evolution".
When someone begins their spiritual path, they are eager to share their experiences with everyone. This is totally natural. Nonetheless, if they do so, they will notice that people begin arguing or become indifferent. The solution is very simple, as I said: close your mouth! Besides, if you talk about your spiritual experiences to inadequate people, you will lose the power contained in them. The Cakra-s (pranic centers) have different levels, higher and lower. When you have a spiritual experience (e.g. you see a light in meditation), this experience occurs in a higher level of a particular Cakra. Only talk about it to your guru and people treading the same path as you. Thus, the power of that experience is protected and preserved at that higher level. But, if you talk to anyone about it, the experience goes down to the lower level of that Cakra and its power is diminished or even lost, especially if you have to argue too much or get furious because that person refuses to listen to you. All arguments and wrath will only summon an improper third force, as you know. Therefore, if you need to talk about an experience, talk about it to appropriate people and everything will be fine.
I have no spiritual experiences during my meditation
The solution: Renounce your expectations. Feeling frustration, disappointment, etc. will summon an improper third force because they are harmful emotions. Always enter "peace" mode to make sure that the third force will be a right one, got it? This feeling of not having had a spiritual experience in meditation is a usual one. It accrues to a person when he has expectations, which are strengthened when he compares himself to others.
If you read the biographies of some saints, you will realize that they had various spiritual experiences. After that, if you insist on comparing yourself to those saints, you will generally become frustrated. The way out: do not do it. They had those experiences, but that does not mean that you necessarily will have the same ones. I explain this topic in detail here. Besides, always avoid comparison, as it will only result in frustration, disappointment, wrath, etc. All these emotions are not good for you, believe me. Just continue to meditate and to do your sādhanā as taught by your own guru. People may say now: "Oh yes, I already knew that, but how do I abandon those bad emotions, really?" You abandon those emotions... by abandoning them. Do not try to annihilate them, just tolerate them and keep walking. Many evil thoughts and emotions might enter your mind at any moment, but "You are not them". You are a Witness to them all. For instance, if you feel jealous because someone is having a spiritual experience that you are not, do not attempt to eliminate the feeling of jealousy... just abandon it, behold it as a Witness. Even though you cannot avoid feeling jealousy, you do not need to identify with that horrible feeling. You are Śiva, the Witness, and not that, which is witnessed. All those dangerous emotions are only... dangerous emotions... not You.
If you develop this witnessing attitude toward all your thoughts and emotions, especially the harmful ones, you will summon the proper third force. When this occurs, you may be sure that all is going perfectly in your sādhanā. Also remember that the final experience is "without any experience". Śiva cannot be experienced because He is the Supreme Experient Himself. And that Śiva is You. Nobody can ever take that away from you.
My family does not want me to perform spiritual practices
The solution: Explain the purpose behind your practices to them as many times as possible... if they refuse to understand due to pure ignorance and stubbornness, keep practicing anyway. But, if things turn too nasty, go somewhere else to practice or even live. Most families are worldly-oriented, that is, they are not interested in spirituality at all. Unless you are a little kid, nobody can prevent you from performing spiritual practices, provided that those practices are good for you and you respect the others' rights. For example, you find a true guru, and he/she teaches you how to meditate on your own Self. Then, when you go back home and sit for meditation, someone in your family tries to stop you. Well, it is your right to ask that person to leave you alone. Nobody has the right to prevent you from performing spiritual practices. If you do not get your spiritual right recognized in your family, you will have problems sooner or later.
Obviously, your practice should be performed so that the sleep of the other members of your family is not disturbed. If you chant mantra-s loudly all night long, it is completely understandable that the rest of your family will not be happy with that [unless they are bats like myself]. If they ask you not to make so much noise when they are asleep, it is a completely reasonable and fair request. Respect their rights if you want them to respect yours. Apart from the sleep of others, there are other things you must keep in mind when living together with people, of course. Always be respectful and gentle if you want to be respected and heard.
If you are respectful and gentle, nobody has the right to tell you anything about the way you lead your spiritual life. Some scriptures recommend to abandon someone trying to stop you from practicing meditation and the like, but I would be more compassionate. If I were to have that problem, I would attempt to explain to that person why I need to meditate, etc. so that he may understand my purpose. Remember that you need a proper third force, and "peaceful" attitude is crucial to summon one. Of course, if after several explanations on my part, that person does not understand my point, well, either I become indifferent to him or go somewhere else. But, the last course of action is used as the last resort, obviously. Generally, the problem may be solved with a peaceful attitude, patience and good explanations.
As a matter of fact, it is ridiculous even thinking of preventing someone from performing spiritual practices. Just as you have no right to prevent them from going to the cinema, none of the members of your family have the right to stop you from meditating, chanting mantra-s and so on. However ridiculous that behavior may be, remember to always keep a "peaceful" attitude. Do not get angry or the third force will be an improper one and the final result will be more pain and struggle. Behave in a civilized way and explain your point. Be firm in your position but "gentle" at the same time, always. Remember that going somewhere else should be the last resort (e.g. when the rest of your family becomes too violent toward your spiritual life). But this is rarely seen. For the greater part, it is enough if you are gentle and know how to explain things in a civilized manner.
I cannot find a true guru
The solution: Strive to be a true disciple. A genuine guru is not someone to be sought somewhere on earth, like some people often attempt to do. Firstly, try to be a true disciple. When you become a good disciple, a good guru will immediately appear. To begin the process of becoming quite a disciple, you always need a right attitude in the first place, along with sincere appreciation of spiritual teachings. With these two elements to start with, a process consisting of eight stages is then unleashed. In that process, you get all the necessary virtues to do the biddings of your future guru and to survive in his/her presence. A true guru will strike your ego from the beginning, and you must understand why he/she is doing that, or you will end up killing your guru. Be sure that your ego will not fall in love with your pestering guru, hehe. In fact, the poor ego will want to run away from such an ego-killer like that guru. Oh, poor little ego, your days are numbered!
However, you may wonder what a true disciple looks like. In a Tantra (Kulārṇavatantra?... uh, I do not remember), the qualities of an excellent disciple are mentioned. My God, when I read the list I could not find myself in it... too many virtues required from a miserable mortal, hehe. After that, the qualities of a genuine guru are also outlined. If I believed in that list to the letter, I surely would never find a true guru in this world. Too many virtues required from a miserable immortal. Well, as regards to the qualities of a good disciple, my list would be much less demanding. In fact, I can say that there is only one good quality in a true disciple that comprehends all good qualities required from him/her. If you develop this quality, you are bound to develop the remaining ones too. Therefore, there is no need of a long list:
- A disciple should firstly "listen to" and then "follow" what the guru is says. Most people have many ideas about how things should be done in their spiritual path when meeting a guru. That is why they fail to attain the spiritual goal. Just as you would not venture into building a bridge across a river without being an engineer or architect yourself, or without consulting one first, you must follow the path shown by your guru. I am not talking about "mad" biddings (e.g. to fast for six moths and so on), which would lead you to death or cause serious damage to you and others. No, I am not talking about religious or spiritual madness. I am talking about uplifting biddings that will bring welfare to your life in the long run. For example: "meditate one hour every day", "talk as much as necessary", "behave in a gentle manner as much as possible", "help someone in need", "watch your thoughts", etc. Got it? If you are a true disciple, you will follow those uplifting biddings to the letter without letting your ego and its ideas intervene in the process. But, if the guru says that you should do "this" and you do "that", you will not succeed, however strong your effort may be. Follow the word of your guru to the letter and everything will be fine. Remember that you ignore many things that your guru knows very well. As too many things are not under your control, you need the help of a true guru very badly if you want to attain the spiritual goal.
To listen to and then follow the biddings of a true guru, you must develop many good characteristics first: humbleness, patience, respect, honesty, sincerity, devotion, seriousness, etc.
Therefore, do not try to find a good guru, just become a good disciple yourself and the guru will appear naturally.
I cannot stop my mind in meditation
The solution: Do not attempt to stop your mind. When you start meditating, you must decide if you will waste your time by trying to restrain the mind, or you will use that time to actually meditate on the Self. Even though the definition of meditation is ideally "a continuous flow of similar mental modifications", according to Patañjali, that is not achieved overnight. The first step to attain to that ideal state of meditation is to develop absence of mental restraint. You sit for meditation without expectations and simply look at the thoughts as a witness. You do not attempt to stop them but just behold them as a mere "onlooker". Also, you do not take sides with the "good thoughts", while you reject the "bad thoughts". No, you only remain as a witness to all thoughts, good or bad. The Self is like that, He is thoroughly impartial in respect to mental contents. When you assume that impartial attitude, you at last become identified with that Self.
Over a certain period of time and practice, the mind will lose its inherent restlessness... and that is real meditation. From that point of absence of mental movement on, you only have to dive deeper into inner Reality and attain what you are supposed to attain there. Nothing else is necessary to do. If you may develop a witnessing attitude, you would not need any meditation techniques. These techniques were designed to help you every time you cannot assume that attitude.
One last thing: Remember that the mind is really shrewd. You have been under its control for so many years. Thus, do not blow your cover every time you sit down for meditation. In other words, hide your true intentions from the mind. Just sit down and do it. Avoid planning before meditation. For example: "Oh, now I will practice the technique of beholding the thoughts in an impartial manner". If you mentally express your intentions before meditating, the mind, acting as a second force, will become a serious obstacle on your way. Remember that to the first force (your desire), a second force is immediately opposed. Following the previous example of beholding thoughts in an impartial manner, it is very likely that the mind will manifest the "worst" thoughts you can imagine. Why? Because it doesn't want you to remain an impartial witness. Obviously, if some horrible and powerful thoughts come into play, your position as an impartial witness will collapse sooner or later in accordance with the strength of your attitude. Or else, the mind will remove all thoughts so that you have nothing left to "behold as an impartial witness".
Until you attain a solid spiritual state, the mind will always be a source of troubles. Therefore, do not jeopardize your session of meditation by making your intentions evident. And do not get angry, frustrated, disappointed and so on, as these emotions will summon an improper third force which will make your mind even more powerful than before. Patience, tolerance and firmness are good qualities to summon a good third force. With the help of this proper third force, you will be able to meditate and attain the spiritual goal in the long run.
I feel that God is not helping me
The solution: Keep performing spiritual practices in spite of that feeling. When your mind begins to think that way, let your body keep practicing as always. This is very important. When the mind is in the process of being transformed, it will undergo many phases. One of these phases is "God is not helping me" and the like. In the first place, if you believe in the non-dual truth, you know that, at least theoretically, you are God. The problem with God not helping you would be nonexistent, at least theoretically, as I said. If it happens to occur, just continue to practice.
In turn, if you believe in the dual truth, that is, you think you are different from God, this problem is very usual. Just keep practicing as always and remember that it is impossible for God to abandon you because you are alive due to Him. According to dualism, the relationship between the individual soul and the Lord is eternal. You are never far away from God, for He lives in you as the inner Witness. Keep practicing and do not pay attention to those foolish feelings.
A good question to ask yourself at the moment you are facing such feeling is the following: "What does 'help' mean really?" Does it mean that if you want to see inner lights, He should bestow that on you at once? Does it mean that if you need money, God should give you money immediately? Does it mean that every desire you happen to have, He should fulfill it for you instantly? Is that really "helpful" from a spiritual viewpoint?
Firstly, God is not a bank. Your relationship with Him should never be of financial nature. You practice meditation, worship, etc. for the sake of pure love for Him, and not for merely having a protector. It might be completely right that you want to be protected from the fetters of ignorance, because this is a divinely-oriented desire. However, if you want Him to come to the rescue every time you do not have enough money or you have a headache or your back is in pain, etc., you are failing to understand the nature of your relationship with God. God is neither a bank, nor a physician, etc. during the spiritual practice. God might do all those things for you, but He is not bound to do them immediately only because you say you need them. Stop demanding things from God and everything will be fine. Just keep practicing despite the fact that the mind continues to demand.
Love should fill your relationship with God and not mere "demands".
Well, it is enough for now.
It has been a long but good document. I have begun to teach you the way you should deal with problems in your spiritual practice. Many other things, related to the three forces operating in a process and the eight stages of which that process consists, are still left to be taught. Remember that you must always be "passive" (peaceful, patient, etc.) to summon a proper third force. Violence, frustration and the like, will "always" summon an improper third force, which will not be helpful at all. Violence only leads to more violence, since it makes an erroneous third force come into existence. Nobody can finally solve a problem in the spiritual path through violent means. As I said before, you may sometimes need some violence in your worldly life, especially if you have to save your life. But for the most part, violence is completely useless in your daily life. Obviously, in the spiritual path, violence is "absolutely" useless and harmful. Human history clearly shows that violence has led people nowhere. However, man is prone to violence... and that is the fruit of ignorance, no doubt. Man will ultimately have to overcome his violent tendency if he wants to attain the Divine Self, who is pure Love.
This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.
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