A Letter to a friend………What does it mean to be “spiritual?”
You are not alone in imagining that to be a spiritual person means to be loving and kind. What else, after all, could it mean? How can being spiritual be anything other than loving and kind?
You speak often of drawing inspiration from others more spiritual than yourself, and of wanting to be around such persons, whether “in-person,” or by reading or online. It is right to recognize the spiritual qualities of others and to seek to draw from them such qualities by association, support, respect, and service.
My concern for you (and others like yourself) in your admiration for the better qualities of others is that you may be tempted to substitute your admiration for the work you must do to acquire those qualities in yourself. Further, such “looking at others” may provide a shield whereby you can judge people without having to work on yourself. Anyone who, in your view, treats you with what you deem to be unkindness or absent a loving attitude is simply dismissed as “not spiritual.” Never mind that you might be attracting such treatment by your own lack of kindness or love for others. Never mind, further, that those whom you admire are either dead or at least nowhere near you. By contrast those whom you dismiss for lack of spiritual qualities are rather too near, as it were (though not too dear!).
Truth is: living with saints and those of higher consciousness is never comfortable. Some saints are very strict but even those who are known to be loving and gentle are experienced differently by followers who live with and around them in close proximity. One doesn’t become a saint by lack of will power, strength and commitment. A saint doesn’t have to scold: his or her very life, vibration, consciousness, and presence is like a strong spotlight that shows the flaws of nearby objects. Between the extremes of strictness and gentleness is a wide range of spiritual people, on various levels of Self-realization, who are very much human beings, both because of, and in spite of, their spiritual realization.
My teacher, Swami Kriyananda, is a good example of this. Most people see him, especially now at this final stage of life, filled with bliss, joy, and love for all. In fact, he’s always been this way but in his younger, work-building years, he had to be more engaged, executive, administrative, guiding and training many, many people. It wasn’t feasible for him to relax into the Spirit openly because he had a divine work to do. Nonetheless, even in those years one could feel the power of divine love, human kindness, and spiritual wisdom in his presence. But whether now in his “bliss years,” or then, in his “barnstorming years,” it is never “easy” to be around him for more than a mere visit or satsang. The very intensity of his consciousness precludes familiarity or subconscious relaxation, mental, emotional or otherwise. Mindfulness and Presence emanate from him and one becomes innately more self-aware in speaking or acting. Time slows down. Few people can take that intensity for very long. He doesn’t have to “judge you.” You feel the pangs of your own conscience for any thoughts or attitudes that are less than uplifted and expansive.
The love one feels from a saint is a power, not a mere sentiment. Divine love, we are told, has created us and has created this magnificent universe. What greater power can there be? It is this power, and its inseparable companion, joy, that makes a saint so magnetic. Be not like the earth which resists the gravitational pull of the sun by its own centrifugal force. As you yield, however, to the sun's magnetic power it will burn up and purify your attachments and ego: so ego beware! Sadhu, behold!
A true and mature devotee, therefore, doesn’t postpone his or her spiritual growth by dismissing the “slings and arrows” of daily interaction and misunderstandings. A devotee doesn’t avoid the spiritual “issue” and opportunity for self-reflection by jumping into the mud puddle of judging others whenever, to your view, another person, especially another devotee, reprimands or otherwise behaves in ways not to your ego’s likings. To the devotee, all people and especially one’s gurubhais, are no less than the “guru” him (or her)-self speaking.
Dismissing those around you as “less than spiritual” is not the way to develop the magnetism to attract a true guru into your life: whether this current incarnation or a future one. Seeing God’s presence in everyone around you, however, IS! (If the reader prefers to substitute “to grow spiritually in” for “to attract a true guru into” it is good enough.)
It is the ego that rejects distasteful experiences or other people as “unspiritual.” Moreover, it is a not very clever ruse to avoid the issue of learning one’s own lessons. Sometimes that lesson is simply to learn to not “dismiss.” More likely, however, there is something to learn in the “facts of the case.”
Take more thoughtfully and less reactively, therefore, the daily interactions of others as coming to you for your own spiritual growth. Take from the saints and others and through your admiration for them, their qualities and lessons into your own life. Be a saint, too! Don’t merely peer through the pages of a book or the windows of a “church,” but enter in and make those qualities, that saint, your very Self. For that, more than anything, is the truth “that shall make you free.”
To be a Christ you must be the “Imitation of Christ” (a famous book by Thomas a Kempis). The more you see the “Christ” in others, the more of a “Christ” you will be.
It is my fondest wish for you to be free and if these thoughts contribute even insignificantly to that, I will be satisfied.
Your very Self,
(This “letter” was neither written nor sent to any specific friend…………..there is no value, therefore, in speculation, only introspection!)