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From: Venkatesh Elayavalli (vke_at_cypress.com)
Date: Wed Dec 31 1997 - 07:55:33 PST
Stages in spiritual evolution Date: 31-12-1997 :: Pg: 24 :: Col: c CHENNAI, Dec. 31. A spiritual aspirant has to go through four distinct stages in his quest of Self-discovery. The first and foremost among them is the discovery that life in the world cannot be undiluted joy and that even those who lead an apparently happy life will be visited by problems at some time. Those who have had their share of problems in life are perhaps better attuned mentally to spiritual life, but, even they rarely get to the root of their sorrows. Disillusioned with their suffering such people generally blame external factors for their troubles and take steps to rectify and control these agents which they presume are the cause of their suffering. It is a rare intelligent person who discovers after much deliberation that the problem lies within himself. Samsara (life in the world) is a mixed blessing. There is no way one can lead a life of undiluted joy in the material world. Till a person realises that the root of all his problems lies within himself he spends all his energy in rectifying the external factors. In his lecture on the Bhagavad Gita Swami Paramarthananda said, after the discovery that the problem was with himself the aspirant progressed to the next stage in which he realised his helplessness to overcome his problem. The transition from this to the third stage takes place when the aspirant realising that he will not be able to find a solution on his own, seeks the help of another who is equipped to help him. This is referred to as surrender (Saranagati) and though it appears to be easy, it is not. It requires a tremendous amount of intellectual honesty and humility to take this step. However well- accomplished and educated one may be, these do not equip one to tackle one's problems which belong to another dimension altogether. The final stage is acquiring spiritual knowledge from a Guru who is well-versed in the scriptures and is a realised person. Vyasacharya in the introductory chapter of the Gita portrays the transition of a spiritual aspirant through these distinct stages through Arjuna's predicament. Arjuna tries to avert the possibility of the death of his kith and kin in the war for which he would be instrumental by refusing to fight. After Lord Krishna counselled him he was still doubtful for he was not totally convinced. In the spiritual context this is considered better than the previous stage when he made a wrong decision of throwing away the arms and refusing to fight. When an aspirant proceeds to the stage when he has doubts it is a mark of spiritual evolution because his mind now becomes receptive to advice and spiritual knowledge.