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Hindu Article

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.