The soul meanders on its journey home; we reincarnate in a particular environment to certain parents, and our destiny unfolds based on the samskaras and genetics we have brought from our previous births and the influence of our immediate environment.
In our early life we are groomed by family and community, to elevate our consciousness and fulfil the purpose for which we took birth. From childhood, many of us are taught to believe in a God and religious values. We offer worship in the hope that with divine grace we will attain liberation, heaven, or at the very least, escape the clutches of hell. But all these early experiences are only the beginning of our orientation toward spirituality. From this, we must evolve to higher and finer levels.
Rituals are symbolic; their purpose is to point us in the right direction, so that we evolve beyond them. For example, the lighting of the deepam inspires us to search for the true inner light, and bowing before a deity during puja teaches us humility and gratitude. But we get carried away by the rituals themselves, and they block our progress rather than furthering it. The fault is in our failure to understand their true purpose.
Scriptures tend to emphasize external approaches, but they are simply a means to a loftier end, to lead us inward.
External forms of worship are meant to help us to move to the next level – to feel the presence of the Ultimate. The stage must come where we transcend the need to think and believe, because we feel that inner presence. Only then can we say that we are evolving in the right direction. Then, ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ is no longer a mere belief; it is conviction arising out of
The next step is to graduate from experiencing the Almighty within, as antaryamin, to the Almighty as sarva-vyapi, all-pervading.
Yet at this next step, we may get stuck – we may become addicted to meditation. While it is a big step to move from the external to the internal, it is not the end of the journey! A journey implies dynamism. All rituals, meditations and other practices, are the means to fulfil a higher goal. When the journey is infinite, will the need to adapt to new means ever stop? The means that were initially helpful in evolving consciousness will later become insufficient, or maybe even counterproductive.
Those who have realized the Ultimate describe arriving at a state of effortlessness. With every breath you will be in touch with the Ultimate. All methods will vanish on their own, when they have served their purpose. When you move from one dimension to another and begin adopting new methods, is it an insult that you leave the previous ones behind? No, just as it is no insult to a ferry when you disembark at the shore after crossing a river and start walking.
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