By “stages,” I don’t mean that we move from one to the other. We do move from one to the other but without necessarily abandoning the earlier stage. We add on the next stage in what may be cumulative activity.
Some people will say that I’m reproducing the three stages of growth from Buddhist teachings: sutta-maya-punya, cinda-maya-punya, and bhavana-maya-punya. Yes and no. While it is based on that, I think you’ll find that the three stages I describe here are different in important ways.
The first stage involves gathering wisdom by our own efforts. We read, listen to tapes, watch videos, and think. We do so until we can find no further answers to the questions we have. And, if we haven’t solved the entire puzzle that the spiritual search is, then we begin to look around for some additional means of forwarding our search for the truth.
The second stage involves gathering wisdom by listening to others. Having gone as far as we can by our own efforts, we then turn to hear what others have to say. We seek out spiritual teachers and it’s my belief that we do so for a reason.
It may be a radical thing to say but, based on my experience with Sanat Kumara on An Hour with an Angel June 3, 2012, I believe we seek out conversations with spiritual teachers to bring ourselves to a point of conviction that we can accomplish the spiritual path ourselves.
Every one of us absolutely faces the task of completing the spiritual journey ourselves. Sanat Kumara is not going to do it for me, or Jesus, or Buddha. I must walk the distance myself. So has God decreed that it be, as far as I’m aware.
What’s crucial, I think, is that we reach a place of being convinced or certain that we can do it and that’s what happened as a result of my interviewing Sanat. And it’s this experience which has me write this article.
I’ve been researching spiritual matters since perhaps 1970 and speaking and listening to spiritual teachers since perhaps 1974. The whole time I was doing that I wasn’t aware of what purpose I was trying to accomplish.
But something happened to me in the interview with Sanat that showed me what I was doing and readied me for the next stage in the spiritual process. I did something risky with Sanat. I produced my own research with him and submitted it to him for verification that that research was correct, useful, and productive. And his response convinced me that it was.
Twice during our conversation Sanat said that what I was alleging was correct. And his tone also said that he was being sincere when he said that. Now he could have said, no, my friend, I’m afraid the truth is very far from what you just said. But he didn’t.
It’s very risky to submit one’s pet theories to a spiritual master. Especially pet theories that one has worked perhaps 30-40 years on. If Sanat had said, no, the situation is not as you describe it, goodbye to a lifetime of research and time to start over. But that’s not what happened.
Please keep in mind that I’ve loved and honored Sanat since, oh, 30 years ago perhaps. He’s known to all religions and is associated with many forks in the road for humanity.
When he said that I was on the right track, something happened inside of me. I passed at that moment from the second stage of spiritual growth to the third.
The third stage involves gathering wisdom by our own experiencing. We know the wisdom because we actually experience the truth of it, never mind having read it or been told that it was true. “By our own experiencing” means by our own conscious awareness, enlightenment, or realization. We’ve now left mere book-learning or hearsay, and have realized, or are intent on realizing, the truth ourselves.
What happened as a result of the interview with Sanat is that I stopped searching and am now ready, and convinced I’m ready, to realize the truth myself. Put another way, I’ve stopped searching because I’ve accomplished what searching ultimately produces and that’s the conviction or certainty that I have the resources I need to fully realize the truth.
Experiencing or realizing the truth, I’m convinced, depends on God alone. God alone, I believe, bestows the experience of truth. What did Bernadette Roberts say? “At a certain point, when we have done all we can [to bring about an abiding union with the divine], the divine steps in and takes over.” (1)
In the beginning it’s very necessary for us to exert ourselves, to make effort. But there also comes a point where effort is counterproductive. Many spiritual teachers say this:
Sri Ramakrishna: “One must be up and doing in the beginning. After that one need not work hard.” (2)
Ramana Maharishi: “You need not eliminate the wrong ‘I.’ … All that you need do is to find out its origin and abide there. Your efforts can extend only thus far. Then the Beyond will take care of itself. You are helpless there. No effort can reach it.” (3)
Some people hear some teachers saying effort is necessary and others saying effort or search is counterproductive and are confused. But what needs to be realized is that there is a stage during which effort is necessary and a stage during which it is not.
I feel myself, after the conversation with Sanat, having reached a point where the search and the effort is now counterproductive. I have reached the point which listening is designed to produce: a feeling of certainty of or conviction about being able to do what spiritual practice has us do – realize the Self. Consequently I’ve ceased searching – or what is more to the point, I’ve ceased exerting effort.
Because I’ve agreed to go through my spiritual process publicly, I report these things whereas it’s more advisable for others who don’t have this agreement to go through their process quietly. But my work is to share my discoveries along the way. I risk being called arrogant and a braggart for doing my process publicly but I’ve agreed to assume that risk for the value it produces for others. It’s what a writer does, what he or she contributes.
So I now feel ready to enter the third stage of experiencing, to lessen my reliance on my own research and on listening to teachers and simply open myself to the experience of realization which God alone confers, which is, to put it another way, an act of Grace, as Franklin Merrell-Wolff tells us:
“As the lower cannot command the Higher, the individual ego is not lord over the Universal SELF. Hence, from the individual standpoint, the Realization is spontaneous and thus is often called an act of Grace. The SELF, which it must be remembered is Identical with Divinity, does not stand within the causal sequence. Consequently, strictly considered, Realization of the SELF is never an effect of causes set up by the individual man acting in space and time. The latter through his efforts prepares the candle, as it were, but the Flame is lighted through a spontaneous act of Spirit.” (4)
I’m now ready for experiencing. I feel settled. I can weather the wait. I’m willing to simply open myself now and receive.
Thank you, Sanat, for providing this service to me, for being so kind as to extend your assistance to a mortal travelling the enlightenment path, you who have been looked upon by so many humans as a god.
(1) Bernadette Roberts, “The Path to No-Self” in Stephan Bodian, ed. Timeless Visions, Healing Voices. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1991, 131.
(2) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 112.
(3) Ramana Maharshi in Mungala Venkatramiah, Munagala. Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Downloaded from http://www.ramana-maharshi.org/books.htm, 31 August 2005, Question 197.
(4) Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Pathways Through to Space. A Personal Record of Transformation in Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973 23.