“Can spiritual practices really lead to enlightenment? I have been doing my practices for over 25 years regularly and sincerely. I undoubtedly see many benefits, but I don’t see myself anywhere near enlightenment. I also do seva regularly and have sincere devotion in my heart. I don’t know what’s missing. Could you please share your thoughts on it.”
Spiritual enlightenment is a flashy and vague term. It can mean many different things to different people. I don’t know what it means to you, and what exactly are you trying to achieve?
The Yoga Scriptures don’t use the term ‘enlightenment’. Instead, they inspire the seekers to become mukta (free or liberated). Becoming mukta is a meaningful, clear, and achievable goal of spiritual journey. It means freeing yourself from all that you have created in your mind. In the Bhagvad Geeta, Lord Krishna repeatedly says that a yogi is free, and inspires Arjuna to become free. He doesn’t tell Arjuna to become enlightened.
Spiritual practices have their limitations
Spiritual practices are very essential for the wellness of your body, mind, and Spirit, but they also have their limitations. The practices are something similar to sunbathing. When you sunbathe, you experience the presence of Sun, but you are nowhere close to the Sun. You can sunbathe a million times, your tan will certainly become darker, but the distance will still remain.
Similarly, in meditation you experience something beautiful that is being emitted from the Spirit, but you are nowhere near the Spirit. You can meditate for many years, your experience will certainly become deeper, but you may still be nowhere closer to the Spirit. Though the Spirit is omnipresent, it is not accessible to all. Its presence is.
Cultivate freedom of the mind, not enlightenment
So, drop the desire to be enlightened. It is only a concept. Instead, cultivate the desire to be free in your mind. You have bound yourself, and now, through knowledge and self-effort, unbound yourself. When the mind is free, it will open the doors to the Spirit, and the drop will merge into the Ocean.
A free mind doesn’t have the desire to have its own identity, and therefore it merges into Infinity. When you are desiring for enlightenment, you have the desire to exist. You want to exist as an enlightened being, which is not possible.
This article first appeared on Shudam.org; reprinted with permission.