Transcendence is key to spirituality

Among all the cosmic mysteries that attract our attention, the power of the Sadguru and the inestimable value of his or her guidance is surely the one that allures us the most. A cursory examination of the lives of such spiritual masters reveals the most extraordinary insights.

Those unexposed to spiritual life will find them difficult to believe and harder still to accept. This stems from the fact that human intelligence is not enough to comprehend spiritual wisdom. On the contrary, it needs to be discarded at the altar of faith, devotion and surrender.

Our capacity to absorb spiritual truths is directly related to our capacity to discard avidya or ignorance. Ignorance in turn is the cumulative effect of raga or craving (this impels us in the direction of knowledge, wealth, status, power and fame), dvesha or aversion (this leads us to favour some things at the expense of abhorring others) and ahamkara or the ego (persuading us to the belief that we are the authors of our actions and identifying ourselves with them).

The answer to the debate on free will and destiny is therefore inextricably linked to this truth. Mata Amritanandamayi gives us the example of Karna and Arjuna in the Mahabharata. Arjuna chose to be led by the Lord, while Karna preferred to be led by Duryodhana. Arjuna exercised his free will by embracing Grace, while Karna chose to embrace Duryodhana. The former exercised his free will by choosing the Lord as his charioteer while the latter invited destiny by abandoning Grace. Embracing Grace is to transcend destiny while abandoning it is tantamount to inviting destiny.

It is therefore ignorance that is the primary enemy to spiritual revelation. Fuelled by thought currents stemming from our innumerable likes and dislikes and responding to our worldly engagements through the ego, we swing in the world of duality alternating between pain and pleasure and joy and sorrow.

These thought currents get imprinted upon the subtle body and our scriptures declare that they are responsible for rebirth; they are in fact the prime cause.

This explains why our masters say that good and bad traits are acquired from previous lives. The sacred Bhagavad Gita affirms this truth by highlighting the fact that no spiritual practice goes waste. It is pursued in a subsequent life.

"O Arjuna!" says the Lord in the Gita, 'You have gone through several births before. I know all about them but you do not have any knowledge of them." Later: On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed; even a little of this practice, will shelter you from great sorrow." The key to spiritual practice therefore lies in successfully transcending ignorance.

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