There is no shortcut to liberation. There is no secret passageway that will allow you to avoid the long and arduous path to your desired destination. Enlightenment does not come so cheaply and so easily. It is available to everyone, yes, but not everyone has what it takes to reach this state…right now, at least. It may take many lifetimes, many births, many deaths…and there is no time limit. Existence itself is eternal and eternity is longer than you can even wrap your human mind around. It is almost incomprehensible. But even though it seems that you have nothing but time, you mustn’t waste this precious human birth. Don’t squander this experience on things that don’t matter and on things that are actually holding you back from reaching your inevitable destination.
Referring to the 14th sutra in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:
Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkarasevito drdhbhumih.
Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.
Many times people will meditate or take up some spiritual practice for a few weeks, or months, or even years and expect miraculous results. But spiritual practice is not a pill to take in order to find a quick way to enlightenment. Liberation does not offer itself so easily and it is something to be earned. Spiritual work is the undoing of many lifetimes of karma and separation from the Divine, so you mustn’t be surprised or discouraged if it takes many more lifetimes to reconnect. Even mantra… Mantras are powerful but they are certainly not magic. Many times, a mantra must be worked with for years and years, with love and patience in order to attain the desired result. This also applies to yoga practice. You may practice yoga (asana, as well as all the other limbs of yoga) and still not notice a significant difference and still not feel enlightened. Spiritual practices are sacred and timeless and must be approached with patience, devotion and earnestness. If you are taking up spiritual practice to fulfill some kind of ego trip or to escape the world, you will not get to where you’re supposed to go. Come to any spiritual practice with a spirit of bhakti, of pure unconditional love for the Divine, with no attachment to the outcome. Being unattached to the outcome will remove any ego nonsense from your practice, therefore allowing true spiritual work to be done. In all things, if you cling to it, you will lose it. Just do the practice and stay open to whatever results it may yield. You must accept that whatever you are doing, -meditation, mantra, yoga,- that it may take a few lifetimes of this practice to even come close to liberation. Remember, as soon as the Buddha stopped chasing enlightenment, it came to Him.
An ancient Hindu scripture highlights the importance of consistent effort and detachment in spiritual practice:
In the heavenly plane where divine beings dwell, Deva Loka, there is a great maharsi named Narada. Narada travels the cosmos and from time to time visits Earth to check in on human beings’ evolution. He was passing through a forest one day and came across a student of yoga who was in meditation for a very long time. So long, in fact, that ants had built an ant hill around his meditating body.
The yogi saw Narada and asked him, “Sir, where are you going?”
Narada replied, “To heaven.”
The yogi asked, “Could you please do something for me there?”
“Sure, what will you have me do?” Narada responded.
“Could you find out from the Lord, for how many more births must I meditate? I have been here for quite a long time…” the yogi said.
“Sure.” said Narada.
Narada then walked a bit more down the road and came across another man who was singing and dancing with joy: “Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna! Krishna Krishna Hare Hare! Hare Rama! Hare Rama! Rama Rama Hare Hare!”
When the ecstatic man saw Narada he asked him where he was going.
“To heaven.” Narada replied.
“Oh wonderful!” the man said. “Could you find out for how much longer I have to do this? When will I become liberated?”
“I will find out.” said Narada.
After many years, Narada returned and came across that same meditating yogi once again. The yogi asked, “Narada! I haven’t heard anything from you in years! Did you find out? What did the Lord say?”
“I asked the Lord,” Narada replied, “And you only have to take another four births before you reach liberation.”
“FOUR births?! Haven’t I waited long enough?” the yogi shouted.
Narada kept on walking and came across the second man who was still jumping around and happily chanting the names of the Lord.
“Narada!” the man exclaimed, “Have you any news for me? What says my Lord?”
“I do have news for you… do you see that tree there?” Narada pointed to a large tree in the distance. “Count the leaves on that tree and however many leaves are on that tree is how many births you must take again before attaining liberation. But take your time to count. There is no hurry.”
“Oh, is that it? Now at least I can see an end! At least it is a limited number of births and I can quickly finish them off! Thankfully my Lord did not say to count all the leaves in the entire forest!” the man joyfully exclaimed.
Suddenly, a palanquin came down from the sky and the driver said to the man, “Come in. Lord Shiva has sent for you.”
“Now?” the man asked “But Narada said that I needed to take more births before going to Heaven…”
The driver replied, “Yes, but because you are ready and willing to count all those leaves and take all those births, why should you have to wait? You are ready. We can go now.”
“But what about the other yogi? ” The man questioned.
“He is not ready to wait for even four more births! He still has more work to be done.” Said the driver.
This story shows that all one needs is patience, devotion and consistent practice in order to be ready for liberation. Doing spiritual practice without earnestness and a spirit of bhakti will get you going nowhere fast. Instead, do your work with a spirit of unattachment and understanding. You may not reach enlightenment in this lifetime… That’s ok, just do your work anyway and keep doing it out of pure Love and devotion for the Supreme Lord and you will eventually reach heavenly heights.
“One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic: not he who lights no fire and performs no work.”
-Bhagavad Gita 6:1
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