Reaching Our Fullest Potential with Vedic Spirituality, by Stephen Knapp

These days fewer people are interested in taking up anything that they cannot immediately apply to their lives. The common question is: “What is this going to do for me?” Or “What am I going to get out of this?” So if we cannot relate the purpose of Vedic culture or its spirituality to people today, especially to the youth, then it is not likely they will take an interest. Yet, everyone is interested in gaining more out of life, or reaching their higher potential, which, actually, has been the purpose of the Vedic system from time immemorial. Yet we have either forgotten that, or have failed to present that purpose properly. So this is one angle we can use to impress the importance of Vedic culture and its spiritual philosophy to people today.

Everyone should want to reach their highest potential. But to do this we also need to focus on our spiritual potential, which is actually a way to become much more refined, developed and useful than merely focusing on our material possibilities, or only developing marketable skills for earning a big paycheck.

The Sri Isha Upanishad, Mantra 11, explains: “Only one who can learn the process of nescience (or material knowledge) and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessing of immortality.”

One point here is that through the advancement of material knowledge we do not solve the problem of our reincarnation or being completely free from repeated birth and death through numerous situations in this material world. We have no idea how many lives we have lived, nor how many more we will go through unless we add the study and application of spiritual knowledge to our lives. What is the point of this human existence if all we do is find better ways to eat, sleep, have sex, produce children, and advance our economic development and living condition? And then we simply repeat this pattern life after life? For what? Animals work in the same way, and often times with fewer problems. So what is the difference?

The way to solve all of the problems of life and to perfect this existence is the prime opportunity of human life, which is to become advanced in spiritual knowledge as well as in our material occupation. One without the other is incomplete. This is the only way we can reach our highest potential and not merely work at attaining success in a temporary material profession.

Spiritual knowledge is also the means to attain real happiness, especially through realizing our true identity, and thus become fulfilled by our real mission in life. It is also the means to attain a permanent blissful life after we leave this body. If we forget our true identity as a spiritual being, we will think that this body and this life, and everything connected with it, is the all in all. We will think that the happiness of this mind, body and senses is the complete goal of everything we are meant to do here in this world. But this is like being caught in a dream, attached to clinging to a hologram, a false conception of life. No one is truly happy in such a fleeting situation since the happiness therein is always being interrupted by different forms of suffering, or stress, anxiety, worry, concern, and of course disease, old age and death. No one wants that because that is not our real nature, it is not our real identity, but it is forced on us from the beginning of simply having a material body. The human body is a wondrous machine, a means to accomplish the goal of life, but it is still a machine that we are situated inside. It is not who we really are, like a driver in a car. We may have a fabulous and beautiful car that we are proud of, or an old clunker we are ashamed to be seen in, but in either case we are only the driver. We are not the car itself. So we must realize who and what we are and regain our spiritual identity beyond the body we have, and also realize our connection with the Supreme.

Real happiness is possible to experience when we rise above the limitations of our material condition and misidentification as a temporary material being. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase our material pleasures, which has brought about the false aim of life and the goal to acquire more money, more facilities, more consumerism, more manipulation of nature, etc. Whatever it takes. This has also brought about more problems in politics, economics, international relations and intrigue, lack of cooperation, and increases in corruption, pollution, the constant threat of war, terrorism, new diseases, a decrease in natural foods, and so on. And people call this progress? Is this any way to live? Is this the trend into the future?

Therefore, it is best to use this body and mind to live simply with an honest career and then cultivate spiritual knowledge and help others do the same.

INDIVIDUAL BENEFITS

1. Everyone wants to find joy and happiness. For what other reason are you working or studying? We are working to acquire money, security, a better future for ourselves or our family, or to make improvements in our occupation. Yet, we need to clearly understand that spirituality is the key to real happiness. And by that I mean the happiness that reaches the soul, and not that which merely occupies the ever-changing demands of our mind and senses. It is through spiritualizing our lives that we can change our attitude to joy, and not look at things with the humdrum attitude of “Another day, another dollar” or something similar. This is not unusual because we often see that without spirituality life becomes empty and without real purpose or any deep meaning. By adding spirituality to our lives, it often improves our attitude and is reflected in every other area of our life, including job performance, relations with others, family cooperation, our flexibility, the way we handle problems or inconveniences, and the way we may even inspire others to do the same.

2. Spiritualizing our lives means to spiritualize our consciousness. It is through such spiritual awareness that we can recognize the transcendental essence of all beings. We are all spiritual in nature, but this remains invisible to us as long as we do not uplift the vibratory level of our consciousness. So if we want respect, and if we feel that people need to increase their appreciation and love for each other, this can easily be accomplished by recognizing the similarity we have with one another on the spiritual level. It is through spirituality that can most easily change the selfish interest we have toward ourselves and our clan to a broad or universal love.

Most problems between people or countries or ethnic groups reflect the lack of love, compassion and understanding we have for each other, which is the essence of the Dharmic principles we need to be follow.

3. Spirituality also offers an uplifting view of life. Once we are truly spiritualizing our lives, whatever troubles we have begin to appear as if they are only an interesting play of energy in which we are temporarily involved. We can see that such difficulties are not actually part of our real identity. They are only going on around us and we take them seriously only to the degree that we feel they are affecting us and our bodily or mental happiness. In other words, they affect us to the degree in which we are in the illusion.

Spirituality gives us the courage and lightheartedness to face the difficult situations in life, or the drama around us, and to realize we are different from such externals. By this I mean that we can perceive that we are spiritual beings that are interacting on the temporary material platform. Therein whatever joy or sorrow we experience comes and goes like the winter and summer seasons. It is temporary and that is all we can expect from it because that is all it can offer. But without spiritual understanding, we take these temporary ups and downs and the pursuit for material happiness very seriously. So if we want more than this, or something deeper, we need to reach our real identity through the spiritual path.

4. Spirituality teaches us the art of living, but also the art of dying. This is the means by which we recognize the temporary nature of life and that we must always be prepared for death and for attaining the best position in our next existence. It is considered that without such preparation our life is not complete and we have not used it properly, regardless of whatever else we may accomplish.

5. Spirituality means that you see the big picture. And what is the big picture? It is that this life is but a moment on our great path toward self-realization. That great path encompasses many lifetimes. Each one is like a flash of lightning in the span of eternity. So our progress through the big picture evolves around and depends on our spiritual development. That is all we carry with us from one life to the next. Whatever material assets we attain in this life ripens in this one existence only, whereas spiritual progress is viewed over many, many lifetimes. Whatever spiritual benefits we are experiencing now may have been developed many lifetimes ago. Similarly, our spiritual practice today may provide us with benefits in this life as well as many lifetimes that may follow.

The big picture is that all you have ever been through, including so many lives before this one, has brought you to this very moment. You are the son or daughter of the past, the product of all your experiences and actions. But you are also the father of your future, starting from this particular point in time. It is up to you to decide what to do and where you will take yourself from this point onward. Your possibilities are endless, and spiritual development only increases the possibilities that you have.

6. Genuine spirituality also means that we accept responsibility for ourselves, what we do, how we affect others and our environment, and how we have the power to change our situation. So if we want to improve such things, then we can find that the basis of Dharma and genuine spirituality is also the foundation for the improvement of everything in this world, starting with our own sphere of influence, however big or small that may be. However, we need to emphasize that such spirituality is above the conventional form of religions, which are often dogmatic and based on the emphasis of local traditions and ethnic recognition. This means that their foundations are not the Universal Spiritual Truths that are found in Sanatana-dharma that can be applied to everyone, at anytime and anywhere in this universe. Real Dharma means those spiritual principles that can be applied directly to the soul or real identity of the living being regardless of the temporary material condition or status in which he or she is presently found.

GLOBAL BENEFITS

Just as there are individual benefits to the practice of spirituality in one’s life, naturally there are also blessings that will manifest on a global level.

First of all we have to understand that lust is public enemy number one. Most of the crimes that are committed in the world stems from individual or collective lust. We see around us that many advertising campaigns are based on invoking the desire to acquire something. This desire is based on satisfying the mind and senses for one’s own selfish happiness, and this pleasure is called lust. And we must look within ourselves to see how much lust is there and how to be free of it.

If it is allowed to grow, this lust can develop into a covetousness over land, possessions and power. If we want something, we may work for it honestly, or we may make schemes involving corrupt activities to acquire it. If this sort of lust increases amongst people, the whole planet becomes chaotic. And when the rulers of the planet exhibit such tendencies, then there is no chance for peace in the world, as we can plainly see. Therefore, the collective practice of spirituality can help rid the world of such lust and its various damaging effects.

We must also understand that the two prime factors that keep the world from being united is the presumption of racial superiority and the desire to conquer and convert. These are the antithesis of Dharmic principles. But how many religious paths do we see that incorporate the idea of conquering regions of the world through religious conversions, or that even rejoice in the number of converts they have established? This is not the way of true spirituality.

So it is time for a new breed of humanity, a new species of human beings. This doesn’t mean a new genetic code. It means the appearance of a new level of consciousness, a new level of awareness in which the principle of Dharma is a natural part of life and a natural part of our respect toward each other. And the freedom to pick one’s own level of spiritual development that one needs in this lifetime. This is the world of Vedic Dharma.

Vedic Dharma is full of possibilities. It is open for the individual to develop as he or she needs to. It allows for a person to start at whatever level is best for him or her, and set the goal of one’s spiritual development that they find most suitable. Dharma does not involve teaching a dogma that must be adhered to in order to be saved, or suffer the threat of going to hell and eternal damnation if you don’t fit the mold. That is too limited for the Universal Spiritual Truths found in Vedic Dharma. We have to keep in mind the “big picture,” as previously mentioned. This means that spiritual progress is usually made over many lifetimes, and that this one life is only a small portion of the path we are on.

We also have to be a clear channel through which the unconditional love from God flows through us toward everyone else. To do that we also have to recognize the Divine in all species of life. That can be done only through the serious application of spiritual principles.

The point is that the more spiritual you become, the more you can perceive what is spiritual, and the more the spiritual strata becomes a reality to enter or experience rather than a mystery to solve. Plus, the more you spiritualize your consciousness, the less confused you will be about what is your true identity and, thus, the true purpose of life. It is an automatic process that the more spiritual you are, the more clear is everything else. If society could increase in the number of people who are evolving in this way, naturally the whole world will improve accordingly.

HOW DO WE DO THIS

So how do we manage our time to include the necessary spiritual practice? Spiritual practice means two things, the sadhana and the study. The sadhana itself can mean your meditation, your chanting of japa such as the Hare Krishna mantra, reciting your prayers, or doing your puja or worship. The value of this is often underestimated. What it does is incorporate the spiritual vibration into your consciousness. It raises the frequency level in which you perceive and operate. The next part is to do the study, reading the spiritual books to educate yourself in the tradition and your understanding of spiritual knowledge and of the importance of your Dharmic practice. Such books may include the Bhagavad-gita, Upanishads, Puranas, etc.

So as we do this on a daily basis, we will naturally carry that spiritual consciousness with us wherever we go. For example, you may have a special room where you do your spiritual activities, and if you are burning incense, you might carry the scent with you in your clothes. Then wherever you go and whenever you smell the aroma, it makes you think of the atmosphere in your special room. When that happens you may feel the same uplifting mood that you felt when doing your spiritual practice in your room. So we have to learn how to carry that special atmosphere in our consciousness throughout the day.

So if you are convinced as to why we should spiritualize our lives, then we have to make spirituality as one of the main foundations of our life. It must be viewed as a corner stone upon which we build everything else. So it must be one of the main ingredients in our daily schedule.

You have a life with only so much time, which means you must be careful with how you spend it. An example is that your life can be represented by a glass of water. The glass can only hold so much, and once it is filled, that is it. You can’t put any more into it. So how will you fill it? If you have an assortment of stones, sand and water, what will you begin to put into it first? If you fill it with small stuff, then you will not have any room for the big things, the important items. So first you put in the rocks, or those things which are the most important. These may include school, work, family, but also your spiritual practice. These are four stones. So put those in the glass before you put in anything else. Then in between the stones will fit the sand, the small stuff. And even in between the sand will fit the water, the smaller and less important things. But first always include and make time for the important items, the rocks or foundation of your life, and spiritual practice must be one of them.

So you should set aside a couple hours or more in your daily schedule to do your spiritual practice. If you take an hour, then you can divide it into a half-hour for your sadhana or meditation, and another half-hour for your study. Then as you develop, increase that. Spiritual life is like a train that runs on two tracks, and your sadhana and study together provide the necessary tracks for smooth progress for that train to keep on a rolling. The early morning is always the best time to do this. But some time in the evening also may be suitable for you. However, whatever time you choose, it is necessary to continue with it. Like a daily shower, you can’t stay clean unless you do it everyday. Similarly, you can’t stay spiritually purified or uplifted and enthused unless you are steady at it in your daily schedule.

Furthermore, you may never know when you will need your spirituality. You may need it when dealing with others, settling disputes, carrying out your family duties, and so on. But most importantly, you will never know when you will meet with the final test when you die. That certainly separates those who are prepared from those who are not. I had a friend who spent all of his time on his college studies. Then with only six months left to go before qualifying for his Ph.D., he died in a car crash. Of course, it was completely unexpected. So you never know when death may strike. So the point is that you continue to make your plans for this life and take care of your responsibilities, but also make time for your spiritual development, which prepares you for everything else, this life and beyond.

The final point to remember is that any path of accomplishment requires self-sacrifice, no matter whether you are attempting to acquire material benefits or spiritual advancement. We are always looking to develop our future, no matter whether it is with a better job, a nicer home, or financial security for our family, or other things. But if you can reach that strata where there is no more sacrifice, no more war, no more difficulties, but instead find universal love and understanding and cooperation, don’t you think that is a sacrifice worth doing? Don’t you think that is an endeavor worthy of attempting? Don’t you think the knowledge of this is worth spreading to let the whole world know of it or how to reach it?

There is no reason why we cannot bring an increasing amount of the spiritual atmosphere to this earth planet. We can indeed change things here and bring improvements in so many ways. But we need to start with ourselves first, and that depends on our spiritual practice and the spiritual principles we incorporate into our own lives, which can bring about deep and personal spiritual realizations and insights. From there it can spread through our sphere of influence, however big or small that may be. We all want peace and cooperation, but you will never get that as long as we see and operate according to our differences, which will always be there on the material platform. So we must rise above that to a higher level of reality, the higher dimension. And this dimension is all around us. All we have to do is train our mind and consciousness to be able to tune into it so that it opens up to us. Then through our continued spiritual development we can enter into it. That is the ultimate advantage of spiritualizing our lives and making time for it. And to do that most effectively is why the process of yoga has been provided and described by the great rishis and Vedic literature.

Plus, the easiest yoga to perform, especially in this age of Kali-yuga, is bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotional love aimed at the Supreme Lord. This also includes the Yuga Dharma, which means the most effective path for this age, which is the chanting of the Lord’s holy names, especially as found in the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra. This is what should be studied, practiced and shared to provide the most practical level of spirituality for everyone. Then our higher potential in life can be attained and our superior purpose can be accomplished.

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Importance of Bhagavad-gita in This Day and Age, by Stephen Knapp

Most everyone at some point hears about the Bhagavad-gita, but do they know what it really contains, or how profound and deep is the knowledge that it provides?

Besides being the classic Eastern text that it is, and the summary of most Upanishadic information, it is the core of the deepest levels of spiritual knowledge. It is also like a handbook for life. Just as when you purchase an appliance of some kind, like a refrigerator, television or computer, you get a manual that teaches you how to use it. So in the same way, if God created this world and put us here, doesn’t it seem that He should also tell us what is the purpose of this life and how to use it accordingly? The Bhagavad-gita is such an instruction manual for anyone. It provides the basic answers that most people have about life, and the universal spiritual truths that can be used by anyone, anywhere, and at any time in history. In this way it is timeless.

So let me explain a little of its importance and why we should take it seriously. I will not go into all of the details of what the Bhagavad-gita teaches, but I will provide a quick overview and summary of each chapter to give you an idea of the information you can discover and the benefits if you read it.

Of course, we know it was spoken on the battlefield at Kurukshetra as the forces prepared for war, a war meant to uphold the Dharmic principles against those who were bereft of them and before things became more evil then they already were, so there was little time in which to speak the Bhagavad-gita. Therefore, it was a brief conversation between Arjuna and Lord Krishna.

So, once the scene is set in the first chapter, from the second chapter it begins to explain some of the highest spiritual realizations known to humanity. It begins to explain exactly who and what we really are as spiritual beings. Without this knowledge in a person’s life, the Vedic literature says that humans are little better than polished animals.

The reason for this conclusion is that the human life is especially meant for spiritual inquiry because in no other species of life here on earth does the living being have the faculty, such as the intelligence and the means to understand spiritual knowledge. Otherwise, this implies that there is little difference in the purpose of life between humans and animals who are mostly interested in merely eating, sleeping, mating, and defending what they think is theirs.

However, human life is not merely the means to acquire knowledge from the teachings and explanations of others, but it also offers the facility to realize it within oneself by practice. It is a matter of uplifting one’s consciousness so that one can perceive the higher dimensions that exist all around us. This is more than merely accepting something on faith alone, but it is a matter of attaining direct perception of what the Vedic literature discusses.

So, from the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, we begin to learn our real identity as the soul within these bodies. The Bhagavad-gita explains the size and nature of the soul, and how it is completely transcendental or beyond the body itself. It is beyond time and beyond the effects of the three dimensional world. It is beyond the limitations of the body and mind.

This teaches us many things. It shows that regardless of our physical limitations, we can rise above them because, spiritually, we are already above them. We simply have to realize that. What does it mean to realize it? It means to directly perceive that truth, to see it as plain as day. And then live according to that realization. This teaches us that regardless of our situation, socially or physically or economically, we can rise to higher levels of existence, both in this world and in the next.

This teaches us that no matter what kind of pressures we may feel from our classmates at school, or what good or bad biases that may come from our fellow workers, or what kind of labels they put on us, or how much they may purposefully demean or criticize us, or even how great we think we are, we can be grounded, fixed in understanding who and what we really are as a spiritual being inside the limited material body. That is how we should see ourselves. And then we can be confident that regardless of what others may say, we know who we are and can go through life fixed in perceiving our real identity and our purpose in this life and what really is our higher potential. As an old saying points out, it is better to see yourself truly than to care how others see you.

When you are spiritually grounded, it is no longer necessary to always try to convince others of your self-worth, or of your social status, or of trying to make it into the right clique or group of people. We become convinced of who we are. We work in our own way to provide a contribution to society, to make something of ourselves that has meaning, beyond the typical superficialities and meaningless and worldly gossip that occupy the minds of most youth and adults today. We know that as long as we keep working in our own way, both intellectually and spiritually, attaining the skills that will enable us to do something significant, that our time will come when we can make a mark on this world in our own sphere of influence, which may continue to expand from there.

So we may be popular in school or not, or recognized in our career or not, but by our spiritual knowledge, as provided in the Bhagavad-gita, and by the confidence it gives us, we work to always become better, more uplifted, more refined, and more realized than we are, always making ourselves into a better person. Then we can help ourselves and others in more effective ways. This is just some of what the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita can provide if we look into it carefully and understand who we really are and what is our greater potential.

As we proceed through the Bhagavad-gita, in Chapter Three, Lord Krishna discusses Karma-yoga, the knowledge of how every action creates an opposite and equal reaction. Fifty years ago in this country of the USA, hardly anyone spoke of karma, unless they were students of yoga or Eastern philosophy. Now everyone talks of karma, it is a part of the vocabulary, whether they really understand it or not. But the point is, where do you think that came from? How do you think they started to know about karma, or yoga for that matter, except for the fact that the teachings of the East and yoga, which are centered around the Bhagavad-gita, continued to spread throughout the West.

Similarly, considering all the knowledge that the Bhagavad-gita has within it, do you think that you will learn such things in the colleges or university courses? Hardly. You have to go beyond that. You have to take separate or alternative studies, like in studying the Bhagavad-gita or other Vedic texts, or listening to those who know about it. Then you can also begin to learn the basic laws of the universe as outlined in the Bhagavad-gita, as in the laws of karma. Otherwise, how will you begin to understand that your present circumstances and tendencies may be carry-overs from a previous existence? Or even from many previous existences that we have experienced. You only begin to understand these things by studying the Bhagavad-gita, the teachings of which are also expanded in the Upanishads, and then even more elaborated in the Puranas and other Vedic texts and commentaries.

In Chapter Four, called Transcendental Knowledge, it is explained to Arjuna how this knowledge was given down through the parampara, or disciplic succession. Lord Krishna explains the purpose and the transcendental nature of His appearance in this world. Also how to perform one’s actions so they are spiritual activities, which can then enable a person to reach the spiritual abode.

In Chapter Five, Karma-yoga, Action in Krishna Consciousness, it is explained how to perform one’s actions in the right consciousness of bhakti-yoga, and the way to focus on the natural, self-sufficient happiness within.

In Chapter Six, Sankhya-yoga, we find the instructions on how to conquer the mind to attain the natural inner happiness–beyond the senses–and become established in self-realization, the perception of one’s real identity. And then to see all else, all things around you with a steady mind, free from desires and possessiveness.

Then Lord Krishna gives instructions on how to practice yoga and meditation so that we can eventually perceive the spiritual dimension all around us, of which we are a part. Then we can enter and experience boundless transcendental joy and bliss, free from maya or illusion, and in touch with the Supreme Consciousness. Then such a person can see God everywhere and every being in God. Thus, he is never lost.

In Chapter Seven, Knowledge of the Absolute, we have the instructions on how to know God, and how to see that everything rests and depends on God, like pearls strung on a thread. Also, how to recognize the power of God in all the powerful aspects of nature. Thus, we become aware of God and His potencies in all things around us until we reach the abode of God.

Chapter Eight, Attaining the Supreme. This chapter gives more specific information about the ways of material nature, how to get free of it, and how our consciousness at the time of death, developed by our thoughts, words and deeds, determines our next life, our next destination. Therefore, if we are remembering God, Krishna, then we can attain Him. So the instructions include how to think of Lord Krishna and attain Him through devotional yoga. Also, there are instructions in how to understand the higher and eternal nature, beyond all matter, which is the ultimate destination of us all.

In Chapter Nine, The Most Confidential Knowledge, Lord Krishna gives advice that this spiritual knowledge is the king of all knowledge, the most secret of all secrets, and by following it we can attain direct perception of the self by realization. Lord Krishna goes on to explain how everything is working under Him, but fools will never be able to recognize this. But by engaging in devotional yoga, the mind becomes spiritualized enough to understand God as He is by realization, far beyond any mental speculation. Lord Krishna goes on to explain that He is impartial to all, but becomes a friend to those who offer loving service. By engaging in this process systematically, you can reach the highest abode.

In Chapter Ten, The Opulence of the Absolute, we find explanations on how everything, all spiritual and material worlds, emanate from the Absolute Truth–God. Those who know this engage in devotional yoga to God, and with that love, Lord Krishna gives them the understanding by which they can come to Him.

Then Lord Krishna tells Arjuna how He is situated in all the powers and powerful things throughout the universe, whether it is the radiant sun, the tranquil moon, the water of the ocean, the transcendental Om, the chanting of the holy names as in japa meditation, and in the immovable Himalayas, and much more. But it is only with a single fragment of His energy does Lord Krishna pervade and support this entire universe. This leads to…

Chapter Eleven, The Universal Form. It is in this chapter wherein Lord Krishna shows Arjuna, by giving Arjuna divine eyes, how He is spread throughout the entire universe by His energies and expansions. Some of what Arjuna sees is beautiful beyond compare, and other things that he sees in this universal form are terrible and frightening. Some are hundreds of thousands of multicolored divine forms, as well as demigods, planets, past and future events, and a splendor so bright it would equal hundreds of thousands of suns. Both birth and death could be seen within this amazing universal form that spread in all directions, both near and far throughout the universe.

This made Arjuna humble, who then requested Krishna to relieve him of this view and show him His four-armed form, and then again His more familiar and lovable two-armed form.

Now Arjuna was convinced that Lord Krishna was the Supreme and everything both within and beyond this material manifestation, as well as the father and creator of this material manifestation.

Then in Chapter Twelve, Devotional Service, Lord Krishna explains the ultimate goal of life, and the essence of how to practice bhakti-yoga, focusing especially on how to serve and fix our mind and intelligence on the Supreme as Lord Krishna in all our activities and undertakings.

Then we have Chapter Thirteen, Nature, The Enjoyer, and Consciousness. This explains how the body is the center of the field of material activities, and how we should understand the body as the vehicle in which both the soul and Supersoul–Paramatma–reside. Also, that the body is not our real identity, but we should see through the body to recognize the living being within. The soul is beyond the body and illuminates the body by consciousness. This is the symptom of the soul within. Now we merely have to spiritualize our consciousness to directly perceive the soul, and then see the difference between the body and soul.

The field of activities also includes the five elements, ego, intelligence, the senses, mind, and various emotions that project from the mind, along with all moving and non-moving things. Aside from all this, Lord Krishna explains the characteristics of His expansion as the Supersoul and how to perceive Him within.

In Chapter Fourteen, The Three Modes of Material Nature, Lord Krishna describes the three modes or gunas and their characteristics as goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas), and the nature of those according to how they are situated in each of these modes of nature. This also determines if one is progressing upward while acting in the mode of goodness, or simply maintaining while in the mode of passion, or regressing downward in ignorance or darkness. This analysis will also reveal the condition of one’s next birth. As explained in verses 14 and 15 in this chapter: “When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains the pure higher planets. When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities; and when he dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom.”

So the goal is to know how to act in order to rise above these three modes, which Lord Krishna clearly explains as being the process of devotional yoga.

Chapter Fifteen, The Yoga of the Supreme Person. Here Lord Krishna emphasizes how to engage in that yoga process which can elevate you to rise above all material inebriates and limitations, and material happiness and distress, in order to reach the spiritual abode.

Even though the living beings are all parts of the Lord, they are struggling very hard with the mind and the mental interpretations of our experiences within this material field of activities and the way we see ourselves in this world. Furthermore, until these conceptions are purified, they are carried from one body to the next, one life to the next, just as air carries aromas. One who is spiritually ignorant cannot understand how this takes place. But the progressing transcendentalist can clearly see all of this. Krishna also explains that one who knows Him as the Supreme Being knows everything and engages in devotional yoga to Him, and his endeavors will know perfection.

Chapter Sixteen, The Divine and Demoniac Natures. Here Lord Krishna makes it clear how to recognize the Divine qualities and actions, as well as the demoniac, both of which are in ourselves and in those around us. It is only the divine qualities that are conducive to spiritual progress and liberation, whereas the demoniac actions and qualities will keep you bound in material existence for many lifetimes. So the next step is to associate with those of a divine nature and develop such qualities in ourselves, and avoid the demoniac. The demoniac can never approach God nor the spiritual world, but reach progressively lower forms of existence.

Chapter Seventeen, The Divisions of Faith. In this chapter Lord Krishna explains that there are different kinds of faith and religions depending on what level of the modes of material nature are displayed by the living being, such as goodness, passion or ignorance. Therefore, some religions will be more materialistic, based on ego, or the bodily identification and attachment and pride, while others will be more spiritual. So there is a difference between various religions, as explained in this chapter. They are not all the same, which sometimes people like to say. Lord Krishna describes the difference herein in a way we can clearly see the varieties and categories to which they belong. It is up to us to study this carefully to understand this.

So as we go along in our study of these chapters, we begin to see a pattern or repetition in these teachings. There is much knowledge on various aspects of life and spiritual understanding, but time and again Lord Krishna expresses that it is He who is the Supreme Being, the creator of the universe, and it is He who should be the center of our worship and meditation. Furthermore, all of this knowledge is meant to raise our consciousness so we can return to the spiritual world. That is what this is for. Lord Krishna repeats this in several chapters herein. This is not some kind of philosophy to contemplate, but it is an action plan for the benefit of humanity so we can directly attain a spiritual vision and perceive the spiritual reality all around us, up to the point in which we can enter that spiritual domain, which is our real home. The material world is temporary and can never give the joy we are seeking. This is why Lord Krishna is explaining all of this, to motivate us to act according to His directions and attain the realm of eternal happiness and bliss, which is our eternal and constitutional nature. And He summarizes this in the final chapter of Bhagavad-gita.

Chapter Eighteen, The Conclusion, The Perfection of Renunciation, or Yoga of Renunciation for Moksha–Liberation from Material Existence. Herein Lord Krishna explains the way to become spiritually perfect through the proper means of renunciation or detachment from activities, but also how to continue with prescribed duties. Yet, out of all we may do or practice, Lord Krishna finally concludes with the instructions on the ultimate way of perfecting one’s spiritual life and realize the highest truth, which is by performing devotional service, bhakti-yoga, and in this way rekindle one’s relationship with God and then reach the eternal and imperishable spiritual abode.

In this way, a person can cross over all obstacles of conditional life by Lord Krishna’s grace. Otherwise, a person will remain lost in the whirlpool of material existence. By surrendering unto Him, and then by His grace you can attain peace and the supreme abode. Lord Krishna then concludes that this is the most confidential of all knowledge given for your benefit. He instructs that if you think of Him, become His devotee, worship Him, just surrender unto Him, then you will be free from all sinful reactions and come to Him without fail.

It is further concluded that anyone who studies this conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna worships Lord Krishna with his or her intelligence. And simply by listening with faith to this conversation a person becomes free from sinful reaction and at least attains the planets of the pious.

So these are the basic instructions that are related in the Bhagavad-gita, and some of the benefits of studying it. So, in this way, a person can acquire proper direction in life, a deeper realization of one’s true identity, and attain a level of self-confidence and peace by inward reflection and realization that can never be reached through ordinary, materialistic studies or endeavors. Furthermore, these can be applied to assist us in all aspects of life to help bring us to our higher potential in everything we do, materially or spiritually. This is the power and the importance of the Bhagavad-gita and the instructions of Lord Krishna found within it.

Thank you very much,

Jai Sri Krishna.

Spiritual Enlightenment: What Is It

Spiritual Enlightenment: What Is It
By Stephen Knapp

There are many explanations of what is enlightenment out there on the internet, or youtube.com, and many are rather unclear or nebulous or even misleading, often appearing to come from someone who is not truly or deeply experienced. Because of this, I have been motivated to try and offer something that is more apparent and direct. Of course, this topic could fill a book for a more elaborate explanation.

First of all, the thing we need to understand is there are different levels of enlightenment. There is the enlightenment concerning our spiritual position or identity known as the Jiva or spirit soul. That is enlightenment of our self. Then there is the higher enlightenment of God, of which there are three aspects. There is enlightenment of the all-pervading spiritual force, or the effulgence known as the Brahman. This is also the spiritual atmosphere that is beyond all material influence.

Then there is realization or enlightenment of the Paramatma or Supersoul. Most forms of yoga focus on the eventual or ultimate realization of the soul and Supersoul and their connection. Then there is enlightenment of Bhagavan, the ultimate God realization of the Supreme Personality who displays His real characteristics, qualities, and pastimes to His most confidential devotees.

Great sages have explained that for one to be completely enlightened, he or she must be realized in all three aspects of God (Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan) if their enlightenment is to be complete. However, before reaching this stage, a spiritual sadhaka or practitioner is likely to go through other preliminary stages of understanding and realization that, without proper experience or training, may lead one to think they are fully realized or enlightened.

This leads us to understand that there are different levels of enlightenment that can be on the mental level, or the intellectual level with the use of cultivated knowledge, known as jnana. Then there is realization of such knowledge or vijnana, and then direct spiritual perception. One has to proceed through all the steps or one’s progress may become encumbered by misjudgment and lack of understanding and proper training.

For example, the mental level of enlightenment is when something makes sense or resonates with you, and makes you want to know more. You can relate with it, and it may even be something that you somehow recall from a previous existence. It is like peaking through the door and seeing something attractive, and then realizing that this may be something you have been looking and waiting for. But this is not enlightenment.

The intellectual level of realization is based on cultivated knowledge when you study and gather information so you understand the subject better, or comprehend it and even explain it to others. You may develop full faith and accept the reality of its existence, but haven’t quite seen it directly yet.

Actual realization is beyond theory or cultivated information alone, but is when you see the knowledge in action. It is when you can begin to see how the concepts of spiritual knowledge work around you. You begin to see what others cannot when they have no spiritual insights or training. However, even realizations can be on various levels. For example, you may have the realization of how temporary everything is in this material world. You may realize the need to learn the process for attaining freedom from this world. You may realize the need to regain your spiritual position and identity. On a higher level you may realize how you are not this temporary body and how you are a spirit soul, and how everyone is essentially spiritual in nature. Then you may also realize or recognize the Supersoul or Paramatma within all beings.

Higher than this kind of realization is direct perception or experience. The experience must be as clear as when you see the sun rise in the east. This takes place after what can be years of spiritual practice, when you begin to directly perceive the different aspects of the spiritual dimension. It is by constant and serious practice that your consciousness becomes purified or spiritualized so that the spiritual strata begins to reveal itself to you, or you begin to attain the spiritual dimension.

Perception or experience is like eating a nice meal after being hungry and experiencing the relief from hunger. You can analyze how to cure your hunger in so many ways, but the experience is in eating a nice meal. The experience is universal. You may take different types of food, such as Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, or whatever, but the experience of feeling the relief from hunger, or the satisfaction of a full stomach, is the same for everyone, after which there are no more arguments about what it takes to relieve one’s hunger. This is similar to spiritual enlightenment.

Enlightenment is also the freedom from our karma, or the reactions of one’s past deeds. The more spiritual you become, the more you become free from the base tendencies or sensual addictions that often linger because of one’s karma. This is explained in the Bhagavad-gita. With freedom from one’s past karma, one can reach enlightenment. But it also works both ways. In other words, the purification one acquires by spiritual practice which gradually paves the way to enlightenment also nullifies one’s past karma. The practice of the yoga system, particularly bhakti-yoga, purifies one’s consciousness, which also evaporates one’s subtle body of mind, intelligence and false ego. These are all considered material elements according to the Vedic philosophy, and where one’s material desires reside. Freedom from such material desires is also a part of becoming free from one’s past karma.
Therefore, if one is truly becoming enlightened, that person will also become free from the sensual desires that are widespread amongst materialists or common men. However, if someone who poses as a spiritual authority, teacher or guru continues to exhibit the same desires for sensual pleasures that should have been surpassed, then it is obvious that he has not attained enlightenment or mastered the art of spiritual practice.

We need to remember that the yamas and niyamas, or the dos and don’ts and the regulative principles of the yoga system are not rules to stifle our style or limit our activities from those things we would otherwise like to do. Nor are they meant to force us to adopt habits that are artificial or abnormal to us. But they are actually a natural state of being for those who are realized spiritually. Once a person becomes enlightened, he or she will rise to the level of awareness in which these qualities automatically manifest in the content of one’s character. If they do not, then it shows the degree to which that person has remained attached to sensual pleasure or absorbed in materialistic consciousness.

Spiritual awakening means to awaken from the illusion, and, thus, to see the spiritual essence and the Absolute or Supreme Creator within and behind every aspect of the creation. In such a consciousness and awareness, there is no time when we forget God. That is the essence of Krishna or God consciousness. Thus, you see everything as a display of the energy of God. Then you become one with the universal Self, and seeing your self as one or the same as all others. In this unity, we find peace, calmness, acceptance, and bliss.

In this way, spiritual enlightenment is perceiving and honoring the inner sacredness of ourselves and all other beings, in fact all of creation. It is knowing we are all divine emanations from the same source. It is through this perception that allows us to undergo the challenge of constant changes in this material existence, or to weather the storm, so to speak, with balance, equilibrium, and grace, knowing that all problems or reversals in life are but temporary illusions.

At the spiritual level, the soul has no evil. When it is free of the externalities, the various changing emotions, or the dualities that are seen and engaged in on the mental state in our material existence, it is eternally balanced in sudha sattva, ultimate pure goodness. This is our natural state of being that becomes clear and is perceived in the state of self-realization or actual enlightenment. And this flows from us on a continual basis to the degree in which we are spiritually awakened.

Self-realization or enlightenment is also surrendering our false identity, our material attachments into the ocean of nectar that is our devotion and love for God. This rasa or taste in the relationship we have with the Supreme can outweigh all other desires or cravings, and is that for which we all are ultimately searching. That is our home, and the basis for all our other longings. Once you attain that awakening, you are complete, as explained in the Sri Isopanishad.

So, how do we get there? How do we attain this level of enlightenment and spiritual awakening? Through sadhana, regulated spiritual practice. To purify our consciousness starts with purifying or spiritualizing our activities. For example, if you have a cup and you want to fill it with nectar, but it is filled with dirt, you first have to start taking out the dirt. Similarly, you have to start changing your activities to those which are based on spiritual progress which then changes your consciousness. When our activities are purified, then our mind becomes purified or spiritualized. Thus, our desires are purified. When that happens, our consciousness becomes spiritualized. When that happens, material existence has nothing more to offer us. It is neither attractive nor repulsive to us—we are simply indifferent. No longer interested.

In this way, spiritual realization, awakening, or enlightenment is the aim, goal, and success of human life. Only human existence offers the facility for the living entity to become spiritually enlightened. Therefore, we should not waste this life on mere animal or trivial base pursuits.

Actual enlightenment is the stage when one’s realizations have matured into a way of life, not glimpses of the truth, but a constant reality that directs one’s every action. This is when you know exactly what is to be done, the purpose of life, and can do nothing else but what takes you toward that goal. Others may or may not always understand such actions, but an enlightened person has complete singleness of purpose in all of his or her endeavors.

Spiritual enlightenment does not mean that you are always in a state of being blissed-out, and otherwise dysfunctional to being able to do anything else. But it means you now clearly see what is to be done in this life. When you have such clarity and you sincerely try to arrange your life to do what is essential, then the universe or even the Divine will give you the opportunity to act in such a way, or the means to perform such activities. In such a state, when there is unity between one’s soul and the Supreme within, then the Divine may even work through such a person for the benefit of others.

With this kind of clarity you will know your true purpose and what you are meant to give to the world. Then you will also know there is no time to waste and will work diligently to accomplish what you are meant to do in this life.
Death is not the experience that automatically gives enlightenment or provides all the answers. The consciousness you develop in this life is carried over into the next for you to continue your search or quest for spiritual awakening. That is why it is important to attain the highest level of enlightenment now, in this life, to attain the best possible situation in your next life.

Once you have attained pure spiritual consciousness, there is no need for further births in the cycle of samsara, or life and death. You achieve the ultimate success by entering directly into the spiritual dimension and eternal life. This is real freedom and the attainment of real life, our natural spiritual state which is above and beyond this temporary material existence. Such a jivanmukta or a liberated soul has attained his or her status of enlightenment based on sadhana or spiritual practice, then realization, illumination, perception, and freedom, and then full awareness and absorption in the spiritual dimension. That is enlightenment.