Study of Spirituality

1. Importance of the study of Spirituality

Study of Spiritual science is integral to help us understand the importance of why we should do spiritual practice. Only when the intellect is convinced about the importance of practicing Spirituality can we make concerted efforts to do spiritual practice regularly. Understanding spiritual principles gives  us the ability to make better decisions about our life and also about our spiritual practice.

2. What should we study?

  • Ideally the books we read should give clear instructions on the way forward in spiritual practice. The guidance given in the books should conform to the six basic principles of Spirituality.
  • From the perspective of reading spiritual texts for our spiritual growth, we should preferably read literature written by Saints or Gurus. This is because it contains Divine consciousness (Chaitanya). Please do note SSRF’s definition of a Saint and Guru. There is 100% Divine Consciousness in texts written by Saints of the highest order as compared to 0-2% in the case of spiritual texts written by other authors of a lower spiritual level. Thus by reading spiritual books by authors of a lower spiritual level, at the most we can obtain some knowledge at the intellectual level. But when reading spiritual texts written by Saints, even when reading we get Divine consciousness, which is the objective behind doing spiritual practice.
  • When reading Holy texts we should take care not to limit our understanding to a myopic sectarian viewpoint. We should try to reconcile it with the all encompassing science of Spirituality.
  • When reading Holy Scriptures we must understand that there is an implied meaning to the text. It is important that we understand the implied meaning and put it into practice. Otherwise no matter how many hundreds of periodic readings of Holy Scriptures we undertake it has little benefit with regard to our spiritual growth. This is because a higher spiritual level is required to be able to comprehend the implied meaning in a Holy text. Our spiritual level may not be high enough to comprehend the implied meaning of the text in accordance with Spiritual science and accordingly put it into practice.

3. How should we study?

  • We should begin by reading the preface of the spiritual text, so as to understand the author’s or compiler’s intention behind putting together the text. This would also help us in understanding the context in which the author or the compiler is explaining spiritual principles.
  • We should ask ourselves questions at every step to check whether we have understood every line of the text. If we are not clear on any point, then we should get it clarified from our spiritual guide or the conductor of the satsang we attend.
  • Once a particular section of the text is clear, we should explain it to someone in our own words. Explaining a concept to another person and encouraging him to ask questions is a good way to know how well we have understood the particular concept.
  • We should check whether we have experienced at any time what we are studying and ask our self that if not, then why not. If we have not experienced a certain Truth in the Holy text it means that we need to do more spiritual practice.
  • We should make specific plans to put into practice what is understood and review from time to time whether we are experiencing the signs of expected progress.
  • We should study the same text from time to time. This is because with increase in spiritual level the ability to understand the text, the capacity to put it into practice etc., increases.

3.1 How long should we study?

Seekers in the primary stage: In this stage, we should read ‘just for the sake of reading’, that is, in order to develop some belief in Spirituality and its practice. We should read those Holy texts that have minimal or no discrepancy between the literal and implied meaning.

Later on, when we begin to get spiritual experiences after practicing Spirituality, this reading proves useful for their confirmation. For instance, if we experience the fragrance of an incense-stick without an incense-stick being lit, we neither feel surprised nor ponder over it, if we have already read about it and realise that it is a spiritual experience.

Seekers in the intermediate stage: In this stage studying is not as essential as we now have faith in Spirituality. However we do not yet have spiritual experiences of a higher level. Shrī Shankaracharya has said that, ‘The web of words is a great forest that causes the mind to wander and creates confusion’. This implies that excessive reading too can result in confusion. Quite often we find people locked in theological debate and in a web of spiritual words who have never experienced higher spiritual states of spiritual emotion (bhāv ) or Bliss. For people faced with this kind of an obstacle, it is best to focus more on practicing Spirituality according to the six basic principles of spiritual practice.

4. Most importantly

If we do not undertake spiritual practice simultaneously with study, there is a risk of not making spiritual progress due to the vanity acquired as a result of voracious reading and the knowledge gained thereof. There is no substitute to practicing spirituality and all of our study should be geared toward achieving higher levels of spiritual practice.

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