By Andrew Cohen
Andrew Cohen is an Indian style guru based in the USA. This article is based on a talk he gave at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, India, courtesy Full Circle
The goal of spiritual life is to live free of the mind. The spiritual life boils down to two things: meditation and contemplation.
Meditation is the experience of being beyond the mind, free of thought, which is a revelation for the individual because normally, we are habituated to a constant thought stream. Meditation is being conscious, aware, free of the mind. Then I realize that I’m not what I thought I was because I see thoughts out there.
Contemplation is intense, focused pursuit of truth. Here we use the mind to help us discriminate between true and false.
Meditation is willingness to become simple, letting everything be. During meditation, everything slows down-reaching deep within, we experience bliss, peace, joy. And an infinite space.
Enlightenment dawns when we want nothing. Normally, there is a tyranny of wanting. But, clearly, no object can give us eternal happiness. Liberation is stopping the endless seeking of gratification.
The spiritual questions are: Who am I, beyond personality, beyond gender? How shall I live? In deep meditation when I need nothing, I know nothing, that is what I really am. But human life demands action. As long as we breathe, we have to act, live in the world of cause and effect, make choices. A spiritually minded person cares about the right thing for its own sake, not for personal merit. This is where contemplation comes in.
How to do the right thing? There are five tenets of spiritual life which help in making the right choice.
1. An intense desire to be free more than anything else
I want to be liberated, be sane in an insane world. If so, this desire should be more important than spouse, children, success, wealth. Make it your anchor. The desire to know the truth should be cultivated to the extent that it determines all choices. It takes courage to not conform to the status quo.
2. Consciously renouncing the victim mentality
We’re not victims of our experience. Secretly or not, we feel like victims, even those who in the world’s eyes have been very fortunate: ‘Oh, I’ve had such a hard time.’ But even if we suffered, in the present moment we decided to be free. A victim is helpless. It is a neurotic habit to take refuge in victim consciousness. A person who wants to be free rejects it and takes full responsibility for all life, all karma. Only one person makes choices—Me. I’m the only one doer.
3. Face everything and avoid nothing
This is very demanding. Normally we face little and avoid a lot—like a horse with blinkers on. It needs stoicism and great courage to face everything and avoid nothing.
4. Every aspect of our personal experience is impersonal
Over the years in my experience as a spiritual teacher I have met so many people. But I have come to realize that there is only one person, only one human condition. We imagine that what we experience is unique to us. But experience—whether of love or fear or lust—is identical with everybody, though the intensity may vary. Experience is universal. So, if we step back, we stop identifying with our experience. Then, nothing personal is left. The awareness of universal nature of life leads to universal consciousness.
5. Giving up the materialistic relationship to life
Generally I live for myself. Even spiritual growth I want for myself. I want my enlightenment for myself. In fact, many seekers are, if not more, as materialistic and self-centered as non-spiritual people. True spirituality is to give up everything and live for the sake of the whole. We normally want freedom from suffering, but there is more to spiritual life than bliss.
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