You claim that you desire to lead a spiritual life. You might want to achieve that within a formal religion or embark on a solo spiritual quest with sporadic assistance from others. So how can you be sure that the road you’ve chosen to travel will take you where you want to go? Will you be able to firmly assert, at the end of your life, that you genuinely did the best you could?
You will never be completely certain until you join a group that forbids you from exercising your own judgement since uncertainty and questions are inherent to the human condition. Yet, if the compass you use for orientation is set for the direction you want to go, I believe you are more likely to lead a spiritual life in the long run. Using what Sam Keen wrote in Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening the Spirit In Daily Life is one of the finest ways to figure things out.
Spiritual Compass Pointing in the Right Direction
We certainly require such a detector today, lad. Just have a look at the options available, both online and offline. Reincarnated instructors, faultless gurus, and enlightened master swamis all profess to be descendants of the One and Only Truth. They stand next to fundamentalist preachers who likewise assert that they are the only ones with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven in a line of religious leaders who push the boundaries of belief.
My assistant just came across the following description of a woman who posted an online job listing as:
“Cosmic Shaman,” “Divine Emissary,” “Creational Intermediary for the Transuniversal, Intergalactic, Multidimensional Coalition of Lightworkers,” “Life Spiral Counselor and Soul Friend,” “Empathetic Intuitive and Telepath,” “Animal Communicator,” “Animal Astrologer,” “Writer Teacher,” “Walker of the Sacred Spiral Pathways,” and “Flowering and Aromatherapy Practitioner” are some of the titles given to
Whew! I don’t know about you, but even if I saw her in person, I might find her charming, but that list of qualities wouldn’t make me want to take her counsel.
So, the following questions can help you establish your spiritual compass, develop your own personal “bulls__” detector, and prevent you from succumbing to what Keen refers to as “something too little, to bogus gods, gurus, and cults.” Always keep in mind what Isaac Bashevis Singer said: “There is doubt in every faith. The majority of religious thinkers were sceptics.”
How well-aware of yourself are you?
Many totalitarian faiths and hazy spiritual concepts might be alluring to those who lack a solid sense of who they are, especially for those who are burdened with a lot of guilt from the past. Of course, counselling is not a requirement for leading a spiritual life. But in my experience, the Spirit can enter more easily if you know and accept yourself, are aware of your talents and flaws, and deal with old problems. You are less inclined to place a religious leader on a pedestal and think they are beyond the faults of regular people when you realise we all have feet of clay.
Do you believe in yourself?
When you are around people who exhibit the traits you desire to exhibit, you may feel it in your heart. The best way to tell when someone is giving you bad advise is to keep an open mind and an open heart. Don’t leave your intellect at the enlightened guru’s temple or the sanctuary’s entrance.
Is the spirituality you practise and the religion you practise founded on compassion?
Although there are many intricate aspects that contribute to the development of a religion, compassion is a key trait of the great religious leaders. As long as you keep advancing towards deeper love for all living things, including yourself, you will never veer off the path to fulfilment.
What traits do your religion’s leaders exhibit?
The manifestation of the highest characteristics to which we can aspire is the distinguishing feature of a spiritual existence. If the people who accompany you or lead you along your path exhibit an abundance of positive traits, such as forgiveness, acceptance, beauty, gentleness, humility, love, joy, hope, wonder, peace, generosity, and kindness, you will be able to tell that the path is leading in the direction of the sacred. Pettiness, hostility, fear, competition, criticism, egotism, plotting, a sense of superiority,vitamin for men, blaming, and arrogance are just a few examples of the negative traits you should look out for if you want to avoid a demoralised life and an unsacred world.
Does the religion you practise or intend to practise place a stronger emphasis on enlightenment and spiritual insights, on sin and the need for salvation, or a mix of the two?
There will inevitably be ups and downs on every path. There will be times in our spiritual lives when we believe we have attained the pinnacle of wisdom, illumination, and forgiving. There will also be instances when we’ll find it difficult to emerge from the self-destructive behaviour valley brought on by pettiness, melancholy, rivalry, shame, etc. The former will make it easier for you to deal with the latter and get through the difficult moments. He or she will guide you up the holy mountain and teach you how to prepare for your eventual descent into the shadowy valley.