Spirituality has become something of a fad in recent times. If you asked 10 people on the street if they consider themselves to be spiritual I’d bet that at least 8 or 9 would say yes. If you go to church you may be considered spiritual. If you like to read so called spiritual books or hear talks on spiritual matters than you may be considered or consider yourself spiritual. All of the aforementioned things have benefits but I think that one should consider that to make spiritual progress takes a bit more than mere agreement.
In order to evolve in the context of experience it takes more than just words, there has to be a product within of knowing. For example, you may go to a seminar where some famous monk gives a talk on enlightenment that sounds very reasonable. You agree with all of the points of his discourse yet you leave the seminar unenlightened. There may be a feeling of understanding or possibly a slightly different perspective on one thing or the other but the experience of the monk didn’t transfer.
The problem with the example that I mentioned is that despite a very lucid translation of the concept of enlightenment from the monk you cannot perceive beyond your own level of experience. You can agree with some statements of logic and life but your mind has no frame of reference for the profundity of what the person is trying to convey to you. You can go to these sorts of seminars and workshops your entire life and not make any progress in your life time. You can get all the spiritual “tips” from all the gurus that offer but may not have much of a temporary effect as they aren’t anchored on anything.
People now a days seem to want the soup without the cook. I want the enlightenment and to be able to expound all kinds of spiritual truths but without doing the hard work involved in realizing all these things. I want the calm mind of the Zen Monk but I don’t care to sit there 8 hours a day in mediation and breath control to achieve these things. Typically when you see documentaries on monks and monasteries you don’t see flamboyant speakers telling the monks on how “it really is”. What you do see are monks in silent practice putting in the long hours of practice. Even in the Christian spiritual tradition you didn’t just have Jesus telling his disciples to adopt a perspective but to do such and such things to reap the benefits of his methods.
There is a process to achieving spiritual process. That’s not to say that there is a single process, different people have aptitudes for different methods and one should find and utilize the one that works best for them. Listen to others and reading books can be beneficial as a supplement to practice but cannot take the place of practice. If you cannot perceive beyond your own level of experience to truly understand what you’re hearing or reading you need to invest more in the practice to make these things make sense to you.
Although the spiritual path is very narrow the distractions along the path are far and wide. Leave the philosophy to the philosophers because as Rama Krishna one said “after a 1000 years a tree is still only a tree”. Put the time and effort in to gain direct knowledge of the self, and the truth shall set you free…