Life is more than matter. If it were just matter, there would be no need for comfort. Matter does not feel comfort or discomfort, beauty or ugliness, love or compassion, joy or sorrow. Will a chair ever feel sorry or happy? No, matter does not have these finer values. These belong to the realm of the spirit. But life is also more than spirit. If it were just spirit, there would be no need for water, food, or rest. Human life is a combination of both matter and spirit.
The nature of the spirit
Spirit experiences and expresses values. values are feelings and emotions – that which cannot be captured totally by words or understood by the intellect. the goal of the spiritual path is to understand the spiritual dimension of life and live fully all the values that the spirit represents. What are those values? peace, love, joy, beauty, unlimited knowledge, and the capacity to understand both mind and matter.
Comfort: a quality of consciousness
Whatever one does is directed towards one goal, happiness or comfort. Often people think that comfort comes in a material way, through matter alone. Comfort is a quality of consciousness. to some degree it does depend on matter, but to a greater degree it depends on attitude and understanding.
The true nature of the spirit is comprehension
You listen, you understand, and you absorb. Who is understanding? Who is absorbing? it is the spirit in your body that is taking in the knowledge. and this knowledge is not coming through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch alone. it is also coming from inside as intuition.
The very nature of consciousness is knowledge
You can say that at every level of consciousness, knowledge is present. and consciousness is present! if it were nothing, it could not be present. it is something, yet it is not finite. You cannot measure consciousness, so it is present and infinite.
The nature of your consciousness is peace: you are love
Consciousness is peace. You are peace, you are truth, and you are energy, walking, moving, talking and sitting. The Self is energy and the Self is knowledge, the knowing and the knower. this consciousness is love, you are love. Understanding and living this is the spiritual life. Life attains its richest form through the spiritual dimension. Without it life becomes very shallow and you are unhappy, dependent, depressed and miserable.
Effects of the spiritual dimension on society
This is a great sense of belonging, responsibility, compassion and caring for the whole of humanity. the spiritual dimension, in its true form, breaks the narrow boundaries of caste, creed, religion and nationality. Wars will be eliminated only through spiritual understanding.
The spiritual path is not an escape from life
Actually, the spiritual path makes life more difficult! in India, people think the spiritual life is easy – go to an ashram where you don’t have to work hard. no. the spiritual path is not an escape from hard work or sincere action. You have to put your heart and soul into your actions and be ready to give one hundred percent of yourself. the spiritual life will bring you enormous joy, more contentment, more peace, and more energy than you can find, but it’s not an escape.
The spiritual path is not an escape from responsibility
The spiritual path means taking responsibility. if you think it is difficult to manage your children and your spouse, you will be given more people to care for. if you are ready to take responsibility for twenty people, two thousand people, twenty million people, then you are on the path. the spiritual path is not an escape from responsibility; on the contrary, it is taking responsibility.
The spiritual path is not an escape from hard work
Intelligent, effective work is part of the spiritual life. When you are working hard you may think you deserve compassion. I say that if you are working hard and doing it with intelligence, then you need appreciation, not compassion. if someone is taking five hours to complete something that can be done in half an hour, it doesn’t need compassion.
Another aspect of spiritual life is peace – knowing that peace is your nature. at any moment, in any place, you can just sit and let go, knowing that inside you there is a pure clear space that’s vast and deep. that inner space is what you are. ‘‘I have come from peace, I am in peace, I will go back to peace. Peace is my origin and my goal.’’ This inner affirmation or experience makes you a seeker.
A sense of sacredness
Still another aspect of spiritual life is a sense of sacredness. When you have a deep sense of thankfulness combined with regard and respect for everything that comes to you in life, it brings a sense of sacredness. in sacredness there is awareness. Your mind is fully present in fear, anger, or sacredness.
Service and silence
Silence heals and rejuvenates. Silence gives you depth and stability and brings creativity. Service brings the dynamic experience of heart. it creates a sense of belonging. Lack of service can land a person in depression. Service alone can bring contentment in life, but service without silence tires you. Service without spirituality will be shallow and cannot be sustained for a long period of time. the deeper the silence, the more dynamic the outer activity becomes. Both are essential in life.
Have confidence in yourself. One who does not have confidence cannot achieve anything. Confidence clears doubt. Doubt is the opposite of confidence. Once you eliminate the negative, you will see that the positive has already happened. When doubt clears, confidence appears. So to gain confidence in yourself, you must understand what doubt is.
The nature of doubt
If you observe the nature of doubt, it is always about something that is positive. You doubt the goodness of other people, never their bad qualities. You doubt your own capability, never your incapability. On the spiritual path, you learn to handle things with intuition and inner freedom. i don’t say don’t doubt. I say doubt as much as you can. that will help you get through it before progressing further.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader, is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, an international non-profit that works to strengthen society by strengthening individuals. Sri Sri’s programs of trauma relief, conflict resolution, self-development, education, women’s empowerment, vocational training and revival of human values have benefited an estimated 300 million persons in more than 145 countries. srisriravishankar.org