Constantly mastering his mind, the spiritual man grows peaceful, attains supreme bliss, and returns to the Absolute One.
When we consider the term ‘maturity’, usually what comes to mind is the physical and mental development of a child who progressively grows to become an adult. Physical maturity pertains to the development of physical attributes, whereas mental maturity refers to the advancement of mental skills and character traits that are a combined result of both education and experience. As we continue to mature, we start to become more responsible for our actions as we are given ‘the space’ to learn from both experience and possibly even mistakes.
The mystics tell us that there is a more subtle type of maturity that exists and it involves the soul, the real self, one’s true identity. This maturity, which is of great significance, is not only concerned with one’s present life, but with all past and future lives, as it is directly linked to the immortal soul. Spiritual maturity entails the progressive development of those fine attributes (such as goodness, humility, honesty, faithfulness, patience, and so forth) which would enable the soul to return to its source – its absolute and purest form. This process, however, requires tremendous effort directed at eliminating negative passions and tendencies that have accumulated over several lifetimes and formed a dark veil over the soul, rendering it helpless and hostage to the mind and senses.
Spiritual maturity is, therefore, an ongoing process – a long and arduous one without doubt, but one whose culmination results in a perfect state of equanimity, balance and peace; teaching us to discipline the mind by not yielding to the senses, and to accept one’s destiny and live in the will of the Lord. The saints, in their writings, often give the example of the lotus flower. Although the flower grows in muddy water, it leaves the mud behind to rise above the surface and blooms in remarkable beauty – untouched by impurity.
The mystics advise us that spiritual maturity requires a deeper level of understanding, and this can be attained by channelizing all the knowledge and principles of spirituality that we gain through the practice of meditation. At the time of initiation, the spiritual Master imparts the technique of meditation which helps to concentrate and control the mind by withdrawing the attention from the senses and directing it inwards. This technique is the foundation of our spiritual practice; its right application coupled with regular effort will determine the pace and quality of our maturity. This is the method prescribed by the perfect saints for training the mind and relinquishing the ego.
Eventually, we will learn that the path to maturity, even in the case of spirituality, leads one away from the self. As we learn to achieve some control over our mind and subdue our ego, we find that we are in a much better position to relinquish control and surrender to His divine will. We learn to expand our thinking from a limited point of view to a broader, grander perspective. We realize that our actions are primarily motivated by selfish desires, and in order to ‘grow up’, we try to eliminate or at least minimize selfish desires and motives from our agenda.
The Master clearly reminds us that it is only by spiritual practice, by meditation, that we can kill the ego. In his role as a spiritual mentor, he gives us the technique and shares his valuable insight and wisdom. By his personal example, he motivates us to strive towards our goal while, like a loving parent, he gives us the space to learn from our own experience.
Just as in other facets of our lives we develop proficiency with effort, practice and experience, so it is with spirituality. We need not be concerned with how much we are progressing on the path. We need not measure our performance against any benchmark or compare ourselves to others. The mystics remind us that we have to alter this result-oriented mindset and simply work on improving the quality of our meditation. Ultimately, this is what will make the difference. We have to remember that spiritual growth comes from grace, and the Lord alone is our ultimate resource.
The reality of spiritual progress is first measured not by inner experiences, but by increasing levels of serenity and contentment, by acceptance of one’s karmas or destiny, and by how we behave when in contact with our fellow human beings. Are we now kinder, more helpful, more tolerant than before we were initiated? Are we only interested in inner experiences or do we have a growing sense of the extraordinary experience to be had simply in the effort of being truly compassionate to others, in the work of being true human beings? The practice of meditation will naturally find expression in the details of daily life and in the way we relate to others.