Spiritual Advancement

There are three general categories of religious paths: one is the path of ritual and rules (karma-marga). The second is the path of logic and philosophy (jnana-marga) and the third is the path of devotion (bhakti-marga).

Krishna's Beloved Radharani - ISKCON desire tree
Image by ISKCON desire tree via Flickr

Within the bhakti marga there are various paths. The purest path is the one which is “jnana-karma-adi-anavrittam” it is pure devotion without ulterior motive at all and without any obscuration coming from attention to rules, rituals or even philosophy. All the heart is focused on loving godhead without any care for anything else.

This process begins with shraddha or “faith” that you, in your eternal identitiy, are meant to be loving godhead (maybe you have read some of the introductory articles on my website to this effect?). When this faith matures a bit it leads to sadhu-sanga, where one makes relationships with “saintly people” i.e. people who are value the acquisition of their eternal identity as a lover of the supreme fountainhead.

By such relationships, these people instruct us how to practically begin to move from an identity essentially based on selfish-intent (“lust”) and clean those imperfections to uncover the original identity composed entirely of selfless-intent (“love”). This is the stage of bhajana-kriya – the “performance of practices”.

By such performances the imperfections of selfish love gradually dissolve, that stage is called anartha-nivritti. And when they have mainly desolved one becomes fixed and steady in serious practice. That stage is called nishtha.

Radha  Krishna at lotus-pond - ISKCON desire tree
Image by ISKCON desire tree via Flickr

Serious and steady practice leads to the first tasting of actual spiritual ecstacy of true love for the divine couple, Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. This first taste is called the stage of ruci.

That first taste of the ecstacy of true spiritual love is so entrancing that it develops one to the next stage where one becomes literally an “addict” of it. Once quests for more and more selfless love to become unveiled in her heart, just with the intensity of a drug addict questing for more drugs. That stage is called asakti.

That sort of very “lusty” spiritual quest for pure love of godhead causes the true spiritual self to break free of all coverings, and ones original inherent nature awakens. This is the dawn of actual self-realization in the highest sense. This stage has the title of bhava.

The pure spiritual self very quickly shakes off the last remaining stains of self-centered identity still clinging to her from ages upon ages of karma. Thus her full and absolute love of godhead becomes perfect. This stage is “prema.”

The main means from progressing from one stage to the next is to feelingly call upon the names of the divine couple, as a simple and perfect means of pleasing them with ones heart. The maha-mantra for these names is:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

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