Stages of Spiritual Development

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It’s plain to see that there are different stages of spiritual development.  But that’s an ambiguous notion, have you ever wondered what that road map would look like?

In basic terms, spirituality can be defined as the process of changing your awareness from the gross physical to higher dimensions of existence.  The materialist is focused on name and form, the physical world, and the mantra is “seeing is believing.”  For the spiritual person, the focus is in the subtle realms, and the mantra is “experiencing is believing.”  Spirituality can be defined as the process of going from the false perception of duality, or separateness, to the realization of complete Oneness.

A guru moves you from knowing your own form to realizing that you are actually formless, and what you thought was reality is just a manifestation.  With expanding sensitivity and awareness, the subtle becomes more real than the physical world you knew.  Or to say it another way, the realization dawns that the formless divine shines through every form and is even more fundamental than the physical reality you swim through every day.  You discover the mystery and wonder of creation.

Now, the journey begins and has four stages.  The first stage is “Saarupya” and it means to see the formless in the form.  Different traditions call this by different names, like seeing God in everything or using terms like omniscience and omnipresence, or saying that everything is pure consciousness, or when tribal cultures recognize that nature is present in everything.  For the newcomer to spirituality, this is difficult to digest, and people have a tendency to see God or Divinity as a separate entity in heaven or other.  So that is why in every religion, God is given a form to be represented by – whether they be idols, the cross, the crescent moon, a symbol, a sound, or a depiction of some kind.  For the beginner, loving the formless is only possible through form.  Duality remains in one’s perception at this point.

The second stage is called “Saamipya” which means closeness.  In this stage, we feel total intimacy with the chosen form, to represent the formless.  This stage is seen as worship in every day religious practices.  In this stage, human fear dissipates because of total trust in God, in the chosen form.  But we are still bound by name and form, and by time and space.  The realm of the physical has not been transcended.  Here again, we still have duality as our everyday perception.

The third stage is called “Saanidhya” where the actual presence of the Divine is experienced.  The form merges with the formless and is seen as One.  Time and space melt away in the ever-now.  The third stage is experienced during particular spiritual practice sessions, most commonly in deep meditation.  Here is where you may have heard of enlightenment experiences, but they are temporary, and one returns to the egoic self after some time.  The experience does not yet pervade every moment of one’s daily life.  While we have had a glimpse of Oneness, we are still perceiving our everyday duality.

The fourth stage is called “Saayujya” where we become fully entrenched in the Divine.  This is where the Master resides.  This is where the true Guru resides.  This is the seat of the human potential in this realm.  In this stage, there is total and complete merging with the Divine and all duality disappears.  There is only Oneness; there is only existence, consciousness, bliss.

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