There’s a debate in spiritual circles about whether it’s good to have a practice or not. The default amongst nearly all traditions is that a spiritual practice is mandatory and it’s the only way to progress. For these ancient customs, practice is the compulsory vehicle towards spiritual maturation and without it, you don’t go anywhere. However, there is another viewpoint that is on the rise, which is a new take on the nondual teachings of Advaita Vedanta, popularly known as Neo-Vedanta. It plays right into the modern busy paradigm, and it says that you are already That, and you don’t have to do anything. In fact, doing is counter-productive because it enforces the concept of a doer, which you’re trying to transcend.
At face value, the traditional approach re-enforces that there is a seeker chasing adamantly after some mental conceptualization of enlightenment. This is doomed because for the awakened done, there is no person who is enlightened because there is no longer personal self that is separate from that which is. But the wisdom of the traditions goes far deeper than a superficial understanding of the seeker on a quest. The underlying instruction which everybody forgets is, do the practice without looking for profit. We are to just focus on the experience of the practices intensely, viscerally, and not be in the mind projecting out to what we will achieve as a result. The practices attune this mind/body complex to thin out the layers of veiling so that what is there naturally can shine through.
On the other hand, yes, the True Self is already here, always has been, and at any moment we can snap to That, without any practice. But this is quite an advanced realization only for those who are primed; is it really helpful to teach that to someone mired in the relative state of the mind? The unfortunate tendency is either frustration at not being able to perceive this, or to mentally glom on to the concept so severely as to actually cause dissociative psychological disorders. There are now therapists who specialize in bringing people back from these fringes.
So, what is the answer to the debate? Do we practice and reinforce duality, or do we just sit and ponder isness on the sofa? People have a way of over-complicating things. The answer is really not that complicated. The very first question we should ask ourselves is, are we serious? If spiritual maturity is a priority, then we choose that in lieu of other ways we fill our day with. Everyone has some, even minimal, hours of leisure in the 24-hour day. That time should be dedicated to activities that close the gap with the Divine or the Universe, whatever that means to us individually. But aren’t we back to the concept of the doer again, you ask? No, because the crucial difference is that it is a devotional in nature, not a transaction from which we hope to gain something. We surrender to the practice. It is an offering. The mind and its calculations are set aside. If you must have a benefit, then the practice is its own reward. The rest we leave to God or the Universe, or whatever you hold as your Source.
Here’s a related article to this topic: https://celebrateyoga.org/direct-vs-progressive-paths/
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