What does it mean to turn the mind inward? Spiritual journey is an initiative coming from an inner passion, in order to reach a deep personal experience, using tools that promote introspection and self-reliance. While the tools for spiritual journey may come from outside, the journey by itself is from inside oneself, progressing through inner dedication, yielding results that promote changes on the inside to bring harmony within oneself. This inner harmony translates into harmony with life and the world around us, like a flower that contains aroma within and disseminates this around it from its very being.
Along our spiritual path, at every step, we use many tools. The scriptures, spiritual principles, philosophies, methods of practice, and Gurus – all fall within the list of tools, and we use these with great respect. As we keep moving, we grow past a lot of the tools to acquire different tools, may even move from one Guru to another as appropriate. If we get caught in loyalties for the tools that aided us and refuse to move on, we end up serving the tools, rather than allowing the tools to serve us. Buddha went to the extent of eliminating any spiritual tools such as spiritual principles in his teachings and based his teaching on simple experiential practices such as focusing on breath, training the mind to remain in the present, and so on. He explained that with using tools there is the danger of taking the tools as destination points, and defending these through argumentation, intellectualization, deification, and expression of loyalty. Buddha explained this through the analogy that one may cross the river on a boat, but once crossed one doesn’t carry the boat on his head through his whole journey. In essence, Once the tool has served its purpose, the seeker will not remain dependent or feel loyalty to hang on to the tool. That doesn’t mean that we are not grateful for the tools, it just means that the journey needs to be completed and we need to allow different tools to aid us at different stages of our journey.
As we keep growing past the tools that provide us our path, there may be the last leg of the journey which we would take alone, teaching ourselves what we need to keep moving. When Buddha reached Enlightenment, he was asked which Guru has helped him reach Enlightenment, and he responded that he had three Gurus, however, none of them guided him to reach Enlightenment; he got there by himself. In spirituality, turning inward, we seek answers to promote a very personal seeking, and any tool is of value as long as it is progressing our journey.
Inner journey involves self-purification or inner cleansing. This entails overcoming what The Bible calls the seven deadly sins–pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, and wrath. Buddha explained – Anger is like fire that you are holding in your palm and want to throw it at others because you blame others for the burn you feel. While others may leave, this fire remains with you, and will destroy you. Extending Buddha’s analogy of fire to all of the seven deadly sins, one can see that they are all like fire, burning the person who is hosting them. Sometimes we pull out the fire of pride, sometimes of greed, and we rotate these fires throughout our day, throwing the fire at others thinking they are to be blamed for the burn we feel. The fire will burn us unless we learn to clear ourselves of the destruction we are allowing inside of us.
How does one avoid getting involved in the 7 deadly sins? How does one not retaliate or react when others throw fire at us? How does one not get attached to a tool – a Guru, a set of principles or institutional teachings? These are separate discussions handled in the subsequent blogs.
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