Question

Why is it that even if some people who do a lot of austerities like meditation, mantra chanting, pilgrimages, scripture study don’t change much, and still lack self awareness, and remain selfish and self centered? Austerities are done to purify the mind to draw closer to God, how come their minds are not getting purified? and don’t austerities help to become more loving? Instead, some people seem to get puffed up and egotistical about doing so much spiritual activity.

—SS, U.S.A

Answer

Dear SS,

The spiritual path is a long road that requires deep attunement with God and the guru to avoid wandering into the ego’s traps and reach Self-realization. There are many pitfalls along the way, one of which is spiritual pride. Every spiritual practice, and for that matter all of the activity we engage in, must be done with self-offering: offering all that we are lovingly into the Divine hands. We cannot claim anything as our own including ‘progress’.

Swami Kriyananda as a new young monk had many gratifying spiritual experiences filled with profound joy. But he reached a point where he actually started to take some pride in his spiritual progress. He started to feel some separation from other monks and thought to hold himself aloof from outer experiences.

At that time a spiritual test came to Kriyananda. He was invited to come to Yogananda’s desert retreat at Twenty-Nine Palms, but Yogananda directed him to stay alone in his room and ‘edit’ his early written lessons which were in a fairly rough form. He was instructed to ‘edit like lightning but don’t change a word’ — a very confusing directive for Swamiji. Other monks were invited to be with Master as he was sharing his newest writing of the Bhagavad Gita commentaries but not Swami Kriyananda. It was a difficult time and Swami was assailed by many doubts.

When he finally submitted his ‘editing’ assignment to the editorial department it was received ungraciously and later thrown out. After this he was invited to join these Gita satsangs. Yogananda later consoled Kriyananda for that editor’s unkind remarks. Swami’s response was to defend her because his work was not of much use. Yogananda remarked later to other monks ‘Walter (Yogananda’s name for Swamiji) was on his high horse. Now he is coming our way.’

Those who are sincere and determined in their search for God will be given the experiences they need to reach that ultimate goal. Consider the spiritual pride that you observe in some seekers to be a limitation they will eventually rise above, one that will be corrected in the time and manner that is best for that devotee. For yourself, you might take your observation of how spiritual pride is pulling a devotee away from union with God to heart. Possibly your attention is being drawn to this so that you might avoid the same mistake sometime in the future.

Many blessings to you,
Nayaswami Mukti