When it comes to one’s spiritual life, aspirants can easily get sidetracked. One of the biggest traps can be, oddly, reading spiritual books. Or, more precisely, pseudo-spiritual books. Pseudo-spiritual books are those that contain lots of abstract concepts and, for lack of a better word, gobbledygook.
The Zen master Hui-Neng is rightly depicted as tearing up the scriptures. Not because of irreverence or perversity, but because he realized in the core of his being that no printed word can lead one to spiritual realization. A superficial reading of the scriptures without probing their deeper meaning can instead lead to stagnation on one’s spiritual journey. Worse, a slavish recital of the scriptures without putting into practice their key teachings can cause one to miss their spiritual point entirely.
There are other traps as well. Beliefs form the foundation of religious life. They provide a framework for one’s faith. But beliefs can become a rigid dogma for some persons. Becoming beholden to this kind of stilted dogma can provide a false sense of assuredness to a spiritual aspirant. To think that the smug repetition of dogma will lead one to heaven is the surest road to hell. While all aspirants need a basic roadmap to guide them on the path to enlightenment, the shallow parroting of inflexible dogmatic tenets can paralyze one’s spiritual growth.
One of the biggest deceptions is the false hope engendered by the notion that understanding theories about religion or consciousness will lead one to enlightenment. Nothing could be further from the truth. To equate an understanding of theories with spiritual realization is like saying that night is the same as day. One can discuss God ad infinitum, but such discussions will never ferry you to God’s inner abode.
Spiritual realization is a searing experience that transforms an aspirant’s very being. One’s ego is dissolved. Their identity collapses. All points on their inner compass implode. “We” do not survive spiritual enlightenment. The “we” that we’ve come to know and identify with is extinguished when one is spiritually illumined. “Extinguish” is the meaning of nirvana. The resultant state cannot be imagined, nor described. Only experienced.
One can spend one’s entire spiritual life adhering to beliefs, memorizing dogma, and entertaining theories. By so doing, they will have wasted their time, for they are not transforming themselves. Do not allow yourself to be thus deluded. The tried and true way to enlightenment is through sincere and dedicated practice, no matter what your path. A fervent resolve takes hold of your inner being and turns you inside out. Allow for this to happen. Ignore what the masses think and do, and pay no attention to the marketing purveyors who push this teacher or that book. “Only one thing is needful,” as Jesus reminded us. That one thing is total, undivided, and passionate devotion to one’s spiritual goal. All else is a distraction. To think otherwise is to be misled. Missing the opportunity to evolve spiritually in this life is the ultimate self-delusion.