If you see yourself as a serious spiritual seeker who is striving to evolve, there are three key values of life that you will find necessary to adopt.
These values are to be taken up and practiced at the three levels of your personality—your intellect, emotions and body. They are truthfulness, non-injury and self-control respectively.
Values #1: Truthfulness—the ability to live up to our ideals
We know that to be honest and speak the truth is truthfulness. But there’s more.
We are all convinced of certain ideals in life. These are what we consider good, right and true for us. Truthfulness is the ability to act upon those ideals or convictions under all circumstances.
For instance, if we value honesty, we need to live up to that ideal at all times. However, we often compromise on our ideal. When the truth will give others a bad opinion of us, deprive us of something that we want or if it is inconvenient, we often tell a lie.
When we lie, an inner split occurs between what we know as truth and what we do. This shows up as anxiety and fear of being found out. It gnaws at our self-confidence and self-esteem. Such inner agitations erode our will and courage of conviction to live up to face other challenges in life.
Honesty is only one example of an ideal in life. You may have big plans and ideals such as to raise awareness to prevent domestic violence, childhood poverty or gun violence. Or, your ideal may be something simpler and smaller such as never taking your work worries home at night, respecting and assisting your elderly parents, or saying a prayer of thanks before your meals.
Whatever be our ideal, as we stand by them through obstacles, difficulties or criticism, we are being truthful to them. Truthfulness cultivates integrity of character.
Values #2: Non-injury
Non-injury is to not cause harm to others. It is also often referred to as non-violence or ahimsa in Sanksrit. To curb our negative emotional reactions to what our intellect knows to be right and good is practicing non-injury.
Why is non-injury prescribed as a value to be practiced at the level of the emotions? The simple reason is that violence is an emotional response.
Harming another goes against what is good, right and true because we ourselves don’t want to be harmed. Consciously practicing non-injury helps us to develop a finer appreciation and sensitivity to the needs of others.
Ahimsa or non-injury is mostly thought to mean not to cause bodily harm. But we can also harm others at the level of our thoughts and words. Negative thoughts, even though unseen, travel to the person they are directed towards and create an underlying tension in the relationship. Unkind words can often be more painful and linger longer in our memory than physical hurt.
When we harbor feelings of anger, hatred or jealousy, they generate negative thoughts which translate into harmful actions.
Here’s a small scenario to illustrate this. Tim and Paula are competing for the same promotion at work. Tim gets the position, and even though Paula reluctantly admits that Tim is better suited for the job, she cannot help but feel jealous. She inwardly wishes that Tim performs badly and gets laid off. She purposely bungles her part in a project headed by Tim to make him look bad to the boss.
Spiritual masters everywhere fervently urge us to never curse or wish harm to anyone. This only backfires on us because we are sowing bad karmic seeds which we will have to reap and suffer for in the future.
Values #3: Self-Control
Self-control is a value that a seeker is asked to practice at the physical level.
Self-control does not mean depriving ourselves of the simple pleasures of life. Swami Chinmayananda tells us, Enjoy the world but let not the world enjoy you. Eat food but let not the food eat you. Drink, but let not the drink, drink you.
This quote explains that when we over-indulge in anything in life, including food, our habits harm us mentally and physically. This can come in the form of loss of inner peace and bodily ailments and imbalances.
Life is not meant only to eat, drink and be merry. Our human life has a much higher purpose than that. We are here to unfold the spiritual essence within us. We cannot stay focused on our greater goal if we dissipate our time and energies on excessive indulgence.
Self-control means being able to regulate and balance our activities and not allow pleasure-seeking to be our primary focus in life. Moderation is the key.
Cornerstones of a spiritual life
Truthfulness, non-injury and self-control are the cornerstones of living a spiritual life. The path to our spiritual evolution becomes clear and easy when we practice these three fundamental values of life.
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