Imagine that a priceless treasure lies buried in the ground covered by centuries of thick forest growth. Legends about its immense worth abound in the natives living in that area. It is said that those who find it will achieve everlasting happiness and peace
In a similar way, there lies deep within each and every one of us, an exquisite spiritual essence that has been long-forgotten and covered by lifetimes of living in ignorance of it. The spiritual traditions and masters of the world have spoken of it. They tell us that re-discovering that essence will bring a magnificent inner expansion in consciousness. We will drop our identification with our limited bodies and minds, expand, and come to realize our oneness with the spiritual essence in all creation. All sense of limitations and worldly sorrows will vanish as we gain permanent peace and happiness in life. This is what being enlightened means.
Since enlightenment is an inner realization, there is no need to go anywhere or do anything to gain it. It is who we already are – it’s just that we have just forgotten it and searching for it outside.
3 Mental Impediments to Enlightenment
What’s standing in our way of reclaiming our divine spiritual essence? Vedanta, the spiritual science of life, explains that there are three impediments, and they are all in our own mind.
They are our mental impurities, agitations and veiling.
Let me explain them with another analogy.
Imagine your mind to be a lake. At the bottom of the lake lies a beautiful diamond. But, you can’t see it or know it’s there because:
1. The water is very muddy (It has impurities)
2. The water is choppy and disturbed (It has agitations)
3. You don’t know that it is there. (Its presence is veiled from your knowledge)
To uncover and reclaim our innate divinity, we have to find solutions to overcome each of these obstacles to our perfect happiness.
Mental Impurities – 6 in 1
Let’s start with the mental impurities. These are:
- selfish desire
- pride or conceit
Actually, these are not 6 separate things but expressions of only one thing – selfish desire. Here’s why…
Anger is desire that is hampered by something or someone. Let’s say Dan is an ambitious real estate agent. He’s been working on selling a very expensive property to a large company which is looking to expand its operations. Talks have been going on for months and he has high hopes to make a fat commission from this sale. But, at the last minute, another agent strikes a deal under the table and snatches the sale away from Dan. He is furious! Dan’s anger is an expression of blocked desire.
On the other hand, when desire is repeatedly fulfilled, it leads to greed. If Dan made that sale and continued to make more lucrative sales, he would become rich and chances are, more and more greedy. Greedy Dan may start think that money is the source of happiness in life. Vedanta calls this wrong thinking, ‘delusion’. So, greedy Dan becomes Deluded Dan. Deluded Dan develops conceit and becomes arrogant. Then, if someone has more than him, he becomes extremely jealous.
There you are – the six types of mental impurities within each one of us. Since all six are nothing but selfish desire in another form, the anti-dote is to perform selfless actions Selfless actions and daily duties dedicated to a higher cause, ideal or God, prevent the impurities from becoming a part of our character.*
A mind that has mental agitations is one that is easily distracted, moody, wavering, excitable and restless. Think of that choppy lake – it cannot perfectly reflect the sun on its surface because the water is constantly moving.
Since such a mind cannot stay focused on a particular thing for long., the remedy is to train the mind to be focused and concentrated. This can be done by learning how to slow down, being quiet and mindful, doing meditation on a specific mantra or form, and any other exercise in concentration. This trains the mind to remain balanced and calm.
Mental Veiling – Not-Knowing our True Self
Once the mind’s impurities are reduced though selfless, dedicated actions and we train it to be steady, we are ready for the next thing on the path to enlightenment – lifting the mental veiling.
In the example of the mind-lake, the diamond that lies unknown to us, is similar to not-knowing our spiritual essence. What needs to be gained is then, knowledge about our spiritual essence – what is its nature, where, why and how to find it.
To lift mental veiling the mind has to be led towards spiritual studies, reflection, contemplation and meditation. These practices require mental purity and discipline which we are ready for only after we have reduced selfish desires and made the mind calmer through practices that increase mental focus.
Enlightenment is our Destination
In a nutshell, this is the path to enlightenment. It’s not an easy path and there are no shortcuts. It requires sincere and keen self-application, faith, patience and fortitude.
The river of our life is flowing steadily, seeking oneness with the sea. Whether we are purposefully swimming towards our goal, or simply holding on to a floating log and getting beaten by the rocks along the way, we are all moving forward. It is our destiny. It’s just a matter of time.
*You can read my articles on the right attitude to perform selfless actions and daily duties here:
How to use your everyday actions to grow spiritually.
Detach from Outcome and be Happy now.
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