A spiritual life in a material world’. Most people are unable to reconcile the two. They think that in order to live a spiritual life, we have to leave this material world—the world we live in. But if we think about it, there is only one world that we all have—the world that we live in. Whatever has to be done, has to be done in this world.
We don’t have to leave the material world to live a spiritual life. Some people, who do try to renounce the world, who give up their family, who give up their possessions and go into a forest to live a solitary life, the life of a complete renunciate, find it a struggle to live a ‘spiritual’ life. So, what do we mean when we say, a ‘spiritual life’? What is spirituality, for that matter?
True spirituality is about discovering that we are not this body, mind and ego, we are the Divine Spirit. Spirituality is the way to eternal bliss, peace and joy. And this is what living a spiritual life is all about. It is not about ‘leaving’ the world, but ‘living’ in the world as the Divine Soul, who we truly are. It is not suppressing or expressing material fantasies, it is being able to transcend the mind and its wanderings, the body and its cravings, and the ego and its ignorance.
When we are able to transcend the body, mind and ego and live as the Divine spirit, the Soul, the Atman, then we start living a spiritual life. We don’t have to actually give up this material world. As long as we are alive in this body, we have to continue to live, to accept the Divine will, to surrender to whatever will happen. We must live with faith and forbearance.
We must realise that this world is nothing more than a stage, and life is nothing but a show, we are actors who come and go. While we understand that a dream is only a dream, we don’t realise that life is nothing more than a dream. The difference is that a dream gets over when we wake up, but the dream called life gets over when we face death.
Therefore, if we want to live a spiritual life, we must go in quest of the truth, we must take the help of a Guru, a spiritual master who himself has been trained by another enlightened being. If we seek God, if we seek purpose, if we seek the ultimate happiness, then we will be able to transform our lives, from that of the body and mind to that of the Divine Soul. Then we will be capable to live a spiritual life. It is definitely possible.
To be able to live a spiritual life, we also have to live with certain qualities. We have to imbibe qualities like discrimination, the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, between the truth and the myth. We must use our intellect, and not be ruled or enslaved by our minds.
We must be able to renounce our passions. Many of us are prisoners of our own desires and wants. We must break free from them. We must be disciplined, in control of our mind, senses, our cravings. We must realise that this material world of success and achievement can never give us true happiness.
Finally, there must be a deep yearning for the Divine. Our yearning for the Divine must be more than a miser’s yearning for gold, a lover’s yearning for his beloved, a child’s yearning for its mother that it has just lost. When we reach the state of being disciplined and we seek the Divine, we become a Yogi, one who is in Yoga, one who is ever-united with the Divine.
People don't know the true importance of Yoga. Yoga is not performing asanas (physical exercises) or practising pranayama (breathing techniques). It is being in coming together with the Divine. That is Yoga, be it through Dhyana Yoga or meditation, Bhakti Yoga or devotion, Gyana Yoga or education, or Karma Yoga or action. This is how we can live a spiritual life in a material world, and if one is a sincere seeker, it is most certainly possible. Remember, spiritual life is not so much about renunciation, as it is about Realisation—the Realisation of the truth.
The author is a spiritual leader and founder, AiR Institute of Realization and AiR Center of Enlightenment.