For most people, the path to enlightenment means living a spiritually oriented life while remaining fully engaged in the world. A select few withdraw from everyday life, take vows, and give up worldly possessions to become enlightened.
Vedanta, which guides the steps on our spiritual journey, says that regardless of which path you take, the key to success is to find and align yourself with your Dharma, or true purpose in life.
Your Dharma is the path that is most suitable for your growth and evolution. However, in today’s world, it’s easy to become distracted. The ego is always testing you. You’re surrounded by peer pressure and bombarded by social media telling you how to live your life and creating doubts about your choices. This can lead to confusion, misguided attachments and expectations, a lack of self-worth, or simple laziness and doing nothing.
“It is better to do your own Dharma even imperfectly, than someone else’s Dharma perfectly,” Krishna says in the 700-verse Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita.
This implies that, even though you may sometimes stumble along the way, it’s important to live in your own truth instead of trying to be someone or something you’re not. Vedanta says that when you’re in your Dharma, you receive support from within. This means that you develop an inner knowing, your life becomes less of an effort, and your actions become spontaneously correct both for yourself and for the world around you.
Even though Vedanta is part of an ancient tradition, its principles are still relevant in today’s world and can lead you in the direction of happiness, harmony, and, ultimately, the knowledge of who you really are.
Vedanta’s path to self-knowledge involves its core principles that can translate into actionable steps in today’s world. Follow along to learn how these ancient teachings can apply to your life.
The Six Treasures
Vedanta gives us these core principles to propel us on our spiritual journey:
- Discipline of the mind is the ability to remain calm under any circumstances. Begin to recognize that you are the “role player” in the midst of all the roles you play every day. You can enjoy all the drama, passion, and intrigue of the roles, but knowing that the role isn’t you, enables you to remain centered and focused.
- Discipline of the sense organs means choosing what to take in from the world around you. Be aware of what you are putting into your body, what you eat, watch, and listen to.
- Let go of worldly longings and repeatedly desiring the same things over and over. Instead of running after what the material world can provide, look for the happiness that’s always inside you. Learn to be grateful for everything in your life.
- Endurance is the ability to tolerate what you cannot change and the patience to wait for the gifts that are heading your way.
- Faith in the wisdom of the teachings, your teachers, the Divine and, most importantly, in yourself. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to say, “When doubts arise, first doubt the doubter.”
- Mental equilibrium is when your attention is on what you are seeking. Whenever you realize you have been distracted from your path, gently bring your awareness back to your goal.
Our thoughts constantly take us into the future or the past; this is where most people spend their lives.
To be aware is to be present, to live in this moment, or the now. To be aware is to always keep coming back to what is happening now.
Begin to witness your thoughts, emotions, actions, and the world. During the day, when you’re eating, walking, and working, pause and ask, “Who is listening? Who is watching? Who is tasting?” and so on. Notice yourself as the silent witness of every aspect of the moment.
Discernment (Correct Choices)
Everything in life is a choice. Your choices create the life you live. When you allow the ego to control your choices, you live in lower vibrations. You grow when you choose love, forgiveness, compassion, and truth. Discernment means to choose wisely. First, be aware that there are choices, and then choose consciously. Become the conscious choice-maker.
The subtlest level of discernment is to ask the heart for guidance, so your choices come from love and not fear. When you ask, “What would my Higher Self do?” you will always be true to yourself. When you choose light over darkness, the whole universe is there to support you.
Deepak Chopra has suggested four soul questions, which can helpful you with discernment:
- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- What is my purpose?
- What am I grateful for?
Ask yourself these questions silently before your meditation or in a quiet time. Ask and listen to whatever answer comes, without judging or evaluating them. These questions will begin to shape your true soul profile, leading you in the most evolutionary direction.
Learn to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding your true self. Attachment is limiting; non-attachment allows you to step into infinite possibilities. Non-attachment allows you to pursue your spiritual journey without being distracted by the pains and pleasures of the everyday world. You can have desires, but try to be detached from their outcome. Trust that the universe knows best and will always provide the best solution.
The ego is always waiting to distract you. The closer you approach self-knowledge, the more powerful the distractions become. To be focused on the path of self-knowledge requires you to be one-pointed and focused without being rigid. It requires you to stay alert, unemotional, and mature. It means to be firm without oppression, to be resolved without judgment, and to be strong with humility. It requires you to practice silence and stillness so grace can reveal itself, and, when things don’t seem to be going your way, to realize there’s an even greater opportunity waiting for you.
Transcending thought is the most powerful tool to take you beyond the grip of the illusory world and give you a direct experience of who you are. Truth becomes the foundation of your everyday life when you integrate your inner and outer experiences and your limited world expands.
Spend time in silence every day as part of your spiritual journey. Find a meditation practice that suits you and enjoy it daily.
The Desire for Liberation
The desire for liberation is a yearning to be free from the prison of conditioning that you have created for yourself. Before you can reach this stage, you have to want self-knowledge above all else.
Remember that what you put your attention on grows. At first, you might get distracted. Over time, the things that no longer serve you will gradually fall away.
When you know your own self, you realize the truth. When you reach this stage of realization, you will radiate your light and divinity for all to enjoy. There is no need for choice in the regular sense because all your actions are in alignment with natural law. You can neither harm nor be harmed. You become aware of the limited, localized value of the senses at the same time as the non-local Supreme value, “in the world but not of it.”
Happiness becomes bliss, separation becomes wholeness, and your feminine and masculine qualities merge. You realize your oneness.
You can never be free entirely on the earthly plane, but you are always free on the spiritual one. Vedanta cannot show you the absolute because we are that already. However, it can help you remove the veils so that enlightenment reveals itself. You just need to step out of the way and let it happen.
Remember who you are, forget all that you are not.