People often think of spiritual awakening as a grand event in life: ‘our third eye opening amidst Akashvani and Shankhnaad with gods showering scented rose petals on us, after which we miraculously acquire various divine super powers.’
Far from it.
For some, it starts silently. A gentle nudge, a soft arousal of the inquisitiveness within us. While for others, it is caused due to the shock of a sudden loss, betrayal or death of someone close to us.
We feel the awakening of the soul within us – gentle stirrings starting with Awareness. We become aware of something other than the mere workings of the mind and body. We question the established system. The purpose of our living. And our connection with the others around us.
Up until that point, one is living a purely physical life – equated to the deep slumber of the soul; wherein she has forgotten her true self. But ‘the awakening’ surely and firmly plants us on a soul-led path. While the former is an outward one(striving for material objects) and unconscious living, the latter is an inward one (striving for spiritual abundance) and conscious living.
It’s a mysteriously involuntary and gradual process. For some, it lasts for months, while for some, years. Even lifetimes.
Gradually, awareness leads to deeper and still deeper gathering of knowledge through words – spoken and written. The more we understand what soul-led life means, the greater reconciliation with life occurs. Earlier anxiety and stress makes way for peace and calm within. Struggle makes way for surrender. The most highly evolved souls ultimately begin seeing The Divine in everyone and everything – love for all, pervading their souls.
But the process of spiritual awakening is neither an easy nor a straight path. It is not as if we have to reach a destination. Rather, it is a way of life – a journey. Often, while on it, one goes through ‘the dark night of the soul’, where we question our old hidden beliefs, concepts and thoughts. The human mind is wired to fear and shun any kind of change. And here we are, trying to absolutely overhaul our subconscious mindscape! This change is not a pleasant one for us.
The process of spiritual awakening and inner transformation is immensely painful for the mind but absolutely essential for the soul to progress. First off, we are caught totally off-guard. We have absolutely no name for the problem that is causing this deep suffering within our heart. Outwardly, everything appears good. Even great. All we know of is, the symptoms – intense longing for ‘Home’, without a clue as to what ‘Home’ looks like; constant feeling of being an outsider on the earth – smiling, laughing and seemingly enjoying the company of others while inwardly, feeling devastatingly disconnected and lonely.
It’s an achingly lonesome journey.
What triggers spiritual awakening in people?
Some highly evolved souls come into this world with an already exceptional level of spiritual knowledge; for example Adi Shankaracharya who became a monk at the age of eight, lived a dazzling life full of high spiritual achievements and went back to The Source at the young age of 32! Such examples are few and far between.
Then there are those who are forcefully ‘awakened’ by their guru, reminding them of their higher purpose in life. For example, young Vivekananda was initiated on the spiritual path when his guru Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa placed his foot on Vivekananda’s chest. The young man immediately went into a deep samadhi from which he awoke with profound spiritual knowledge. These examples are, once again, rare.
But truth is, The Loving Divine is constantly calling His children. Even those who don’t belong to the above two categories. In the third category of people – to which, I feel, I belong – the souls are shaken out of their deep slumber by circumstances happening around them.
For me, the first reverberations of an eventual soul shake-up occurred when I was just eight. My paternal grandfather passed away. A deeply devout Ram-bhakt all his life, my dada ji was, for me, an awe-inspiring figure who was largely responsible for instilling love for God in me. Through his constant chanting of Ram-naam, relating stories of Lord Ram with utmost love and creating an ethereal atmosphere of love, bhakti and surrender to Guru, my dada ji had literally brought forth the river of spirituality in the family.
Losing my grandfather was a big blow to my tender heart. It was my first brush with pain, misery and loss caused by death. True to the way shown by my dada ji, all the elders of the family turned to God for solace…till eventually most everyone got busy with their daily lives…except me.
For me, the way was forged forever. Written in stone.
Inspired by my own father, who was an ardent and passionate follower of dada ji, I began chanting mantras, reading children’s books on God and like a Sufi dervish, would lose myself whole heartedly in dance while singing bhajans . My father, being deeply spiritual himself and with whom I had always felt a deep soul connection, played an instrumental role in showing me the inner path.
Years passed before the second earth shattering instance occurred. Without any warning, I lost my father. While still in his late forties, he suffered a massive and fatal heart attack. I was still in my teens. The Divine became my only solace during those painful years. It was during that time that I turned fully towards a soul-led life.
For those who think that spirituality makes us weak, I’d like to inform that from there on, my focus improved. And my study grades soared. As did my self-confidence. My college terms saw me getting exceptionally high marks in all the subjects. That is the power of spirituality. It is the key that opens massive doors of success – both outer and inner.
The third turning point in my life, and an even bigger one, was when I was initiated as a disciple by my present living Master. I consider that a truly trumpet-blowing, flower-showering, ‘Akashvani and Shankhnaad’ moment of my life. The Divine was clearly calling me Home. I was overjoyed.
Much happened later in my life which saw me on a magical up-and-down road of spirituality – my soul’s chosen path.
To quote Robert Frost:
“ Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”