What is the greatest hurdle or discouragement for a traveller on the path towards God?
You might think, to sit daily, for hours,in a rigid posture, is the greatest problem. You might think that focusing the mind on a thought or a point , and not let the mind wander, is even more difficult. What about finding the time for meditation or prayer every day? For some, staying awake during meditation is very difficult. I can attest to this impediment.Even after eight and a half years, I often fall asleep. To continue meditation/prayer while sleepy is fruitless.
You would think that giving up the attachments to the world, like family (wife,children, parents),friends,wealth, lust, fame,power,must be the most difficult desires to forsake.(You might be under the mistaken impression, that one has to give up all these desires to find God. Actually it is not true that you have to give up all these things, but you do have to detach yourself from ALL these things. Nothing is to be left except God ).
Are these insurmountable tasks? Yes,close to it. That is why so few take this path, and even fewer succeed .You may have heard the words from the Bible "Many are called but few chosen"(Matthew;22.14)
And,yet,there are,still,at least three more serious problems:
One of them is to find a competent teacher ( variously called "guru","murshad,"pir",etc).It is impossible to state the difficulty of finding a competent teacher(who would accept you as a disciple),in almost all countries except, perhaps,India. Without a teacher,it is impossible for an ordinary person to succeed. Some truly amazing persons like Maharishee Ramana (see the sidebar,"A search in secret india") realized God by themselves,but one has to wonder if they were pre-selected from the beginning by God.In Islamic spirituality ( also called Sufism)to find a teacher is even more difficult, because most often such mystics hide there spirituality from public. Nobody knows about it,except some close associates,or other Sufis.
Another hurdle on going on this path is the lusterless nature of the path, and lack of material benefit at the end ( I have used the word "end " for lack of a proper term. In fact there may be no end or destination,as the terms generally implies.To travel on this path is in itself the destination ). Rather, pain and suffering,may be the hallmark of existence for initial several years or decades of life (mixed with ineffable joy).Why would, then, any sane person want to travel this path? Specially,as sometimes, one cannot tell anybody one's achievement. One may have remained a recluse, and might have neglected one"s duties to society (wife, children,etc ).If one does not contribute to the society,should'nt his/her life be considered just a waste?
To me,the greatest source of despair and depression has been the lack of notable spiritual progress. You would think your Master will someday look down and acknowledge your efforts. But no such luck. All yours tears, all your begging, all yours prayers,remain unanswered, As if there was nobody on the other side.As if you were talking to a blank wall or arguing to a vending-machine.
This worthless mote is not unique.The great saint,Brother Lawrence,was not granted a bit of consolation in the first ten years( I may be forgiven for mentioning this nothingness in the same breath as Brother Lawrence ). He himself noted," It seemed to me that creatures,reason, and even God Himself were against me ......."(see the sidebar,"The practice...")
If all that I have mentioned is true,you may ask, then, what propels people towards this path.I will try to answer it sometimes.