Sunday, January 18, 2009

37.Stages of spiritual development (fifth installment)afnta, afnta-questforallah, Allah, God, love for God, quest

For continuity, please read posting 36 first

We were talking of stages. Whole of second stage and third stage is like this. Up and down. Your sessions are not good. There is no progress. You feel restless and depressed. Nothing gives pleasure. Separation from God is killing you. You want to be united with God, even if it means death. One day dam bursts; there are torrents of rain (tears). Words are wrung from your mouth; "I want to be with You”. You feel calm. Inner turmoil ceases for a while. Contentment leads to sessions that lack bliss. This leads to restlessness. Inner turmoil worsens into despair, sadness and anguish. The fuel for another rain gathers mass. And lo! It rains. The whole cycle repeats with great regularity.

Progress in spiritual journey is never smooth. There are always mountains and valleys, except at the end, in the fourth stage, when great peace comes. All mystics have noted it. St John of Cross gives two frightening spiritual reasons for it, which I will describe later, in the dark night of the soul.

Let me quote from St Teresa of Avila, one of the greatest saints of all times, what Lord Himself had to say about it:

"Once He told me, by way of consolation, not to worry----and He said it very lovingly------for in this life we could not always be in the same condition. Sometimes I should be fervent and at other times not; sometimes I should be restless and at other times……tranquil. But I was to hope in Him and not to be afraid.”

(See sidebar; 'the life of Teresa of Jesus')

There is a difference between suffering and sorrow. One can suffer and be happy. Athletes torture their bodies in preparation. Students study hard till late at night and deprive themselves of sleep. They suffer but are content in their suffering.

In fact this is often the case for spiritual travelers. The more they suffer, happier they become. Body suffers but the soul is happy. What is the reason for that?

The reason is that the person is suffering for the sake of God and that makes the person happy. He may be in pain, or paralyzed, or hungry, or shivering with cold, but he has brought these discomforts upon himself by giving up everything for God. Money would have bought him medicine for his disease, clothes would have protected him from cold, and food would have assuaged his hunger.

Again, listen to St Teresa:

"….to know how much we are gaining by suffering for His sake! But we cannot properly understand this until we have given up everything; for, if there is a single thing to which a man clings, it is a sign that he sets some value upon it, it will naturally distress him to give it up, and so everything will be imperfection and loss”

Those who serve God are like "…. Soldiers who in order to win booty and grow rich upon it, are spoiling for war, realizing that without fighting they can never become rich at all”
( See sidebar; 'the life of Teresa of Jesus')

To be continued.

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