The very fact that one has come so far depicts a blessing of the Lord. Without his grace we would not have reached the stage where we are even made aware of where we are on the path of evolution. Now that we are here, there is a navigator’s chart following which we can be reasonably sure to get closer to the state of perfection. The path has nine milestones – and the attempt of this blog is to introduce them to the readers
- Human Birth (nara-janma) Among the multitudes of beings present in the world, to receive the chance to be a human being is indeed a great blessing. This is because only as a human being one has the faculty of self-awareness to make choices on our responses to situations. All other beings are pre-programmed. We also are blessed to be able to follow the spiritual path or divine pursuits if we make a choice. Hence on our path to perfection, this is the first milestone. And if you are reading this – You are already here!
- Manhood (Pumstvam) Among the human beings, those born with masculine tendencies are even more blessed. Many of these qualities also come only by practice, not endowed simple by birth. It is only when we have these qualities of courage, constancy of purpose and steadfastedness that we can continue on our path to realization. The reference to manhood/masculine tendency is not with respect to one’s gender. Hence it should not be misunderstood as man being superior to woman. The reference is only with respect to temperament. If we are able to develop the listed masculine tendencies more strongly then we can safely assume that we have come to the second milestone in our path to perfection.
- Brahminhood (Viprata) The next milestone is to consistently display the sattvic abilities of brahminhood. These have been detailed in the Bhagavad Gita as the qualities of serenity, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness, uprightness, knowledge and belief in God. Brahminhood is a state of living, not a sect or something that is again endowed at birth. A person has to consciously understand and practice these qualities and live it. Only when one lives these qualities consistently can we say that we have reached the third milestone on our path to perfection.
- Steadfastedness in the path of Dharma (Vaidika Dharma Marga Parata) Many of us can somehow live our life as prescribed in the Vedas at isolated times in our life. But it is the steadfastedness to live it consistently that makes the difference between people who reach this stage of evolution or development. The path of Dharma is to be lived as prescribed so as to develop purity of mind and single-pointedness of intellect. Once we are able to have a pure mind, a single pointed intellect – we can say that we have reached the fourth milestone in our path to perfection.
- Understanding this Knowledge of Vedas (Vidvattvam) People who practice the spiritual disciplines suggested can move on to understand the intent behind the practices. It is like the spirit behind the practice. Just knowing the spirit does not serve any purpose and just being disciplined also does not help. Hence a person should make an effort to get to the spirit behind the practices. Once a person does the practice with an understanding of the intent or spirit – the practice itself becomes more joyous and fruitful. When we start engaging in activities with a clear understanding of the spirit behind the action, we would have reached the fifth milestone on our path to perfection.
- Understanding the difference between Self and Not-Self (Atman-Anatman vivecanam) The next step in our journey is to understand the difference between the self and the not-self. The aim of the spiritual seeker at this stage is to understand the inert matter and the consciousness behind them. Once we become convinced of the difference between the two, we are on a fairly advanced stage of spiritual evolution. Once we reach this stage we would have reached the sixth milestone on our path to perfection.
- Direct Experience (Svanubhava) This stage of our journey has to do with experiencing the message that we intellectually understood in the previous stage. The direct experience of difference between self and not-self is a very highly advanced stage in our spiritual evolution because it brings about a great transformation in us. The moment we experience that we are not the inert matter that we are so attached to, we will look at ourselves and the world so differently. Once we reach this level, we would reached the seventh milestone in our path to perfection.
- Establish firmly the concept of Brahman and Atman (Brahmatmana samthiti) The next step is to experience the self at all times and also understand that it is the same self that exists in everything that is in the world. When one validates this understanding through experience, not occasionally but perennially – such a person is called Jivan-mukta or Liberated while Living! Even to have a self-realized or God-Realized person in our midst is our great fortune and blessing. Once a person reaches this stage, the eight milestone, we can safely say that this person is already a perfected being.
- Liberation (mukti) The perfected human being now has to wait for servicing his accumulated past desires or prarabdha, upon which the body drops dead and the soul escapes from the cycle of birth and death (called samsara). This complete liberation from samsara is reached only upon living a hundred crore lives intelligently. This is the final milestone on the path to perfection. Such a soul has no birth again and remains in eternal bliss.
All of us just by having been born has taken the first step. All that is left are eight more – and every journey however easy or tough begins with just one little step!