Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda, “There are some people who have been in the spiritual life for many years who can not remember a time when God was not important to them—perhaps the most important thing in their life. But while most of us may have had an interest in God for most of our lives, we can mark some time in our life when we have felt a direct call to the spiritual life. Perhaps it was the meeting with a teacher, perhaps something we read in a book, perhaps a spiritual experience.
“In any case, the effect has been to make a profound change in our attitude to God. God has become more real. We feel uplifted, and naturally we would like to have more. We want to be with the teacher more, we want to read more, study more, or we want a repetition of the spiritual experience. And while, no doubt, there is merit in wanting more of the spiritual life, there is perhaps a time that comes when what we need most of all is more understanding than we previously had.
“The reason is that we discover that just being in the presence of the teacher more, studying more or having more spiritual experiences aren’t making a fundamental change in our being. We aren’t really progressing at a basic level. Therefore, we need to ask: What was it about the presence of the teacher or studying or spiritual experiences that made a difference in my life? If we examine it, we will discover that we seemed to be lifted away from the fears and desires of our individual self. We felt something grander, a new dimension entering into our being.
“We think that we can get that new dimension by having more darshan, more study, more spiritual experiences. But, in fact, through our spiritual practices we have to gradually lift ourselves out of the fears and desires of the ego and abide in a different realm. That is the purpose of all our spiritual practices. But is there a key? Lord Krishna makes it very clear. The key is taking refuge in Him alone. In other words, our spiritual progress ultimately will not depend so much on repeating what originally attracted us to the spiritual life or even our spiritual practices as in taking refuge in the Lord. Taking refuge in the Lord means that we depend upon the Lord. It means that we trust the Lord. It means that we cast all our burdens upon the Lord.
The Lord is our goal. He is also the way. We can call it surrender and trust, we can call it taking refuge, we can call it let go and let God. Whatever we call it, it has to be real. We can be in the presence of a teacher, we can study and learn a lot about the spiritual life, we can have many spiritual experiences, but still not be real. Being real is when, from the bottom of our hearts, we depend upon God instead of ourselves or anything or anyone else.”
Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh