The Importance of regulated spiritual practices

Dear readers,

It is a pleasure to share with you all yet another interesting topic. I hope you all are faring well.
This week for a change I felt we take a break from the Love series and discuss something else. The love series is definitely a topic to revisit and with time we shall do so. Like I always say, there is a lot to talk about but we have very limited time and thus we have to manage accordingly. The topic at hand is the importance of regulated spiritual practice.
When the word regulated comes to mind, many people may begin to see rules and regulations and are not so “inspired”, because generally people want to be “free”. More so,when we place spiritual practice next to the word regulated it becomes even harder for many to follow. So how can we encourage people to try to adapt some regulated spiritual practices according to their faith and religion?
First and foremost, people have to understand the reason why they have to engage in such practices. If you do not know the “why” of what you do, soon you will be searching for alternatives, because the conviction is not solid enough. The ultimate reason for engaging in regulated spiritual practices is to attain the Supreme Being. For us to attain the Supreme Being we have to be able to serve him with love and devotion, and this is best when done spontaneously, without ulterior motives. However before we rise to the level of spontaneous spiritual practices imbued with love and devotion, we have to go step by step through a series of regulated spiritual practices. So what are some of these regulated spiritual practices? I must say they differ according to faith and religion.
For instance, regulated spiritual practice for a catholic will be; rise in the morning, freshen up by taking a bath, attend the morning mass, during day recite the rosary and after work hopefully, one attends the evening mass. Along side with these, the practitioner should observe the lent fast, pray to the saints and observe days ascribed to them, go for confessions and be actively involved in the church activities. Muslims have a different line of practices and in fact one cannot call himself a muslim if he doesn’t observe the five pillars of Islam; Observing ramadan, doing namaz daily, going to hajj at least once in a life time, etc. For gaudiya Vaisnavas, rising early before sunrise, offering prayers to one’s spiritual mentor, chanting or reciting a fixed number of the Lord’s name daily, residing in a sacred place, reading the scriptures, engaging in daily worship of the Lord’s form, etc.
In brief, one can see that all these practices have one sole purpose irrespective of the religion and that is constantly remember the Supreme Being day in day out. The only way to remember someone constantly is to always talk about the person and always call him/her. Thus wether by praying on the rosary, the japa mala or the tasbhi,the goal is to remember the Lord. One may wonder so if I dutifully follow these practices according to my faith, does this guarantee that I can become spiritually advanced? The answer is Yes, provided that the aim is to please the Lord and provided one keeps away from offenses and sin. Initially every spiritual practitioner who is new to a spiritual path, may find it somewhat difficult to keep up with these practices, and some may even quit, backslide or “bloop”.
However with time, practice and determination the new practitioner soon masters these regulated practices and rises to a level where he does all these activities not because he is told to do them, but because he derives inner spiritual bliss from doing them. It is at this point he begins his journey into the amazing world of spontaneous spiritual practice imbued with love and devotion. Some people may still argue about the importance of having a regulated spiritual practice and keeping to it, and even go as far as saying that “God doesn’t need all these things and all he wants is love”. Fair enough, they are correct to an extent, but the question is how can you love someone you don’t know, someone you don’t talk about or even speak with (in prayer, which is also a part of regulated spiritual practice), or someone you visit once a week be it in church, mosque or temple?
Regulated spiritual practice is the “training” we need to become “professionals” in the matter of spirituality. Just like we marvel at how a famous footballer dribbles the ball past many defenders and scores a goal, we must also remember that he must have gone through a lot of training and practice, even beyond the required minimum before he achieves such level of perfection. You don’t become a professional footballer by just loving the game and go to the field once a week. However, if one submits himself to a coach, and goes through a regulated series of training then one may aspire to become a professional footballer. Similarly, if one hopes to advance on the path of spirituality one has to go to a spiritual mentor, and apply himself to regulated spiritual practices.
One amazing yet funny fact in thinking that one doesn’t need to follow any regulated spiritual practice and yet still become advanced is that, we insist that people get trained in physical matters that can often be seen, yet we object for training in spiritual matters that elude our physical understanding. No one will allow a “quack doctor” who is self trained, with no history of study or practice under a qualified tutor, to operate on them. Then why do we lower the standards in spirituality which requires even more attention to detail.
I shall let you all reflect on these matters and next week we shall take it up a notch. Till then read, reflect, and follow for more.

NB: The photo used is not mine, so all credits go to the owner.

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