In western traditions, you will find a clear wedge between spiritualism and materialism. It is not so in eastern traditions, especially in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Hinduism is rightly called a way of life, because it advocates a God centric life in which we are expected to integrate our materialistic and spiritual aspirations around a central purpose, which is attaining liberation (moksha) from the cycle of births and deaths.
Although Buddhism does not believe in the existence of God, it projects a way of life in which the practice of Eightfold Path is an important and essential component.
Both the religions uphold a holistic way of life, in which you are slowly and gradually drawn to spiritual life, while performing your obligatory duties and your day to day responsibilities.
Both the religions agree that until you are ready for complete renunciation, you should lead a responsible and virtuous life, preparing yourself for the next stage of your liberation.
It is not difficult to lead a holistic way of life, which is complete and in which you will have ample opportunities to fulfill both your material and spiritual aspirations. It is not necessary that to lead a spiritual life you need to become a monk or an ascetic.
You can be whoever you want to be and yet spiritual, because you can with some practice make it your essential nature. You may think that you are a physical entity, but as every religion declares you are a spiritual being.
To lead a spiritual life, you do not have to seek salvation in a faraway place. Although seclusion helps you stabilize your mind, you can create opportunities to create your own spiritual zone.
For the same reasons, you do not have to go to a forest or a mountain cave to find peace in your heart or find God. You can experience them wherever you are, through the things that you seek and the actions that you perform.
To live a life that is wholesome, spiritual and peaceful, you need awareness, sincerity, commitment and sensitivity to the deeper and not so apparent aspects of life. You should remain mindful and attentive to what happens around you and inside you. You have to train your mind and senses and change your mindset, so that you can discern the reality beyond the illusions.
Cultivate the qualities that are essential to lead a divine and holistic life. Holistic means, you consider every aspect of your personality, not just your mind and body to resolve the problem of your life and work for your salvation. In this regard the following suggestions are helpful.
Think deeply about your perceptions and experiences that matter to you most as they happen. It helps you to be reflective and cultivate deeper awareness.
Observe life and people without letting your emotions and judgments interfere with it to develop understanding, insight, intuition, and empathy.
Practice silence so that you can learn to use your speech wisely and remain secluded even amidst people and the world as and when needed.
Keep your negative thoughts under check and do not allow them to influence your actions and decisions.
Feel grateful for the very opportunity to be alive and experience life in all its colors.
Learn from your negative experiences so that you will become wiser and better.
Spirituality is a deeply personal subject. The purpose or the aim of spiritual life is to become free from whatever that holds you in bondage and fear. Therefore, aim to free yourself from the illusions and shackles of the world and find freedom from them.
Today is a day to focus on achievement. What are the things I want to achieve? Success? Fame? Fulfillment? Wealth? Peace? Forgiveness? Whatever I want to achieve, I can bring into my life now. I bring my thoughts into alignment with my intentions. And my actions into alignment with my thoughts. Today, my thoughts and actions will be directed towards my goals.
I know that I did my best today to focus on achievement. Tonight I will rest knowing that I spent a productive day working towards my goals. Even if my achievements aren’t evident to others, I know that I continue to make progress on both the material and spiritual levels.
-From the book – A Daily Book Of Pagan Prayer by Megan Day
My feet do not falter, for they are kept upon the path of life through the power of the eternal spirit. Guide my feet; compel my way; direct my paths and keep me in your presence. My feet are guarded, and I am guided into the All Good. Divine Love guides my feet.
Life at the center of your being is a silent Power. Physical facts, form, and conditions are no obstruction to this Power. It flows through them and takes a new form in them. It remolds them. That which makes can re-make; that which molds can re-mold; that which creates can recreate. Remember, what you see comes from what you do not see. The visible is the Invisible made manifest. It is the Invisible caught in temporary form. every time you think, you are giving form to this Invisible Power.
The question arises whether any limit can be placed upon the possibility of the conscious use of spiritual Power. Theoretically it would seem impossible to place such a limit. The only limitation would be that which proceeds from lack of belief or understanding. The Spirit Itself must be ever present within us. If we could strip our mind of fear, superstition, and all sense of separation from this Divine Presence, approaching It quite simply and directly, we would probably be surprised at the results that would follow. In using spiritual Law, the one having the greatest faith obtains the best results.
I am surrounded by a spiritual Presence that responds to my word. Today I take charge of my thinking. Knowing that the Divine appears to each only as a measure of his own imagination, I enlarge the concept I present to It for fulfillment. I wait calmly and expectantly for new and greater experiences to come to me.
A flower has no purpose aim or motive in spreading its fragrance. It is its nature to be so and to do so. Be like a flower in the wind. Jayaram V
To be like a flower in the winds of life can mean many things, depending upon your thinking and expectations. To spiritual aspirants it may mean you have to be like a flower, sacrificing yourself with no expectations and with no clear advantage or benefit to you.
In many ways, it exemplifies the life of a renunciant (sanyasi). It is difficult, but not an impossible task to live that way. For over 6000 years it has been practiced in the Indian subcontinent by millions of ascetic people. The Buddha and Mahavira exemplified it in their teachings. So did numerous other ascetic traditions that originated in India. Their logic was simple. Desires made humans selfish. Selfish actions produced karma and suffering. The problem was therefore with desires. If you wanted to be free from suffering, first, you must be free from desires.
The renunciant path
For generations, people with spiritual inclinations and distaste for worldly life believed in this simple and straightforward approach to gain control over their lives and destinies. They went to great lengths to overcome their desires and escape from the problem of suffering. In extreme cases, some ascetic groups allowed their members to self-immolate themselves in fire to burn away the last remnants of their desires and attachments.
A true renunciant does not live with definite aims, intentions or purpose. He is a wanderer on the path of life, enjoying the moment, surrendering his will to God. He lives with deeper awareness, trying to make sense of God’s creation, and fully yields to the forces and elements of the world, giving up even the desire to live or the longing for life (abhinivesa). You can see in him how the five elements of creation come to life.
Like fire he burns his desires and attachments in the heat of detachment and renunciation.
Like water he remains flexible, adaptable, and humble, finding comfort in whatever space, comfort or discomfort life offers to him.
Like earth, he bears the burdens of life with incredible forbearance and allows himself to be trampled by the problems and difficulties of life.
Like wind, he breathes freely with no encumbrances in whichever way the winds of fate move him.
Like space, he extends his vision into the universe and embraces his identity as the infinite, invisible, universal, eternal Self.
However, living like a flower in the winds of life does not necessarily mean you have to live like a flower or a vegetable. You are a human, not a plant or a tree. Therefore, in a worldly sense it means you have to bring out the best of yourself and live accordingly. You have to manifest your essential human nature (manava dharma) or essential purpose, being genuine and authentic, honest to your core values, without being pretentious, and without leading a double life or trying to be what you are not.
Living and manifesting your dharma
In Nature most life forms live and act according to their dharma or natural, inborn instincts. They do not pretend or deceive, or try to be other than what they are, except as a natural instinct to survive or evade their predators. Even when they do it, they do so instinctually without being aware of its moral or spiritual ramifications.
Nature intends them to be natural and to manifest their natural behavior (prakriti svabhavam). A flower does not act like a tree or a tree does not act like an animal. It makes life somewhat predictable and bearable. Every living being strives to excel in being itself and fulfill the aims of natural evolution by being the fittest. If they do not fit into the pattern or fulfill their dharma, Nature will either discard them or evolve them into better species.
In case of human beings, the equation does not work the same way. Human beings can corrupt their essential nature by indulging in selfishness and desire driven actions. They can defy nature and serve their own ends. They can not only adapt to their environment but also manipulate it or modify it if necessary.
You have therefore a genuine problem with humans when it comes to their natural, human duties, which they are supposed to render in creation to ensure its order and regularity. As the Bhagavadgita declares, the self is the friend of the self and the self is the enemy of the self.
The triple alternatives
In humans, Nature manifests fully. They are endowed with both lower and higher natures. The gross, physical body and the senses constitute the lower nature. The mind, the ego, and the intelligence constitute the higher nature. Beyond them there is their spiritual nature or the eternal Self.
The lower nature is vulnerable to grossness, desires, passions, and natural instincts, while the higher nature gives them the ability to be self-aware, use their intelligence and exercise their discretion and judgment to control their thinking and actions. Depending upon circumstances, human beings have three major alternatives to choose from to shape their lives and destinies.
They can strengthen their demonic nature by acting according to their baser instincts and indulge in the worst of human passions, immorality, cruelty, selfishness, evil and lustful behavior. It usually leads to their increased grossness (tamas) and spiritual downfall.
They can strengthen their human nature by living responsibly according to their dharmas and playing their dutiful roles in creation to manifest the will of God and ensure the order and regularity of the world. It leads to increased happiness, peace and prosperity upon earth, while at the same time it may keep them worldly and bound to the mortal world.
They can strengthen their divine nature by stabilizing their minds in the thoughts of the Self, cultivating divine qualities through self-purification, and living according to the best of moral and spiritual values. It leads to suppression of baser human nature, detachment, desirelessness and transcendental state of self-absorption.
Thus, human beings have the freedom, the privilege, and the discretion to manifest their essential nature (dharma) according to their interests, desires and inclinations or according to the will of god. They can live like the Asuras, humans or gods and manifest the best or the worst of human nature. They can be guided by their lower nature, indulging in desires and passions or by their higher nature inspired by their values and morals. They have to possess the right discretion (buddhi) to make right choices.
The lower human nature is driven by desires. As the Buddha declared, which is also affirmed in almost every scripture of Hinduism, it is responsible for human suffering. If people want to be free from it, they should take refuge in their higher nature and live accordingly, cultivating virtues, restraining themselves and living righteously as modelled in the Eightfold Path or Jnana, Karma and Sanyasa yogas, so that they can simultaneously manifest the will of God, the intent of Nature, and the ultimate purpose of life.