Questions by various friends, and Answers by Swami Nirmalananda, abbot of Atma Jyoti Ashram
Sometimes I wonder: Do I have to give up everything in my life? Is the solution to be totally secluded from the world?
The answer is Yes–but in your heart. Through meditation, all the clutter that we call "ours" begins to be cleared out of our hearts, and God begins to fill in the "empty" spaces. After a while we will always be alone with God, no matter what the body is doing. When we look at the lives of saints we find that their lives were usually filled with more activity than ordinary people, that they were more involved with "goings on" than was usual. But that was only the external situation. In their inmost heart they were ever with God. Therefore they never got "burned out" or "fed up" with all the whirl around them. For amidst it all, they were resting in loving communion with God.
Yogananda's guru said: "Everything in the future is bound to improve if you are making an effort now." If we fill our moments with the remembrance of God and meditate faithfully, everything else will take care of itself. There is no need to puzzle over the future. Just as in our growing up we automatically shed the ways of childhood, so as we grow interiorly the externals will adjust accordingly. However it is good for us to realize what the implications of spiritual quest may be. The secret is: those who are willing to pay the price, whatever it might be, and determine to do so at the beginning are usually not asked to!
I understand your perplexity in seeing how labyrinthine karmic implications are and the amazing nuances involved in the struggle for freedom. But it is very interesting: just after reading your letter I opened a magazine and found this quotation:
Do your best.
Leave the rest.
Angels do no more.
That is certainly the answer to all questions in life, spiritual or otherwise. The only "catch" being that we must be sure we really are doing our best.
What is the purpose of "spiritual practice"?
Everything is Consciousness, but when it is unmoving we call it spirit, and when it moves (vibrates) we call it energy. Spiritual practices are methods which develop the individual's consciousness and its potential states. That is, spiritual practice awakens, develops, and attunes the inmost consciousness of the individual. The basic intention of spiritual practice is to transmute the consciousness from humanity to divinity, passing through the infinite variety of evolutionary states that lie between those two poles. Since the process is direct and pragmatic, it does not manifest as externalized "powers" or displays. I do not mean by this that the aspirant does not experience change–but the changes are mostly internal and usually apparent only to the practitioner