No Man’s Land

When we take to the spiritual path, we can often suffer from a lot of shame and guilt. Every tradition sets high ideals and expectations in terms of thought, word and action. However, within us also remain the deep-rooted materialistic desires that we have developed over the years, many of which are opposed to spiritual ideals. Thus there is a moment-to-moment internal battle going on, a battle between what we feel impelled to do and what we know we should be doing.

We may walk away from the material world, philosophically recognizing the futility of the temporary pleasures that are on offer there. However, the spiritual world and all it’s fulfilment seem far away. Thus, aspiring spiritualists can find themselves stuck in a no man’s land. It’s a place from which we look back at the world and materialistic life and think, ‘I can’t go back there’, and a place from which we look ahead to spiritual life and think, ‘I can’t imagine I will ever get there’. So as pleasure-seeking entities, we become frustrated, neither enjoying material pleasure nor getting the higher taste of spiritual life. The ancient classic Mahabharata says that two types of people are happy: the first is the totally ignorant, and the second is the spiritually perfected. Anyone in between will feel unfulfilled to a greater or lesser degree.

However, for advancing spiritualists there is always incredible hope. They know that intense spiritual practice will purify their consciousness, free them from the bonds of selfishness, and allow them to experience the higher taste of spirituality. And sometimes, when the spiritualists do slip up, they feel guilt and shame at having failed. However, that shame and guilt does not debilitate them and stop them from advancing toward spiritual purity and bliss. To become hopeless in spiritual life is what a no man’s land actually is, where one is haunted by guilt, yet cannot make progress. That is very painful to see, and it is something we should always help each other avoid.

(Special thanks to Tattvavit prabhu, one of our senior monks, who edited this post. His encouragement and inspiration has helped me continue my feeble attempts to write on the spiritual subject matter)

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