Learning to be natural

A friend recently came to our early morning spiritual programme at the temple. At 4.30am every day, about fifty individuals from all walks of life come together for their daily spiritual workout – four hours of personal meditation, heartfelt singing, philosophical contemplation, and prayers of gratitude. While our guest appreciated the energy and the enthusiasm of every individual, they struggled with the structure and organisation of the programme; singing the same songs, chanting the same mantra, at the same time, while dancing in the same formations, and bowing down at the set intervals… seven days a week, 365 days a year! You could call it a holy boot camp! Shouldn’t spirituality be a little more spontaneous and natural? Why have such an instituted and rigid programme? Where is the room for personal expression and individuality? Why not allow one’s spiritual journey to take a natural course according to inspiration?

An initial regiment of basic learning is required in order to achieve the proficiency which facilitates natural expression. Let’s say you sit down at a keyboard to express your deepest feelings. Without some basic musical training (which can be extremely tedious and monotonous) one will struggle to express themselves in that medium. Say you wanted to communicate your deepest feelings in a letter, but you never learnt grammar, sentence formation, spelling or vocabulary – how would you communicate those inner feelings? So it’s not a contradiction to say that one must practice (often methodically and mechanically) to achieve naturalness.

Our spirituality is completely natural, spontaneous and personal. However, certain processes and patterns of behavior help uncover that dormant consciousness. Great spiritualists have documented and outlined a sensible process of devotional practice that culminates in divine love. Scientific, calculated procedure (in Sanskrit, sadhana-bhakti) leads to mystical individual spontaneity (in Sanskrit, raganuga-bhakti). Thus, while practices, traditions and rituals may seem like a spiritual boot camp, we can rest assured that such practice is leading one to pure spiritual individuality.

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