I have been a spiritual enthusiast for 25 odd years now. In all these years of dabbling and deep dives (of various degrees at various times) in this larger-than-life world, I have time and again seen a trait with glaring clarity. In myself. In others. In most of the spiritual world. What I call Spiritual Lop-sidedness.
I define Spiritual Lop-sidedness as ‘going over-board with spiritual concepts and technologies to cause or justify imbalance in the relational and material areas of life’. Typical examples include too much attachment to a philosophy, guru/teacher, organisation, rituals and practices that it causes one to turn a blind eye to one’s human needs, family, and sources of money.
LIFE AS A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL PHENOMENON
Life is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. At the risk of some over-simplification, I choose to divide life into three realms – Personal, Relational and Material.
To put things in perspective,
1. Personal Realm: This includes a person’s health, interests and spirituality.
2. Relational Realm: Here we move from the personal to the inter-personal. So this includes our social connections, our family bonds, our marriage.
3. Material Realm: The material realm is in some ways an extension of the inter-personal realm. It is nourished by delivering value to a large number of people, directly or indirectly. It is primarily about the creation and sustenance of money and resources.
Interestingly, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is a progressive journey from personal realm to the relational to the material realm (regardless of what traditional religions make us believe). For the simple reason that in many ways the challenge deepens as we go from personal to relational to material and set intentions in all the areas. And each of us is only as good as the size of our challenge. A multi-dimensional man takes this challenge heart-on.
A MULTI-DIMENSIONAL MAN TAKES THIS CHALLENGE HEART-ON
Back to our discussion on lop-sidedness.
THE OVER-SPIRITUALIST’S CURSE
Now the bug that often bites a spiritualist is a fairly obvious one – over-investment in his spiritual side (which is a sub-set of his personal side) to the exclusion of other areas that we saw earlier. And he is generally convinced of his stand to a point that he would have enough plausible-sounding reasons to invalidate any sense or meaning in a multi-dimensional life that we depicted earlier. But before we touch upon this rather sticky attitude of an over-spiritualist, let us look at at least five other deeper traits that he tends to possess (and should strive to overcome).
1. He almost sees his inner bliss or inner growth as the only priority
Bliss is beautiful. I have meditated upwards of 10,000 hours in my life to appreciate this fact. So, yes, bliss is beautiful. But making a case out of bliss is not. The bliss the spiritualist gathers from his spiritual practices should eventually be used to enhance the world around him in different ways. Sadhana (spiritual practices) should lead to Seva (contributing to the world) and Seva begins at home. He (and his family and the rest of the world) would do far better if he got this simple point.
2. He feels that the world is an illusion not worth bothering about
To me, this is a distorted understanding of the concept of Maya. The teaching of ‘Maya’ never implied that the world is something that your mind is conjuring up. All it implies is that the world is a reflection (and also an extension) of the Source within. The universe (rather the multiverse) is an expansion of God and not a distraction created by God to test your allegiance to God as an over-spiritualist is wont to believe.
Maya almost means that there is much more to the world than what is apparent (which invites us to dive deeper into it) rather than saying that there is no substance to the world at all.
“We live in a world of Maya, which means a universe of great mystery, magic, hidden dimensions, secret energies and occult forces. Most of these forces are beneficent, with a certain delight that can be found at the core of all that we come into association with […] The ignorant see only the surface of life and are content with a surface view of themselves. The wise take nothing for granted and always look more deeply, finding a vastness everywhere within and without.” (Dr. David Frawley)
3. He feels that the body is less important than the mind and soul
Well, so much for the very body which makes it possible for him to hold a belief against it. Obviously, the wellness of the mind and soul will percolate into the body and that makes working with the mind and soul a very important agenda, however that doesn’t give one enough licence to consider the body as second-rate to the mind and soul.
In fact, Haidakhan Babaji (aka Mahavatar Babaji) is quoted to have said:
“You must all advance by taking good care of your health. The fact is, only by taking good care of your health can you gain success. The fact is, if your health is not good, how can you do your service? Taking care of your health is as important as any of the other duties of your life. It is your duty toward your body. If your body does not work, how will you function and advance?” (Teachings of Haidakhan Babaji, January 9, 1984)
4. He feels that the purpose of life is to escape life (and its travails) through moksha
Well, again, the first thought that comes to me is that of betrayal: So much for a life that allows you the liberty of this thought. Besides, isn’t it obvious that we can’t run away? Research says that those get divorced to shy away from marital difficulties, have higher chances of becoming divorced should they marry again. Past statistics have shown that in the U.S. 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. A cop-out just looks like a cop-out, it is never one.
Escaping the wheel of birth and death (as ‘moksha’ is often defined) simply implies escaping the ‘wheel of becoming’. And you can never escape the wheel of becoming by making a goal of it (in the form of ‘moksha’), for the very goal will deepen your sense of becoming. And as a naturally corollary, It is not the desire to escape but an unconditional openness to life that can bring the ‘wheel of becoming’ to a screeching halt. And bring about your much-cherished moksha without looking for it.
5. He feels that relationships are impediments to his spiritual practices
This is as good as saying that existence went wrong when it created the capacity to relate. Or when it created structures (of relationships) within which relating can go deeper. Or that the value one derives from going deeper into one’s soul is necessarily higher than the value one derives from relating with another soul.
Two of the four famous happiness hormones – serotonin and oxytocin – are generated in the human body in the realm of relationship and have little to do with a spiritual practice. Isn’t that almost synonymous to saying that when it comes to your spiritual quest, the growth that conscious navigation through your relationships can bring could be mathematically equivalent to the growth that all your self-exploration and spiritual practices can bring?
So with that brief tour that explored (or should we say exposed) the booby traps of the lop-sided spiritualist, let’s come back to the three areas of a multi-dimensional life that we saw earlier. Isn’t it obvious that a man with this kind of an outlook – the one who sees bliss as the only priority, sees the world as an illusion not worth indulging in, sees the body as the lesser in the trinity of body-mind-soul, sees life as an opportunity to escape the travails of life, and sees relationships as obstacles to their self-realisation – would only end up damaging the physical, relational and material areas of life?
THE GAME-CHANGING FIRST STEP
Well until now, I have only been ranting about the problem as such and the way it infects many a well-meaning spiritualist. But what’s the solution?
The first step is to open up to the truth, the truth that his heart sees and not the beliefs that he has borrowed from various sources. Because after all, he is a truth-seeker. And his only commitment should be to the truth and not to the cherished beliefs that he holds, the beliefs that give him superficial comfort at the price of a lesser life. It helps to see how despite the seemingly wonderful trip, his life is yet lesser, it is similar to crap covered with whipping cream. The crap is about the unresolved anger, fear, grief, the developmental challenges, the sticky memories, the subtle prejudices, whereas the whipping cream is that of some soothing spiritual knowledge at worst and starry-eyed bliss at best. And totally acknowledging this duality in oneself is the first step. And a pretty game-changing one at that.
Acknowledging this split can begin the process of re-aligning with the areas of life that can do the genuine healing but that’s for some other blog-post. The purpose of this one is to come face-to-face with the split, with the lop-sidedness and the associated pitfalls.
I have made this mistake to some extent by taking time to acknowledge this split within myself but can say with sufficient conviction, that if only an over-spiritualist could honestly notice the chink in his armour, he is perhaps in a better position than many others to be able to lead not just a blissful, but also a full-throttle life that is deeply supported by spirituality rather than the one that is obsessed with it.
For a deep-dive to check the extent of spiritual lop-sidedness in you, take this quiz, assess your index of grounded spirituality and download for yourself (in the form of an e-book) a free actionable guide, that helps you step-by-step to beat whatever traces you have of lop-sidedness so as to bring spirituality to the service of life and not the other way round.