Thoughts on Discipline and Self-effort

Only that which is the result of self-effort, of hard struggle and of bitter experience is of permanent and lasting value. Only as the disciple – through failure, through success, through hardly won victories, and the bitter hours that succeed defeat – adjusts himself to the inner conditions, will he find the use of the Word scientifically and experimentally of value…Hence, I can but point the way. I may give but general hints; the rest must be threshed out by the student of meditation for himself.” (LOM, pg. 60 AAB)

Few aspirants on the Path of Return think about the requirements and struggle needed for treading the Path seriously.  Many approach spirituality as a smorgasbord of various sensations through some form of temporary discipline that they place on their plate only to come up for another plate of different disciplines in a short span of time.  The idea of self-effort, or hard struggle and bitter experience doesn’t enter into their idea of a spiritual quest.  I’ve met so many who aspire in their minds but fail to want to aspire in actual consistent effort.  Instead they focus on temporary disciplines such as retreats or workshops.  Their goal is to feel great, happy, uplifted, and convinced of their own spirituality. In their minds they view themselves as ‘old souls’ and talk about their Soul even though they have no idea of what the soul is. Everything should be on their terms based on their en-JOY-ment of their experience.  The idea of strict regular discipline never enters into their thoughts except to reject it saying that in this day and age it’s not important.  This is microwave spirituality. Skip all the rules and past traditions, believing that pushing a retreat button will guarantee your awakening in just a few short weekends.  We live in a new age relative to technology which gives us information at our finger tips, physical comfort, and leisure time. The maladies of humanity have not changed, people everywhere are still selfish, self-centered, materialistic, racist, violent, misogynistic, and far from that holistic unity many new agers claim humanity is moving towards at this time.  Thus, the Ageless Wisdom is just that, ageless as its tenets address the human condition to transform them and in the end transform humanity.  People just want happiness and they’ve been conditioned for so long to believe that happiness can be purchased through some object or sensation. We’ve also, in the west, have been strongly conditioned that we must have freedom.  We hate restrictions!  Unfortunately, many who have some aspiration to spiritual knowledge view discipline as a form of restriction of our life.  We have not been conditioned to realize that one of the purposes of man is to be disciplined.  Most of us are unconsciously disciplined by society; daily we go to school, universities, and jobs and we have to dress accordingly and maintain personal hygiene.  This is all part of the disciplining of humanity.  Spiritual discipline is a conscious decision to engage in a particular life style to create rhythm and harmony in daily life.  It helps to keep the aspirant in tune with those greater forces that guide our lives.  If you create harmony in your life, then the chances of contacting diseases are reduced as well as accidents.  As an aspiring aspirant you come under different laws and your karma undergoes changes.  Therefore, spiritual discipline is very important and once fully embraced, becomes the Path itself.    

Discipline is strict in temples because the average monk or nun are not that spiritually advanced and need the structured temple discipline to keep their personalities in check and to remind them of their greater purpose.  Discipline is not just meditating once or twice a day but includes study, self-observation, tapas (super efforts), and service or karma yoga.  The purpose of spiritual discipline is to build a balanced consciously aware individual.  Spiritual discipline evolves as your aspiration increases and understanding goes deeper.  As you align with your soul and inner contacts awaken, discipline becomes the constant effort to maintain one’s alignment and soul contact, which has resulted in an inner harmony, fulfillment of purpose, and happiness. 

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