Alabdha-bhumikatva is the vikshepa where we are not able to attain the next stage or level in the spiritual journey, and anavasthitatvani is the failure to retain a stage once it has been given. There can be many reasons for these two obstacles. They may occur because of lack of interest, lack of determination, a feeling of impotency, or because we are not able to refine our character in order to maintain the spiritual level. Especially at the higher spiritual stages, such a profound level of humility, nobility of character and dependency on a capable Master are required. And acceptance and self-transcendence are vital for progress. We need constant help from the Master to refine ourselves in order to become eligible to enter and retain these stages.
How do we work to overcome these two obstacles? The first thing is to understand that our potency comes through our connection with the Source, with God, through the heart. Individually we are impotent islands, whereas once we are connected, our full potential is realized; we are connected to the Source of life itself. The easiest way to stay connected with the Source is to associate with a Master of the highest caliber, who can transmit the essence of pranahuti from the Source itself. The spiritual journey is only a way to expose more and more of that connection by uncovering the layers that keep us separate. Prayer and meditation are both ways we evoke and maintain that connection.
The easiest way to stay connected with the Source is
to associate with a Master of the highest caliber,
who can transmit the essence of pranahuti
from the Source itself.
The second thing is to understand that spiritual progress is not linear; it proceeds with a natural rise and fall. At each stage of the journey, i.e. at each chakra, point or knot, there is a sequence of experiences, which is beautifully explained by Ram Chandra in his books, Towards Infinity and Voice Real:
“On entering into every successive knot, there is a slight feeling of heaviness in the mind, on account of which people often discontinue the practice. But if we take into consideration that every attack of illness is followed by the restoration of good health, we will be better encouraged to attempt a crossing of the knots.”
After this heaviness comes “a peculiar state, awakening within the mind a consciousness of the divine force, pervading all over.”
Next, as we become more attuned to the new stage, we experience “a divine state prevailing everywhere, and everything absorbed in its remembrance.”
But this does not last. As we merge more and more with the new stage, there is “neither feeling of the divine force nor that of remembrance, but only a feeling of negation.”
Eventually, “everything is gone. No impression upon the heart, not even that of existence.”
So when we progress to enter a new chakra or knot, there will always be a feeling of discomfort and restlessness, just as when we move location in our worldly life there is change and upheaval. Only once we settle into the new environment does our consciousness open up to a higher level of awareness, and then we start to experience Divinity from that higher level. This is a joyful and blissful experience, and we feel that we have moved forward. If we continue to progress, we become so merged in that level that it becomes part of us, and then we lose awareness of its very existence. It is now in our subconscious mind, and there is only a sense of negation or nothingness remaining. Eventually even that is gone.
“Some days or weeks when you are practicing
the mind will be calm and easily concentrated,
and you will find yourself progressing fast.
All of a sudden the progress will stop one day,
and you will find yourself, as it were, stranded. Persevere.
All progress proceeds by rise and fall.”
— Swami Vivekananda
But there is a trap in this cycle. Generally we like the blissful “high” periods, and assume they mean progress, while we associate the stages of restlessness and nothingness in this sequence with a lack of progress, or even a regression. We become disheartened without understanding the bigger picture.
Attachment to bliss can be a big hindrance for us: When we feel so blissful, we want to live in that state forever, and the idea of moving away from bliss often creates resistance. There is the possibility of infinite expansion at each chakra, but it is horizontal expansion. It is better to move even one inch into a higher dimension than expand infinitely at a lower level. That’s why it requires an effort even to move one inch, and most of us fail to understand the significance of that little effort in moving further.
Anything that annoys us in another person is
what we need to work upon in ourselves.
Without a noble character,
spiritual progress is of no use.
Swami Vivekananda describes it thus: “Some days or weeks when you are practicing the mind will be calm and easily concentrated, and you will find yourself progressing fast. All of a sudden the progress will stop one day, and you will find yourself, as it were, stranded. Persevere. All progress proceeds by rise and fall.”
So courage and faith are required to avoid losing hope and focus in this process. If we keep starting and stopping, nothing is possible, because our neural pathways need the automatism of regular practice to become so well established that our new level of consciousness becomes habitual, automatic, and subconscious. Why is there such a need? It is so that our mind is freed up to learn new things at a conscious level. Unless and until this habitual nature is established, any activity remains conscious and incomplete. Once it becomes subconscious, we have fully imbibed and become one with any spiritual stage. That is why it helps so much to have one goal, and to keep reminding ourselves that we need to reach that goal even if the journey is difficult at times.
But perhaps the biggest reason we are victims of alabdhabhumikatva and anavasthitatvani is our inability to change our character and behavior. As a result, we don’t retain a spiritual level even if a capable Master takes us there. Often we are not even cognizant of the character traits that pull us backwards. And even when we are, we may think that we have changed, but then a stressful situation takes us back into old habits again. This is such a common problem that nature, in her generosity, has given us each other as mirrors. We see this in everyday life: Anything that annoys us in another person is what we need to work upon in ourselves. Without a noble character, spiritual progress is of no use. Swami Vivekananda has described it beautifully: “Stages do nothing at the time of death. Moderation is required and that is lacking everywhere. Spirituality alone can do nothing. It must go side by side with morality.”
This aspect of psychology is why Yama and Niyama are the first two steps in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. Yama is the removal of all unwanted qualities, and Niyama is the integration of noble qualities in the refinement of our lifestyle. And in Heartfulness we have so much help with both these steps. Meditation allows us to introspect and evaluate ourselves. Cleaning removes the root samskaras that result in behavioral habits and tendencies. Prayer gives us a way to connect with the Divine and submit our weaknesses and faults so that we can change. Every day we can recalibrate and follow a path of continuous improvement. It is a simple solution to one of the most difficult problems facing human beings since time immemorial.
Article by KAMLESH PATEL
Kamlesh D. Patel
Kamlesh Patel is the world teacher of Heartfulness, and the fourth spiritual Guide in the Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga. He oversees Heartfulness centers and ashrams in over 130 countries, and guides the thousands of certified Heartfulness trainers who are permitted to impart Yogic Transmission under his care. Known to many as Daaji, he... Read more