During the decades of my spiritual quest, I met many seers, scientists, gurus and the like.
Surprisingly, I found hierarchy in almost all places.
In a particular set of people, the beginners on the path wore only white. As they cleared the first stage, the colour of their clothes and the privileges changed. Only the Supreme Leader or Guru wore a white and saffron with some ornaments etc. They advocated that in the spiritual path there are distinct stages of self realisation. Only when you passed certain ‘tests’ you could move on to the next and so on.
What exactly is the truth about stages of spiritual development?
Is there a hierarchy to self realisation and are there exams which we have to pass?
Let us investigate from the scriptures.
As I have written in many posts, there is only One.
(The One singularity, the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, all knowing creator. There is only one.)
This single power, the superconsciousness is pure love and supreme. Nothing, not even void exists without this. We too are its essence. This supreme power lies within us, resplendent, sleeping.
“Dehi mein iss ka bisraam.“
(In the human body, it lies in slumber, resting.)
Therefore, the first deduction from this truth is that there cannot be a hierarchy or stages of spiritual evolution as we might say.
“I am spiritually higher than you,” is not the way divinity works.
Coming to scriptures. Yes, almost all scriptures do speak somewhat about stages of spiritual oneness. For example in the Sikh religion marriage is performed by taking four ‘lavans’ or rounds of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib while the four specific slokas are being recited. These slokas do speak about four stages of spiritual development and that in marriage as two souls unite, they must support and love each other so as to bring about self realisation.
However, none of these ‘stages’ are strict steps. You are not required to go to step 1 before you go to step 2.
The Universe is one large university. Here different experiences teach us profound lessons. Each one, good or unkind brings us closer to our inner self. I can choose to learn what I want to and what I might like to defer.
Hence there are people who can do Bhakti and different meditations for hours. Yet they may not possess adequate empathy. Then there are those who have never ventured on the spiritual path, but their characters and values are exemplary.
I remember a great seer telling me
“If inside of you exists deep empathy and perfect love, you don’t need to do meditation. You’ve already imbibed the image and likeness of the infinity.”
The conclusion is that, ‘yes’ there will always be some stages to spiritual maturity. Through life lessons, meditation, surrender, some tough times and some joys.
“Sahej pakae so meetha hoye.”
(What is cooked in slow fire becomes sweet as nectar)
However, these ‘stages’ are not numbered steps or school grades where you have to pass third before going to fourth. You have freedom to decide what you’d like to experience. Certainly you cannot claim to be superior to someone else. If you do, you probably will need some more lessons!
“Pehle maran kabool. Hau sabhna ki renkaa, to aaoo hamare paas.”
(Firstly, surrender to the divinity inside completely. As deep as death. Learn oneness to the point of being ‘dust unto people’s feet’. Then shall you experience my awakening and oneness with me).
Please interpret death, surrender, dust unto feet etc as allegory and not literally!!