Discerning Illusions in the Spiritual World

Discernment on the spiritual path is different than judgment. Judgment is a reaction or belief about something external. Discernment takes stock of the external thing and sees how it assimilates internally- it’s experiential. It asks, “Is this true for me, given my experience?”

Judgment detaches us coldly & closes our hearts. Discernment lets us detach lovingly and let people be who they are while we open our heart to ourselves, do our own self-study and develop self-trust.

Even the most spiritually advanced people have to learn this lesson. Here is a quote from Gail Tredwell, a woman who devoted 20 years of her life being the personal attendant to a famous guru (Amma the hugging saint) and discerned that the role was unhealthy:

Radhanath Swami, coordinator and founder of the Radha-Gopinath Ashram in Mumbai, India wrote in his book The Journey Home, about an instance in which he had to discern what a true guru is.

On the banks of the Yamuna river at 3 in the morning 4 well dressed young men brought him to their revered guru, an older man who invited him to sleep over at his temple, and to share his bed. Needless to say it turned aggressive and creepy and Radhanath Swami had to make an escape.

In every spiritual path, there are those who are true and those who are false. Saintliness is not determined by one’s title, dress, hairstyle, or place of residence. This man, for example, had the title of swami, a shaved head indicating he had renounced worldly pleasures, and the robes of a sadhu. He was a scholar of scripture, the high priest of a temple, and the guru of many disciples who revered him. Yet he’d tried to exploit me to satisfy his own carnal desire.”

Radhanath Swami, The Journey Home

Bhagavan Das, the first westerner to meet Neem Karoli Baba, lived in India for several years and lived the sadhu life for a while. He discerned that you don’t have to travel to far off places to find God. In his book It’s Here Now, he writes about he actually became more enlightened after returning home to the US and befriended a Native American named Little Joe:

There were many parallels between what I learned from Little Joe and what I learned from Neem Karoli Baba. If I had met Little Joe when I was eighteen, before I went to Asia, I wouldn’t have gone to India at all. I didn’t know such a being existed. The knowledge that I thought was unique to Indians on the other side of the ocean was actually here in the American tradition all along. This ancient, sacred knowledge has been preserved in the reservations on our own continent.

Bhagavan Das, It’s Here Now

One of the most effective deities to chant to for inner wisdom/ discernment is Shiva. Here is a Shiva chant by Bhagavan Das.

This is post #5 in a 6-part blog series to recap insights discussed during dharma talks at Inner Warrior yoga studio in Louisville, KY.