Joining a spiritual organization vs. living within society
Some aspirants fantasize about becoming a residential (or monastic) member of a spiritual organization. They think that they will be allowed to practice/meditate for how long they want, do walking meditations every day, read all kinds spiritual books (not just those approved by the organization), attend private satsangs with fellow official members, have inside information regarding some techniques or special teachings, and all they have to do in exchange is a little bit of seva (selfless service).
Although this might seem like a good idea at first, it doesn’t happen quite like that most of the times.
Your initial reasons for joining a spiritual organization might be to live in an environment that’s conducive for Self-Realization 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Ideally, this would be provided by the organization in exchange for your help in maintaining it and expanding its reach toward sincere seekers. The highest purpose of a genuine spiritual organization must be to help you become Free.
However, more often than not, residential members can become enmeshed in bureaucracies, stipulations, and interpersonal conflicts and have less time for themselves, for their own spiritual practices, and for achieving their Freedom.
If the organization is actually run by an ego-less Master, that is amazing and extremely helpful. Yet, when it is led and directed by the ego-mind (even if it’s a subtle and polished ego), then it’s just a matter of time until the organization’s original motives become distorted (which usually happens a few years after the Master’s body passes away).
This is why Lahiri Mahasaya, the father of Kriya Yoga, was against forming organizations. They distract you from the practice and eventually, you end up worse than you would have been if you had remained by yourself.
My point of view is that it is the purpose of an organization that promotes itself as a tool for Self-Realization to help all its residential members and provide fertile ground for their own deepening and Liberation. Obviously, one should not avoid or escape from one’s responsibilities, but there must be enough care, attention, love, and openness so that each aspirant gets what he or she needs the most for his or her spiritual growth. The use of force, imposition and so on are not useful tools in a genuine spiritual organization.
Walking the spiritual path while living in society is the new way for most aspirants, and this is actually a good thing. Such a live comes with many challenges, obstacles, and distractions, but here’s the kicker: those are all to make you stronger. To make you desire Liberation even more. To make you inquire deep within. To devote yourself to your spiritual practice and to your own Self. There’s really no need to become a residential member of a spiritual organization. That can easily become a detour or a distraction that makes your spiritual path harder.
Be like a lotus flower
Be like a lotus flower: despite being born in muddy and murky waters, it rises above darkness, with an absolute stainless core. As the pod surfaces above the water, into the fresh air and bright sunlight, it frees itself from the dirty water below.
Be where you are now. No matter what your job, responsibilities or current life situation is—it has all been designed that way to help you reach your inner depths quicker. Change is also part of the process. Allow it when it happens.
Above all, live a mindful life. Be aware. Being aware is a powerful door to Enlightenment. And most people have no idea the difference it makes. In truth, it will change your life.
Are you ready to be truly aware? Are you ready to be awareness itself? You can’t avoid it. It’s who you are.
What are you waiting for? Recognize this Truth right now!