This follows the
First Dharma, Step One:
Since time began, or at least the human species, the first step on the spiritual path has been ever the same. In essence it’s the first of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and its many spin-offs: the realization and admission that you’re not up to snuff, and are powerless to change it on your own steam.
AA itself was a spin-off of a Christian organization called the Oxford Group, whose charismatic crusade swept the world in the 1930s. It used the traditional Christian term for the first step: conviction of sin. The postmodern era is also post-Christian for many people, but anyone who’s serious about spiritual development has to accept that there is a timeless primal reality behind the concept which Judeo-Christian-Muslim religion labeled “sin”. You can think of it as the inherent imperfection of the ego, and in fact New Age spirituality recognizes that the ego must be surrendered, cast off, outgrown, or otherwise transcended.
There’s a big pitfall in this usage, however: it enables too many people to miss the point that the fault is in themselves. Some people take the ego to be some kind of abstract psychologism, and even question its existence. To clear up this mass evasion, you have to face the hard fact that the ego is YOU ~ it’s precisely what you identify as yourself. So the problem is you, what has to change is you. And since the ego can’t save itself from the ego, you are utterly helpless to do it yourself. Once you become convinced (“convicted”) of this humbling truth, then YOU are ready to surrender to something beyond yourself. Our term for this first step is self-conviction.
First Dharma, Step Two:
Surrender to Spirit
The trademark of life in postmodern times is that it’s guilt-free. People who still accept responsibility for themselves and acknowledge their faults are often mocked as repressed or neurotic or worse. This may be true in some cases, but it’s not nearly as bad as the mass pathology of amoral self-indulgence.
From this totally degenerate context, people tend to see self-conviction as a terrible burden ~ they fear it would ruin their self-esteem and subject them to endless torments of guilt. This in fact is the legacy of dogmatic religion when it’s divorced from the life-changing reality of Spirit. The truth is that there’s a literal miracle cure for guilt, sin, and psychopathology: spiritual surrender.
This sublime practice cuts across all bounds of time and space, creed and custom. Many of the traditional forms of spiritual surrender can be found side by side in the global village: Christians accepting Jesus as their personal savior, Hare Krishnas dancing and chanting the name of their sweet Lord, devotees of the many living masters receiving the blessings of grace/baraqa/shaktipat. All the names and faces of God and Goddess are conduits for this divine power, awaiting the simple act which opens a heart to receive it.
The true Source of it all is Spirit, the external-internal-eternal Presence. It’s right there all the time, but you don’t perceive it because YOU are in the way. It’s what’s always happening while you make other plans. As soon as you become willing to step aside, to jettison all your ballast, to let go of your self, your life, your goals, desires, attachments, everything ~ then suddenly you’ll realize your heart’s desire, the substance behind all those shadowy lusts and illusions.
Yet this giant leap is still but a single step; the hard part is to keep doing it. One of the best words for spiritual surrender is probably the oldest: bhakti, which means literally devotion. The goal of bhakti is to dwell in a surrendered state continuously, to master the art so that it becomes a way of life. This produces the deepest rewards, but the spiritual individualism that prevails today makes it virtually impossible to attain.
The most popular New Age gurus preach the self, and more self, and nothing but the self. They shrink in terror from surrender or devotion to anything beyond the self. In the name of spiritual development they hypocritically proclaim the death of all the Gods, and sometimes even the One God, leaving them in a world of frightened little egos, each striving in desperate isolation for enlightenment.
RamaSpirit is a communion of kindred souls who realize that their individuality can find its optimum development in a sodality, a spiritual community, in the same way that plants grow from a plot of soil. To worship the Sun does not diminish the plant, and this is our relationship to Spirit. The energy of the Sun is the inner essence of every living thing on our Earth, yet it comes from above, and is greater than all.
The flower can’t help but open to the light of the Sun when it’s time to bloom, but for human beings it takes an act of will to surrender to Spirit.