Effort is always required for the seeker who wants to attain enlightenment, but things get easier after we work hard for so long. If we want to achieve anything, we have to show some incentive and refuse to give up when things don’t seem to go our way, and as long as we stay dedicated, we’ll be rewarded for our dedication.
Our reward will come in the form of a greater perception, which we’ll have justly earned by the time we receive it. As we’ll learn here, some effort is necessary in the beginning of our quest for enlightenment, and the harder we work (and the more dedicated we are) the easier things will get over time.
Some of us try our best and make as much of an effort as we can, and yet, we still don’t seem to experience the fruits of our work. When this happens, the best thing we can do is detach, perhaps meditate, and evaluate where we’re at along the enlightenment path.
If we do, we might find that we still have some work to do before we can reach the flowing, spiritually vibrant state of mind we want. We might also find that while we’ve worked hard, there have been times when we didn’t embrace our path or do the work that’s required to reach the flowing state of mind that makes everything easier.
Dedication is as important as anything else when it comes to enlightenment, and we’ll want to stay consistent if our goal is to enlighten ourselves. Together with dedication, consistency will enable us to continuously practice the things that help us raise our vibration, and these two qualities will always be important for anyone who wants enlightenment.
Paramahansa Ramakrishna tells us that initial struggle is inevitable, but it gets easier in the long run.
“Always keep your mind on God. In the beginning you must struggle a little; later on you will enjoy your pension.” (1)
We “must be up and doing in the beginning”, he tells us. “After that one need not work hard.” (2)
He also tells us that power’s only given to those who’ve proven they can use it properly.
“He does not give one more power if the little that is given is not properly used. This is why individual effort and perseverance are necessary.
“Don’t you see, everyone has to make some effort, however small, before he gets God’s grace. When one does so, the experiences due to be undergone in ten lives will come to fruition in one, and man will attain to spiritual realization immediately. But one has to make some effort.” (3)
Commitment, dedication and consistency aren’t just fancy words that sound nice. They’re important to the enlightenment path because we can’t receive a greater power we aren’t ready to properly use.
If we distract ourselves with things we know don’t serve our growth or evolution, we’d misuse any greater creative or spiritual power Source could otherwise bestow onto us. Even though our creator’s responsible for bestowing this power, it isn’t given to us just because we seek it – we have to earn it.
We have to prove that we’re up for the tasks that come with a greater perceptual power, and while Source loves all of its creation, it won’t just give the power of enlightenment away to anyone. We’ll all eventually receive it when we’re ready, but we have to prove we can handle it before we can receive it.
According to Ramana Maharishi, “None succeeds without effort and the successful few owe their victory to perseverance.” (4)
Effort is actually a form of yoga, he tells us.
“Effort is necessary. In fact effort is itself yoga.” (5)
He also tells us how complicated true silence and stillness can be.
“Everybody, every book says ‘Be quiet or still.’ But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if you find one who has at once achieved the mouna (silence) or supreme state indicated, you may take it that the effort necessary has already been completed in a previous life. Such effortless and choiceless awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation.” (6)
With repeated practice, he tells us, we’ll get used to quieting the mind and looking within.
“By repeated practice one can become accustomed to turning inwards and finding the Self. One must always and constantly make an effort, until one has permanently realized. Once the effort ceases, the state becomes natural and the Supreme takes possession of the person with an unbroken current.” (7)
Even though Source and/or a guru can show the way, he tells us, we have to walk our own path, however unique or challenging it is.
“God and the Guru will only show the way to release; they will not by themselves take the soul to the state of release. … Each one should by his own effort pursue the path shown by God or Guru and gain release. One can know oneself only with one’s own eye of knowledge, and not with somebody else’s. Does he who is Rama require the help of a mirror to know that he is Rama?” (8)
We can only utilize so much external assistance before it becomes unnecessary, and at a certain point, we’ll have to get used to continuously looking within for a greater perception. There’s a lot of helpful advice from Maharishi and various other spiritual teachers that’s worth our attention, but we can only take in so much of it before it becomes necessary to find our own path.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with the advice various teachers have given, for example, because it’s only advice that’s based on their experiences with enlightenment. Granted, some teachers claim to be embodiments of Source him/herself, but even still, their perspective is theirs entirely and it doesn’t have to heavily reflect or influence our path.
I think we can employ a healthy balance between utilizing external guidance and looking within for directions back home, and no matter what we hear or read, we’ll always want to be discerning. We’ll want to question things without letting our mind influence us too heavily, and we can be discerning with a calm, quieted mind.
All discernment really is, is the ability and willingness to decide if something resonates with us. If it does, great! If not, oh well – we have everything we could ever need within and we don’t have to integrate advice that seems misaligned.
In fact, we might disempower ourselves if we take advice that doesn’t ‘feel’ right, and this is partly why so many teachers encourage us to chart our own path.
The path we chart will require as much effort as any other, and it’ll also require self-empowerment and the willingness not to give up, no matter what. We know by this point that we’re spiritual beings who are capable of achieving infinity, and as long as we stay dedicated and continue to make an effort, the spirit will eventually flow through us with ease.
Then, our real work – internal and external – can begin.
- Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 210.
- Ibid., 112.
- Swami Saradananda. Sri Ramakrishna, the Great Master. Madras, Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2 vols, 1979-83, I, 94.
- S.S. Cohen, Guru Ramana. Memories and Notes. 6th edition. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1993, 59.
- Ibid., 72.
- Sri Ramana Maharshi, Gems from Bhagavan. Comp. A. Devaraja Mudaliar. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1985, Chapter 8.
- Paul Brunton and Munagala Venkataramaiah. Conscious Immortality. Conversations with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Rev. ed. 1996, n.p.
- Anon., Who Am I? The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Sarasota, FL: Ramana Publications, 1990, 19.
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