WISE men say that there are three stages in the expression of man’s spiritual life. In the first stage, man’s religious impulse seeks to find expression in outward acts of worship i.e. seeking God outside. He visits temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras. He listens to bhajans, hymns and songs. He fasts on auspicious days to propitiate planets and prophets. He goes on pilgrimage like Mecca, Sabrimala or the Vatican in an effort to buy peace and subdue his turbulent mind.
This first stage is an effort to capture the eternal through the concrete and the gross! In the process he disciplines himself, controls his emotions and silences his mind.
The second stage is INWARD contemplation. Having learnt that there is a semblance of serenity through discipline, he starts feeling the presence of God within. In this state, there is very little external expression, noise and voice from outside. This is the beginning of true religion. The first stage was “Kindergarten” before entering the school. When the thoughts become purer and purer, there is a tug, there is a pull of DIVINE within! A connection is established between the soul and God. Silence becomes a delight; the cacophony outside is shut out. This stage continues till the mind is stilled like the placid lake without ripples.
The devotee enters the third stage and senses God within. He sees God in contemplation. He sees God everywhere like Tukaram, Thiruvalluvar or Ramakrishna who achieved the fullness of realization. It may not be possible to achieve fullness, divinity in one life, may be, in more than one. In the Bhagvad Gita in Chapter VII verse 3, Krishna says: “Out of thousands of people, only a few strive for perfection; and out of thousands that so strive, only a few realize the truth of my true being.” In verse 19 of the same chapter, the Lord says: “Striving through several births, the wise one realizes ME as existing in every being; such a great soul is rare to come across.”
– T.G.L. Iyer