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Even after years of Japa and meditation, why do people find hardly any progress in their lives? The reason is obvious — lack of longing for the goal. You may have the best car in the town; it won't budge an inch if there is no fuel. Longing is the fuel that launches the spiritual vehicle on its journey.
When the journey starts, one discovers that there are several barricades blocking the way. Unless these obstacles are overcome one cannot reach the destination. There are several types of bondages and unless one can free himself from them one cannot just march ahead towards the Freedom Absolute. A series of 'lower' freedoms have, therefore, to be achieved before achieving the 'ultimate' freedom.
What are the barricades obstructing the path of the spiritual seeker? These are described in various ways. Sometimes these are spoken of as the three bodies: gross (Sthula), subtle (Sukshma), and causal (Karana); sometimes as the five sheaths (Kosas): the gross physical (Annamaya), of the prana (Pranamaya), of the mind (Manomaya), of the buddhi or intellect (Vijnanamaya), and of bliss (Anandamaya). Without entering into technicalities, we may broadly say that the body, mind and intellect are the three factors you have to confront and come to terms with in your spiritual journey. You cannot afford to overlook any of them. They can resist your onward march and are hence bondages. But when you free yourself from them, these very factors become your friends and help you in your journey.
To be continued
About the author
Swami Tyagananda is a Hindu monk of the Ramakrishna Order and presently the head of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Boston. Currently he is also the Hindu chaplain at MIT and Harvard. He is also a member of American Academy of Religion and the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.