Most people measure their intellectual progress by the degree one obtains when finishing their school or college career. When a person grows fat or skinny they can tell how much by weighing themselves. In growing stronger or weaker physically, you can test your muscles by lifting weights; however it is not that easy to measure you intellectual progress by day, week or year. But unlike intellectual accomplishments, spiritual progress is so subtle that it is extremely difficult to ascertain its exact measurements or developments in human beings.
The definition of Self-realization is the conscious knowing in all portions of your mind, body and soul that you now posses omnipresence; that it is not necessary to pray it comes to you in the future and you are not simply close to it. His omnipresence is your omnipresence. God is as much a part of you this moment as He will ever be. All you have to do is increase you’re knowing. All successes in the real world are known by their actual, though frequently short-lived results. But in the path of spirituality results being intangible are principally psychological, real, long-lasting and eternally valuable. How can spiritual progress be measured in the material world; by measuring their peace-giving qualities according to the subtle transformations in our inner consciousness.
What is the real criteria for spiritual consciousness? True spiritual consciousness lies in the total conquest over individual consciousness. To be spiritual does not only mean to just meditate; it includes a wide range of controls over your existence. But the best foundation is meditation. But to lead a desultory life or to be angry in one way and meditate in another way is the same thing as putting one foot on a vessel in one direction and the other foot on an another vessel going the opposite way. In other words an immoral life and the great science of yoga are incompatible. The ordinary man is only in touch with his sense consciousness; therefore you must live differently from ordinary people.
Those new to meditation may be discouraged by only infrequent joyful perceptions, only to be constantly interrupted by an uncontrollable assault of restless thoughts. But when a restless person persistently executes systematic meditation without any preconditions whatsoever for results, he will not be distracted or disturbed by any unfulfilled cravings for benefits and will meditate better.
There are certain signs of progress in meditation. The following are some of the true signs of advancement. An experience of inner calmness that transforms itself into joy. A steady increase of peace during meditation. Finding answers to your questions from a deepening of one’s understanding through a tranquil intuitive state of inner awareness. An increase in physical and mental efficiency in everyday life. An expansion of love to all beings and a preference to meditation and its effects over anything else.
O Krishna! What happens to a person unsuccessful in yoga— one who has devotedly tried to meditate but who has been unable to control himself because his mind kept running away during yoga practice? Does a yogi perish like a sundered cloud if he finds not the way to Brahma (Spirit) – being thus unsheltered in Him and steeped in delusion, sidetracked from both paths—the one of God-union and the one of right activities? Remove forever all my doubts, O Krishna! For none save Thee may banish my uncertainties.
The discouraged devotee in deepest prayer resorts to God as the mighty Cosmic Physician who alone is able to cure the deep-seated disease of material doubts.
The blessed Lord said:
O Arjuna, My son! A performer of good actions never meets destruc-tion. Whether in this world or in the beyond – he falls not into evil plight!
Arjuna here receives a wonderful reply from the Divine Preceptor. This stanza of the Bhagavad Gita stands as a monument of inspiration to all sincere yogis who have failed to unite their souls with God because of obstructions arising from prenatal and post-natal actions.
The fallen Yogi who, has occasionally succeeded in experiencing the superior bliss of his soul cannot forget it; he well knows there is no comparison between ever-new divine joy and the gross pleasures of the senses. The yogi tries to sublimate the unnatural hunger for sense pleasure into the natural hunger for the soul’s joy. Even a fallen yogi is far superior to the materialist. The former is on the threshold of awakening from sense delusions; the latter is still asleep in ignorance.
God gives encouragement in this stanza to all devotees to seek their natural divine inheritance. The imperfect yogi, in spite of failures, tries to regain his memory of divinity. Once the devotee has tasted the superior soul-bliss, his heart becomes convinced of the inferiority of sense joys. No matter how many times a sincere yogi falls down in the path of yoga, he struggles again toward his Goal.
The devotee who performs meritorious actions develops divine memory and good karma that impel him to seek liberation in this life or in the beyond. The memory of the divine bliss of yoga practice remains lodged in his subconscious mind. If he is not able to find full liberation in one life, in his next incarnation the hidden memory of his past experiences of yoga sprouts forth in spiritual inclinations even in his infancy..
From the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda.