Discipline Meets Love

Perhaps one of the dangers of the spiritual discipline of the eastern or yogic path as compared with a western or Christian path is that the yogi may come to believe that it is through his own efforts at meditation and other spiritual practices that he has attained mastery. Many Christians probably err on the side of believing that Jesus did everything for them already–that He already attained their salvation for them. This is positive in the sense that it engenders humility but negative if it engenders laziness and entitlement. Ultimately, I would think the gift of grace must be present with either approach for full God-realization.

meditation as a spiritual disciplineThe eastern yogi values both spiritual discipline and self-effort quite highly. Think of the iconic monk meditating for years in a cave. That may be absolutely necessary at some points in spiritual development, but at other points it may simply be avoidance. It may be easier to think of oneself as spiritually advanced when the potential annoyances and irritations of human interaction are infrequent.

I personally withdrew from the world to a great extent for over a decade. I lived first in a Quaker-based community, then visited a Sufi community (I intended to stay for three months but had to leave due to illness) and finally spent almost a decade in a strict spiritual community.

Although I was with others almost constantly during those ten years, and even got married during that time, community members kept conversations at a minimum. We spoke only as necessary at work and spent many hours a day in religious services. We were directed not to share our problems with others, but to turn only to God. That made for or a certain kind of solitude even when surrounded by co-workers and fellow community members.

Now I am finding that I seek out social interaction because my own flaws are so apparent when I am in relationships with others. How else will I know where I need to gain greater mastery? For the yogi, there is great discipline in meditating for hours a day. I have developed an equal level of admiration for those who can be in contact with others for hours every day and show only love–never becoming impatient or unkind. The most powerful combination might be when eastern discipline meets western love.

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