In a time of quick fixes, guaranteed results and the promise of great riches (just follow this easy 5 step plan) the true requirements of spiritual growth seem quite archaic, if not obsolete.
However it may seem, the requirements of spiritual liberation have not lessened over the centuries. They have not been set aside or discounted. It is, quite literally, impossible to achieve the extraordinary heights and healing power that genuine spirituality bestows without a high degree of an old fashioned work... DEVOTION.
"Devotion: The fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal" from Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Ardently dedicated and loyal to what?
Hungering for freedom
Practicing what you discover
This requirement is so often lost in our modern, throw away world. Here the solutions to life problems can be bought on Amazon, Etsy or Ebay. "Eternal Bliss? There's an app for that." I became a spiritual seeker at a time when the modern buffet of "spiritual" options was simply non-existent. Every crumb you got your hands on was so precious and rare because... well... it was. My earliest training in metaphysics was rigorous self inquiry. No thought went unscrutinized. No feeling went unexamined. It was recognized that whatever idea you accepted as true became your lived experience. So you were ardently dedicated to standing vigilant guard at the door of consciousness. Later, when I began to practice meditation, it was a strict, butt on the cushion, don't move, focus your gaze kind of rigor. It required of me the same devotion I lived in when I was practicing music hours a day earlier in life. The direction and focus had changed, but I remained ardently dedicated.
Over the years I have learned how to discriminate between what was simply the requirements of the tradition, the cultural costume of the times, and what was actually essential to the practice. So, while I gradually gained the authority to separate the form from the essence, the heart of the matter has remained constant.
And the heart of the matter is devotion to spiritual freedom. This kind of dedication is not something only practiced in the quiet confines of the zendo or the ashram, while sitting on the cushion circling the stupa or raising you hands in a "Alleluia." It applies to and is active in every corner of our lives. In a world where the distractions of shiny objects are everywhere and notifications, messages and interruptions are constant, there is an almost universal, yet unconscious feeling that the answer to happiness is that next text or messenger or email or WhatsApp or SnapChat or InstaGram or... like that beep or or ding is Angel Gabriel sounding the horn of redemption.
Yet, for all the importance we have given this endless stream of digital attention seekers, even willingly "opting in" to endless interruption, it has all left us deeply unsatisfied and even stressed. It still is true, as it always has been, that the only satisfaction there is to be had, the only victory, the only conquest worth celebrating is the victory over the illusions, the dependencies, the instability and the endless desires of our own minds. For that glorious end to happen there is no shortcut, no early bird discount, no black Friday special.
There is no app for that. It is wonderful that we no longer have to wear special clothes, sit in uncomfortable positions or spend 30 years in a monastery in order to become prepared for awakening. Yet the fundamental ardent dedication and loyalty to and and love for truth that has inspired seekers to make those kinds of efforts throughout all time, remains the unchanging standard. Devotion to freedom and love of truth, this is the essential price of admission. The sticker price has remained unchanged since the beginning of seeking. And all these transactions are conducted in but one recognized currency, the unchanging and ever stable currency of the heart.
Devotion: The state of being ardently dedicated and loyal to Truth.
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