Qualifications of the Aspirant: Entering into the Realities of Inner Life — Value and limitations of external conformity

Though realization of the Truth is the ultimate destiny of all persons, there are very few who have the necessary preparation for the early fulfillment of this glorious destiny. The mind of the worldly individual is darkened by a thick layer of accumulated sanskaras, which must be considerably weakened for the aspirant even to enter the spiritual path. The usual method for gradually dissipating the load of sanskaras is to follow as strictly as possible the external code of religious rituals and ceremonies.

This stage of external conformity to religious injunctions or traditions is known as the pursuit of shariat, or karma-kanda. It covers actions like offering daily prayers, visiting holy places, performing duties prescribed by the scriptures, and observing well established rules of the ethical codes generally accepted by the moral consciousness of the times. The stage of external conformity is useful in its own way as a spiritual discipline, though it is by no means free from evil effects. For it not only tends to make one dry, rigid, and mechanical but it often nourishes some kind of subtle egoism. However, most persons are attached to the life of external conformity because they find it the easiest way of placating their uneasy consciences.

– Discourses 7th Ed. p350

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