What does it really take to achieve true spiritual success?
A great question, and very vast, as achieving true spiritual success encompasses the whole life of a spiritual aspirant. It is a goal not only you, but all of us are after.
There are two answers to consider: the personal answer, individual in nature; and the general answer, valid for everyone.
Personal answer: To achieve true spiritual success you need to learn your personal lessons, follow your personal dharma, work with your personal strengths. We are all on the upward path, but your step forward, your path, your lessons are different from mine. Do you have clarity which inner lessons you need to learn right now? Which qualities to develop, which obstacles, desires, and weaknesses to remove? Which are your strengths, your personal inclination? A true Guru, for example, always guides his disciples according to their personality and character, to help them achieve inner success.
General answer: First of all we need to have (or develop) the thought: “I absolutely can achieve spiritual success. I can attain samadhi.” Otherwise we will never get there, blocking ourselves with our own mind.
Then: without fiery passion for the goal nobody arrives.
Having it, achieving true spiritual success also requires various qualities: most central are devotion and sincerity, which Yogananda called the two most important elements on the path. It also requires training your concentration, without which you’ll never be successful in meditation. You very much need will power to overcome dry periods, overcome obstacles, and to control your inner energy strongly. We all need to be warriors. It takes perseverance, in order to be a long-distance runner, not a sprinter, to keep your sadhana going with fire ever day. Often you need patience with yourself. Inner success requires continuous working on the ego in daily life, otherwise your ego weighs us down, and working on the ego requires discrimination, self-analysis. It too takes an adventurous spirit, because without it you can’t experience yourself in a formless state, for example. Spiritual success also requires good (sattwic) company, good environment and influences, as environment is stronger than willpower. Most importantly, for high spiritual success you need a guru, otherwise you get stuck somewhere along the path, as you lack inner power.
Personally I think a mixture between determined will-power (the male principle in us) and sincere love for God which attracts grace (our female principle) is a winning mixture. But a greater mind than mine (Yogananda) proposed another mixture: “Technique (like Kriya Yoga) plus devotion cannot fail, it works like mathematics.” Without technique, in fact, hardly anyone achieves true inner heights.
To sum up: the enterprise of achieving spiritual success requires your whole being, your whole heart, soul, mind, even your body, which to can block you from inner success. Yogananda taught: “Keep your body fit for Self-realization.” You need to desire nothing more than this inner achievement. And yes, you can do it!
God bless you with glorious inner success, jayadev