Challenges of the spiritual path


When we start on the spiritual path we are often filled with joy and hope because we know that God love's us and wishes us free from suffering. Yet the path for some is filled with suffering and for all is very difficult to tread wisely. We can experience spiritual attack, confusion and difficult choices as we try to discern what 'is' and what is 'not'. Why the suffering and obsticles in the hope of an end to suffering for all through wisdom and compassion? Why the conditions on love?

—Eric Coulshed, Scotland


Dear Eric,

The challenges we face on the spiritual path are part of the process by which we work out past (“bad”) karma. It is not God who withholds his love from us but we who have withheld our love and attention over many lives and we who must convince ourselves (our subconscious, our past actions) that our resolve is unconditional.

If after some testing we fall away from the path, then we must say that it is OUR love for God that is not yet unconditional. Yes, it’s true that saints often speak of God testing our love and sure, why not see it that way, too. But if God tests our intentions and our love it’ still does not mean that God’s love for us is unconditional. Given lifetimes of indifference why wouldn’t God test us?

Another side of it is simply that one doesn’t have to be on the spiritual path to experience suffering! This is a fact of life, duality, and mortality. It reminds me of the ages-old question: Is God responsible for evil and suffering? Well, that’s a big question and since you didn’t ask it, I can let it slide for now.

If we are children of God, inheritors of God’s bliss, wisdom, and omnipresence, then we too must live and aspire towards transcendence so that just as suffering may exist but doesn’t “touch” God so too we must with even-mindedness, faith calm acceptance, and inner joy. Thus by living God-like, we become the “sons of God.” The pearl of great price is not gotten by the debased currency of feint-heartedness, fear, or doubt. Fight the good fight to remain untouched by the “crash of breaking worlds” just as the great saints of all religions have demonstrated. Jesus on the cross prayed aloud, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”

It’s not easy to make the right choices in life, especially if our intention is to grow spiritually. If our intention and heart is pure, however, there are no wrong choices. Detours and even wrong choices (wrong because not helpful to our spiritual growth) may help us grow if we can learn and discern from our mistakes. The path to God is not a straight line. We must work out our karma, we must engage as best we can to play our role in God’s creation with joy and the wisdom to know that God is the Doer.

Joy to you, Hriman…