Is Being Spiritual Incapacitating?


Hi, I have been tired of unraveling spirituality. It entered my life 9 years ago and have made it hell. I was much more peaceful and happy before going on a spiritual quest. My quest is allowing bad people( I know spirituality says no one is bad) to get a walkover while I am sitting brooding over spiritual query. I come from an influential family and can do so much good for people but spirituality has made me a cripple. I just want to leave it and do good things. Will I go to hell for that?

—Anonymous, India


Dear Anonymous,

I understand your dilemma! Have you read Yogananda’s (now famous) Autobiography of a Yogi? In it, his guru states that spirituality is NOT incapacitating. If anything, an expanded consciousness brings wisdom, energy, and willingness to deal with reality on its own level not on the desire-driven basis that ego consciousness demands.

Nonetheless, what you are experiencing is also partly true but only as a phase: a phase during which one begins to let go of ego motivation and begin to live for a higher reality. During this phase, we define “being spiritual” as essentially being “nice” and not being self-assertive. This is understandable and to a degree the right beginning. But just a beginning.

As Jesus drove the money-changers from the temple and as Krishna slayed many a demon, however, spirituality also contains an aspect of power, energy, wisdom and righteousness. What you are describing is the initial stage of the more “feminine” side of spirituality. But the “masculine” side is also necessary.

Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Yogananda, would often caution audiences not to be “a doormat!” Spirituality means not acting for personal motive and ego affirmation (protection or dominance). But it DOES MEAN ACTING! Doing what is right in each circumstance. Standing up for yourself doesn’t have to be standing up for ego if you are standing up for self-respect and dignity. Do not allow others to walk over you. Besides, when you allow that you “enable” their bad behavior.

By calmly standing up to them, you confront them with their own dignity and self-worth, not only your own. You can see the divine in that person and by standing up to them, mirror to them what is right and true. You do not have to dislike a bad person but you can confront, when necessary, their bad behavior. Do you see the difference? By standing up to them you mirror the “God” in them by expressing the dignity and self-worth of your own soul.

This is not easy and that’s why it’s the “next phase” of spiritual growth. To do this too early in one’s spiritual growth might re-affirm ego-self. But once you are a little settled in your spiritual path, you can do the courageous and righteous action in the right, calm, and dignified way without provoking a heated fight.

You can do good things with the consciousness of God. You can do good things as an act of devotion. God is the Doer of all things. Let the divine power flow through you and ask to be guided to do what is right. Doing “good” is ok but it is better to do what is “right” spiritually for you. And what is “right?” That which gives you a sense of inner freedom and a sense of God’s power flowing through you. It may be “right” for you to do “good deeds” but for another person doing “right” could be preparing a meal for her family, building a building, getting an education, and doing any number of other things unique to one’s own spiritual path and life. Don’t define spirituality by goodness alone. Goodness comes from God and our “doing” should be prompted not by “goodness” but by “God-ness.” If doing good deeds brings you closer to God, then it is right for your soul.

I hope you find these thoughts helpful!

Blessings & Joy To You,
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA