Spiritual Refinement


Namashkar!! What exactly does it mean to be a refined and ethereal prson? How does one become refined in spiritual context?

—Nina, India


The more that one lives for God and develops an inner life with fewer and fewer attachments and desires, the more spiritually light and refined one naturally becomes.

It might be easier to look at what covers the natural refinement of the soul, since that refinement is our true nature and it is only hidden by the dross of the world. When we live only through the senses and the body, it covers the soul’s natural state with a heavy dross, to the extent that we are attached to those sense experiences.

When we listen to harsh and heavy music, that too brings our consciousness down into a more material consciousness. Listening to soul uplifting music does the opposite.

When we spend all of our time with materialistic and worldly people, that also touches us. Sri Ramakrishna used the analogy of cutting an onion — the smell stays on the hands for a long time afterward. So too does the effect of worldly people touch us. Spending more time with people of spiritual refinement, such as saints and devotees of God, helps change our own consciousness through the effect of magnetism.

People often think that a person who seems “ethereal” or not of this world, is above it all. But saintly people can act and be engaged with the world, in very practical ways, without having to put on any pretense of being above it all.

One of the greatest ways to become spiritually refined is through service to others. The less that we think about ourselves, and our petty needs and desires, the more free we become of the dross that hides the soul.

Finally, meditation and devotion have a natural refining effect on us. They open the door for God’s Grace to change us. In the end, we are only freed by Grace, though we have to do our part to cooperate with divine law, and with the flow of that Grace.