The purpose of efforts is to get rid of all efforts
– Sri Ramana Maharshi (conversations with Shri D. C. Desai)
Many modern spiritual teachers have said that no practice is needed to realize our true nature. This is an absolutely true statement. But, in YOUR spiritual path this may or may not be true. Many seekers take this ‘no practice’ approach quite litearlly and jump into the ‘do nothing’ practice (yes that is a ‘practice’ too) and after several years get frustrated. Ramana Maharshi explained it beautifully in his words quoted above. In answer to another question about the purpose of the many practices, Ramana Maharshi said that these practices are like an eraser that is used to rub out all the writings on a piece of paper.
The uniqueness of the spiritual path, as opposed to other learning paths e.g. learning to swim, is that it could be drastically different for each person. There is no cookie-cutter approach to spirituality. Papaji, the famous disciple of Ramana Maharshi, used to say that there are ‘camphor, paper, wood and stone devotees’. The ‘camphor’ devotee just needs a little spark and he ignites in the fire of spiritual passion. And the ‘stone’ person – you know the kind perhaps – they dilly-dally, try different paths, buy many CDs and DVDs, attend many retreats and sometimes end their journey in complete frustration and cynicism. A good guru just watches and understands that such is the nature of the spiritual search. He gently nudges the ‘stone’ people again and again.
The approach taught by the Upanishadic and Yogic paths is rigorous and is based on the assumption that the aspirant may be a ‘stone’ devotee. Many ‘non-traditional’ teachers criticise the ‘practices’ saying that ‘nothing is needed’ because ‘I went through all this for nothing’, but do they know where they would be if they had not gone through these practices? Maybe ‘these practices’ acted as their ‘eraser’ by showing them the futility of the practices. Such is the power of maya that it can make even a realized guru forget his or her own path of progress and tell the disciples that ‘nothing is needed’. When someone like Papaji or Ramana Maharshi says ‘nothing is needed’ it is quite different because they had the powerful grace which caused aspirants who came in their presence to somehow realize the Truth.
So, my friends, surely you can try the path of ‘no practice’ if you REALLY understand what it means. Remember that even the greatest guru can be mesmerized by maya. Such is the power of shakti. Approach spirituality with the innocence and humility with which a baby approaches a brightly colored toy. One day you will graduate to the position of ‘no practice’. Maybe you are a ‘camphor devotee’ but don’t risk finding out you are not. This is the crux of the systems of sadhana like Ashtanga Yoga, bhakti, karma yoga and mantra japa. The Sadguru is waiting for your next move.