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Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 396 - Do Online Forums Inhibit Spiritual Progress?  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: April 29, 2010

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"


Q: Have you given consideration to concerns about online forums creating or perpetuating spiritual (ego) identification? Or do you figure practices will eventually take care of it? I ask because sometimes the goal-orientation, intensity and multiple approaches to practice discussed in online forums are quite distracting for me.

A: Yes, there can be the distraction of striving and multiple approaches in online communities. But it cuts both ways, you know, as any spiritual interaction does, including any kind of in-person satsang, or even reading books. We can gain from the interaction, while possibly increasing identification with spiritual concepts and energies at the same time. It has been called "spiritual materialism," and it is certainly not limited to one kind of human interaction, or even one style of individual practice. It happens with the lone yogi in the cave too. It is the very thing we are overcoming with our practices.

Some may accuse practices themselves of being a distraction, and we know how unproductive that assertion is. Clearly we must be doing something to advance our spiritual progress. How we go about that is more a matter of mechanics than the degree to which we may be identified with what we are doing. The mechanics of sound practices will lift us out of identified awareness, regardless of what our attitude may be about them. This is why we say, "Always favor the practice over the experience (mental perception)." The same goes for interactions in online forums, or anywhere else. We can gain from such interactions, assuming we are reasonably steady in our practice. Indeed, one of the primary purposes of spiritual interactions is to give us confidence to proceed with our practices for as long as it takes to loosen the grip of identified awareness, and move beyond the pitfalls of life in duality (endless identified subject-object relationships).

If we are becoming increasingly distracted from our practices through interactions in an online forum, or elsewhere, then it is time to "self-pace" our activity there. It can happen with any mode of activity. We can become overloaded, and need a break. It isn't necessarily about disengaging entirely. It is about regulating both spiritual practices and activities in a balanced way, always favoring that which cultivates the abiding witness within us in a stable way. Without stability in our routine, our progress will be irregular and uncertain.

And, yes, inner silence cultivated in deep meditation will dissolve all of the identification and dislocations over time. Along the way, we gain an edge in any sort of interaction or life experience, an ability to allow whatever is happening to relax in our stillness. Then all of our experiences become stepping stones toward a state of perpetual freedom through all the ups and downs of everyday life.

Online forums can bring an element of constant spiritual interaction into our lives. Sometimes it may be helpful, and other times not. We will know it when we see it, and we should regulate our participation accordingly. Online forums are a relatively new phenomenon, and we should be wise about considering their advantages and disadvantages in relation to our path at any point in time. If we are unable to regulate our participation in a healthy way, then it is time to step back. It may be in our nature to over-indulge, and we can treat an obsession with online forums like we would any other obsession. It is always in our best interest to take what is useful and leave the rest alone. This applies to all spiritual interactions, gurus and teachers, writings, and life experiences in general.

Identification with spiritual discussions and concepts is not reserved to online interactions. It is present in all interactions we are involved in, even in solitude. We take ourselves wherever we go. No matter what we are doing in life, spiritual development always boils down to transcending through whatever we are identified with in this moment, aided by the daily cultivation of abiding inner silence. If our practice is real, so too will everything else we are doing become real in an eternal divine flow, rather than in endless intellectualizing. As long as we have the mechanics of daily practice in hand, we will find the freedom to explore many things and gain support from them. And what does not support, we will have the inner strength to let go. Ultimately, we will let go of everything, even while fully engaged. This is the paradox and mystery of spiritual life. We become one with everything everywhere, and at the same time we are nothing and nowhere, only pure bliss consciousness. This is experiential, not conceptual. Conceptually, it makes no sense. Experientially, it is perfectly natural. It is life in the joy of eternal divine flow.

This is why we focus so much on the mechanics of practice in AYP, and very little on philosophy and concepts that tend to take us in circles. Much better to be going straight ahead into direct experience. Then we become That, and our interactions in online forums and everywhere else will be an aid to everyone who seeks happiness and freedom in this life.

The guru is in you.

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