Motivations for Embarking Upon the Spiritual Path

By George A. Boyd ©2010

When we consider why people embark on the spiritual path, we find there are seven major motivations.

  1. Fulfillment of material desires – Believers seek to invoke the Divine to obtain prosperity and wealth, to obtain coveted possessions such as a car or a house, a good job, success in school, to overcome illness and adversity, and to secure a spouse and a family. Prayer to God, or invocation of the deities of one’s faith, is central to this stage of motivation. Doing charity, doing good deeds to earn merit, reading scriptures, following moral rules, and attending worship and prayer services are also associated with this stage; it is based on the ego’s interface with the Divine, as this Universal Power can be known through faith. In the Mudrashram® system, this is the stage associated with Dharma Yoga—seeking to align with inner truth and harmony in daily life.
  2. Experiences of joy, ecstasy, or sustained happiness – Those embarking on this track seek to enter an inner state where they can feel happy, joyful, or blissful. They do meditation or hypnosis to enter the altered states of awareness where they can reach these states of ecstasy. They may contemplate a nucleus of identity, spirit, or ensouling entity; they may awaken their kundalini to awaken this spiritual essence; or they may receive Light Immersion or Shaktipat to awaken this essence within them and guide their attention into union with it. For some, this quest for ecstatic religion may be linked with a desire to forget painful and shameful experiences of the past. Others seek it to supplant the ongoing stress in their lives with an interlude of peace. Others use it to evade the responsibilities and complexities of adulthood by reposing in a simpler state of innocence. Others become addicted to these states of inner ecstasy and do not want to return to their waking state of awareness. The Mudrashram® system of Integral meditation does not give any specific meditation to produce a state of euphoria, but notes that these positive emotions are a common by-product of spiritual experience.
  3. Acquisition of spiritual powers over Nature and Mind (siddhis) – These ones seek to awaken the powers they lay hidden within their mind to gain mastery. Those that follow the Occult Path gain powers over other people through the unconscious mind. Those that follow the Yogic Path gain powers over mind and Nature. Aspirants typically awaken their inner powers through opening the kundalini through unawakened areas of the mind. Powers may also be gained by using vehicular Bija mantra (a mantra that awakens an individual vehicle of consciousness or nucleus of identity), through martial arts, Kriya Yoga, or invocation of gods or goddesses through their bija mantras (these are called invocational or therapeutic mantras). In the Mudrashram® system, we do not focus on the acquisition of powers, but note those powers germane to the Soul’s purpose and ministry will spontaneously arise in the process of spiritual evolution; no extraordinary measures are necessary to activate them.
  4. Devotion and love for God – There are certain ones whose spiritual hearts have been opened; they seek only to experience the love of God and go back to their Source. They do service to others out of love and compassion. They pine for God; they weep for God. The Bhakti Yoga paths ritualize this devotion for God; the Nada Yoga paths give the spirit the key to travel back to be with the Divine Beloved. Some Bhakti Yoga paths commonly give a mantra or other transformational method to awaken a nucleus of identity, which through practice of this method, moves into the presence of the Divine, and ultimately, enters a state of union with the Divine; Nada Yoga paths emphasize udgit, the opening of the channels of the Nada by the spirit. Many devotees translate their love into action, so Karma Yoga often goes hand-in-hand with Bhakti and Nada Yoga. The Mudrashram® system of Integral meditation teaches Nada Yoga, which is performed at the same level where the ensouling entity dwells—we have our aspirants begin their spiritual development with that ensouling entity at the cutting edge of spirituality.
  5. Discernment, Illumination, or Enlightenment – These ones seek to gain Gnosis of their ensouling entity, and to express its gifts of illumination and creativity. Jnana Yoga paths such as Vedanta and Advaita train their followers how to reach the state of union with Ultimate Reality beyond duality; Zen Buddhism trains their followers to enter the state of enlightenment. The Mudrashram® system uses Jnana Yoga and Kundalini Yoga to gain discernment, enlightenment, and Gnosis—it further emphasizes the expression of the Soul’s realization and innate abilities through Jnana Yoga and Agni Yoga.
  6. Conscious travel to inner Planes – These seekers have come into contact with their attentional principle and are awake within. They seek to travel in full consciousness to visit the inner worlds, to meet their Soul, and to see God. Raja Yoga and Astanga Yoga traditions train aspirants in these methods. In the Mudrashram® system, we teach Raja Yoga, supplemented by training in Attunement meditation, which trains the attentional principle how to minister the Light.
  7. Unfolding of the Soul’s spiritual evolutionary potentials – These ones seek to unfold their ensouling entity and its vehicles to make progress on the inner path. A variety of transformational methods are used in different spiritual traditions to accomplish this objective: Bija Mantra keyed to that ensouling entity, or Guru Kripa Yoga or Shaktipat to awaken the ensouling entity through Grace. Advanced techniques of Kriya Yoga awaken the Astral Soul, the Supracosmic Soul, and the ensouling entity of the Fourth Transcendental Path. The spirit opening the channels of the Nada in the Transcendental Paths will concomitantly unfold the ensouling entity of the Bridge Path, and Transcendental Paths One to Seven. Kundalini Shakti, in rare instances, can be utilized to move the ensouling entity to a new nodal point. The Mudrashram® system teaches Bija Mantra keyed to the cutting edge of spirituality (the Alayic Divine name) and used Guru Kripa Yoga and Shaktipat to unfold the ensouling entities of those aspirants and disciples in attunement during Light Sittings.

These seven types of spiritual motivation draw different groups of aspirants.

  • The majority of humanity seeks fulfillment of material desires through spirituality [type one].
  • Several of the Paths of the Yogi Preceptors of the First Cosmic Initiation, some of the Supracosmic Gurus, and the Seventh Transcendental Path, focus on increasing enjoyment and happiness through meditation [type two].
  • Other individuals seek powers over their body and Nature [type three]. Teachers of the tantric and magical arts, masters of the martial arts, and those teachers who specialize in invocational and therapeutic mantras train these seekers. These seekers may also find training in these secret methods from Kundalini Yoga and Kriya Yoga teachers.
  • Lovers of God, who become identified with the spirit, or a nucleus of identity, may gravitate to the devotional, type four paths.
  • A rare few seek wisdom and enlightenment, and to awaken their Soul’s creative gifts. These ones seek out teachers of the type five paths.
  • Those who identify as the attentional principle approach the masters of Raja Yoga to learn to travel through the inner Planes and to learn to minister the Light [type six].
  • Those that discern the Soul may adopt type seven paths, which emphasize accelerating the spiritual evolution of the Soul and its vehicles of consciousness.

The Mudrashram® system of Integral meditation combines types four, five, six, and seven to bring about balanced spiritual development. We introduce Kundalini in its use of awakening enlightenment and Gnosis (type five)—not for gaining powers [type three], nor for transformation [type seven].

Reflections on the Personal Zone Motivations

The first three types comprise Personal Zone motivations. The last four types make up Transpersonal Zone motivations. Personal Zone motivations mix personal needs and desires into their quest for spirituality; Transpersonal Zone motivations emphasize the awakening of a spiritual essence and actualizing the Soul’s gifts, apart from the issues of the personality.

Personal Zone motivations are called Swamartha, the approach to the Divine through the personality; Transpersonal Zone motivations are called Paramartha, the path to God beyond the personality. The Mudrashram® tradition underscores Paramartha as the core of spiritual development; it points out to aspirants who embrace Personal Zone motivations that there are issues in their unconscious that need to be uncovered and worked through before they are able to fully appreciate and utilize spirituality in its transpersonal aspects.

Using spirituality to fulfill material desires evokes images of “God as vending machine,” where the child looks to the omnipotent parents to care for all of their needs and fulfill their desires. The infantilism of this approach is transparent.

However, the great demands of trying to raise a family, to earn a livelihood, and deal with the stress and struggles of modern life make this motivation understandable. We recognize that we must sometimes call upon our Higher Power to help us make it through the vicissitudes of our lives; we invite aspirants to pray and invoke the Divine and the Masters as needed to grant them succor during these times of personal trials and difficulties.

We question the underlying issues of those who pursue type-two spirituality. Seeking joy, pleasure, and happiness through spirituality resembles the addict’s quest for a “high” through their drug of choice. This “high” can be used to escape pain and misery, to ameliorate stress, and to evade or postpone assuming responsibilities.

While spirituality brings increased energy and joy, we encourage seekers to examine the reasons why joy seeking is their primary motivation for spirituality. Sometimes we must move through pain to heal, take on responsibility to become an adult, and learn to cope with stress without living in an altered state of consciousness—instead of evading these personal growth issues by entering and remaining in higher states of awareness.

Using spirituality to gain powers may be linked to the desires to impress others, to defend oneself, and to control and bend others to one’s will. We question the morality of turning others into slaves, subject to one’s whim, and ready to serve one’s desires.

We also question the value of amazing others with one’s powers, so that they will worship one out of awe and fear. We see this behavior in despotic tyrants, in bullies, in abusive parents, in criminals, and cult leaders; we don’t believe that this should be called spirituality.

We encourage aspirants to eschew the Occult Path of controlling others; we urge them to avoid the siren call of gaining powers over Nature. We point out that it may be more valuable to gain mastery over one’s own mind through self-study and meditation, and to make genuine spiritual progress by activating the true spiritual essences and developing them.

We recognize that in some life situations, learning martial arts may be essential for survival, and may be a legitimate part of some individuals’ Dharma. We underscore, however, that these should only be used for self-defense and protection of family from attack, and must not be used as a way to force one’s will on others, or as a means of proving one’s manliness through conquest of others.

We invite aspirants to study their own motivations for spirituality, and to identify the types that resonate with them. Knowing what drives you spiritually will lead you to find those teachers who can help you actualize your spiritual destiny.

Why Do People Want to Learn to Meditate

By George A. Boyd © 2017

There are a variety of motivations why people adopt meditation and other modalities to work on themselves. Here are seven major reasons people take up this practice:

  1. There are those who want to experience stress release, more conscious presence, and more control in their lives. Mindfulness training helps people achieve this aim.
  2. There are those who desire to deal with their life challenges. For example, people want to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, lose weight, earn more money, or be more successful in their business. Modalities such as autohypnosis, hypnotherapy, affirmations, belief in the Law of Attraction, or targeted coaching for their life concern assist them handle these practical life concerns.
  3. There are those who are on a quest for meaning, authenticity, and the discovery of spiritual truths. These benefit from the study of spiritual books, psychotherapy, self-introspection, personal inventory, journaling, philosophical inquiry, and contemplative reflection.
  4. There are those who seek the experience of mystery, enlightenment, and union with the Divine within them. These gravitate towards Taoist breath work, martial arts, hatha yoga, meditation methods that unite the attention with the Soul, and the Jnana Yoga practices of spiritual discernment.
  5. There are those who yearn for a conscious relationship with God, and want to live in harmony with their Soul Purpose and the Divine Will. These find solace in faith in God, prayer, worship, study of scriptures, and practices of mystic spiritual communion like Nada Yoga and Guru Dhyan Yoga (meditation on the form of the guide form of the spiritual Master).
  6. There are those who aspire to gain spiritual powers, to breakthrough into ecstatic union with the Divine, to gain Samadhi and Self Transcendence. These are attracted to Mantra Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga Paths.
  7. There are those who choose to make their conscious ascension, unfold their core spiritual potentials, and gain spiritual salvation—fulfilling each aspect of their Divine Purpose and Plan and ascending to Mastery in this lifetime. These are drawn to Integral Meditation.

The Mudrashram® System of Integral Meditation has programs to assist seekers who approach meditation with any of these seven motivations.

  • For type one, we train you in mindfulness and stress reduction practices in our Introduction to Meditation Program and Foundations of Practical Meditation Course.
  • For type two, we teach you powerful meditations to access the subconscious mind—autohypnosis, affirmation, and process meditation—in our intermediate courses, the on-line and by-mail Accelerated Meditation Program and the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation.
  • For type three, we teach you contemplative practices in our intermediate courses, and how to do introspection and inventory in our Introduction to Meditation Program.
  • For type four, we teach you methods to awaken the Soul and gain enlightenment in our intermediate courses; in our advanced course, the Mudrashram® Advanced Course in Meditation; and the Samadhi Week Program.
  • For type five, we teach the practices of Nada Yoga and effective prayer in our intermediate courses, and the practice of conscious communion with the guide in our advanced course and in the on-line Satsang Program Study Course.
  • For type six, we train you in the key practices of Mantra Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga in our intermediate courses, and introduce you to Kriya Yoga in our advanced course.
  • For type seven, we teach you the three core practices of Integral Meditation—transformational mantra, opening the channels of the Nada with the spirit, and ascension in full consciousness as the attentional principle—that enable you to accelerate your spiritual progress and travel the Light Stream to conscious spiritual Mastery in this lifetime.

We invite you to explore the teachings of our system of Integral Meditation on this website through reading articles on our Open Stacks page and in our Library. If this resonates for you, you may wish to study our webinars and read our books, or obtain a personal guidance session. If all this makes sense to you and you feel ready to meditate, you are welcome to begin studying meditation with us on this website or in person.

What Motivates People to Meditate

By George A. Boyd © 2013

Q: What motivates some people to meditate, when others are content to simply live their lives in their waking state of awareness?

A: There are a variety of motivating factors that lead people to seek an altered state of consciousness. These include:

  1. They seek to escape from misery and pain – The dissociative effects of meditation are well known. Those who engage in meditation with this motivation gravitate towards cultic groups that advocate remaining constantly in an altered state of awareness. Others with this motivation will attempt to deaden their pain and escape their misery through using drugs and alcohol, instead of utilizing meditation or hypnosis.
  2. They seek to gain magical powers, so others may regard them as special, respect them, or fear them – This group is often attracted to Kundalini Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Kriya Yoga traditions, which recount tales of their advanced initiates performing miracles or demonstrating magical powers. Similar miracle tales attract seekers with this drive to the Occult and Magical traditions, the Spiritualist and Psychic schools, the “I AM Movement” groups, and the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of Milarepa.
  3. They seek to become famous – These seekers want renown as a great sage or saint, to have a noble reputation, to have many followers who worship them and contribute great wealth to them, and to accrue honorary titles that attest to their greatness and majesty.
  4. They seek to be of service – They are inspired to use their spiritual knowledge and abilities to help others; they have altruistic and compassionate motives. These may seek out service oriented religious traditions and the Karma Yoga Path.
  5. They want to become pure and holy – These seek to develop saintly virtues, holiness, and purity so they may please God, and draw nigh to Him. These ones are attracted to Sant Mat, Meher Baba, and Bhakti Yoga traditions, where their love for God is primary and they surrender all to their Divine Beloved.
  6. They seek to be enlightened – These are looking for wisdom, discernment, and illumination. This group is drawn to the Jnana Yoga traditions, and the Buddhist Paths. Coaching, Process Meditation, and New Age groups, who train their followers to focus their attention on the wave of the present time on the Akashic Aether, and to move through that portal into union and identification with the Divine Atom within the Soul may also appeal to this group of seekers.
  7. They seek to transform, so they may ascend to spiritual Mastery and Liberation – These seekers focus on traditions that offer transformation of their spiritual essence, so they may make progress on the Path, and to gain Mastery and Liberation. Mantra Yoga and Guru Kripa traditions that promise spiritual transformation are a magnet for this type of seeker, as are Nada Yoga traditions of the Transcendental Sphere, and Mudrashram®.

We suggest that unfulfilled personal needs often contaminate motivations one to three, and these may generate ongoing hindrances for those who aim to complete their spiritual journey. The pure motivations of selfless service, love and devotion, the quest for wisdom, and spiritual transformation and progress activate the immortal principles within a human being, whereas egoic impulses often color the other three motivations.

We note that not all players in the spiritual arena are benign, or are based on altruistic motives, so the seeker must be vigilant. For example, there are groups that:

  • Exploit others and form cults, live off the donations of others, and entrap and enslave others—these can deceive seekers with motivations one to seven.
  • Act out motives of revenge and hatred, such as hate groups or terrorist groups, which can draw in those who are driven by motivations one to three.
  • Focus on sexual pleasure or use drugs to get high, which can also waylay those with motivations one and two.

It is important that you recognize what are your motivations for entering the spiritual Path. If your motivations are pure and uncontaminated with egoic agendas, you are setting up the best conditions for authentic and lasting spiritual progress.

We further encourage you to educate yourself about the potential pitfalls of different techniques that can alter your awareness and concomitantly generate perceptual and energetic anomalies, and about the cultic and terrorist groups that can entrap you. We discuss these issues in greater depth in our book, Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What they Heck Are We Doing? [In 2023, we released the follow up volume to this book, The Path across the Sky. Those who enjoyed Religions, Cults, and Terrorism may wish to add this newer volume that brings new insights into this subject matter to their library.]