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.