Everybody is talking about spiritual growth, spiritual upliftment, evolution etc. But the question again is, ‘what is the meaning of all this’? Can we check the spiritual growth of someone? Can the spiritual development be measured? Maybe somebody is practicing Yoga meditation for many years and now he me develop a doubt, ‘am I doing right or not’? What is the proof that you are going on the right direction? Fortunately it is possible. You can definitely check all this. For me,
Spirituality can be defined as all round development of human being.
Spirituality is the method of holistic growth. When a person is developing himself in all dimensions, then definitely it is spiritual growth. When we say all round development, it means the development on the 5 planes. These 5 planes are physical, mental, social, emotional and soul. The development on all these five planes happens in the same order.
- Physical growth refers to health, fitness, food, water and shelter. Initially spiritual development happens when a person is capable of surviving without fear and trouble. He becomes assured that I am given a place in this world by God almighty and he has made proper arrangement for me.
- Mental development refers to knowledge, understanding, intelligence to make right decisions in life on the basis of logic and rationales. It brings wisdom with the time.
- Social development is to understand and bear the responsibility towards one’s family, society, country. It enables a person to become a good citizen. Great masters never shied away from their responsibilities towards the whole world they decided share their knowledge so that this world can become a better place.
- Emotional development happens by opening the heart. Qualities of love, compassion, sympathy, helping, understanding the pain of others are the characteristics of higher spiritual development. Small heart can’t accommodate a big God. So heart should become bigger.
- Finally after the above four development there is the possibility of development at the level of soul. Scriptures tell that soul is perfect. It can’t be broken down or made bigger. What we mean here is on the level of soul the subject becomes aware that his soul is nothing less than the supreme consciousness. My soul is the same one as everyone has.
It means that if you are growing on the physical plane, then after some time you will definitely ask for the mental growth. But without developing on physical & mental plane, you cannot ask the development on social, emotional and soul level.
So now you can test if you are developing yourself on the physical plane and mental pain plane, then you can tell yourself that I am going on the right direction. But if the practices you are making are allowing you to grow only on physical or mental plane, they don’t grow you on the social, emotional and soul level, then this is not a spiritual practice. Maybe you can practice some sort of sports or you can join the training in the gym. It will definitely help you to grow yourself on the physical plane. You will grow some muscles, you will have some strength and fitness coming. You can expect a healthy lifestyle but that’s it. It won’t help you to grow on the mental or other higher planes.
Same way if you start learning a new language, if you start reading physics, mathematics, you play game of Sudoku; they make your intellectual & mental development. It will happen that you come to know many things. So this way the mental development will come but we cannot tell about other things. The modern education system is like this only. It provides lots of information, but it doesn’t help children to become good citizens. It doesn’t help them to become emotionally more mature, because there is only one dimension of development.
Did you hear of those people who are genius in one trade; he can be the best professor of physics or mathematics, but he doesn’t know how to buy vegetables from the market. He doesn’t know how to welcome the guests in the house. This kind of development becomes sometimes dangerous. Then you can find some people socially very capable, working in high positions in life, they have the best leadership and management capacities, but the lack the knowledge & understanding. For example look at the political leadership of many countries. They don’t have the emotional sensitivity to understand the pain of other people. They cannot empathize with the people suffering. They become dictators. On the other hand, you may find people very capable emotionally; loving, kind, generous, compassionate, and they have the previous things.
But after sometime they start asking ‘is it all life has to offer or can I go higher than this to find even more development. Then they go for the Soul searching and this is all happening in a series. This gradual process of development is called spiritual evolution. All this process is spirituality. All the Spiritual practices are actually doing the same. They have different tools, different kind of stories to explain these simple principles, but these simple principles are not so simple to learn in life. That’s why we require spiritual practice in a yoga school in India. Patanjali's Ashtanga yoga system focuses on this spiritual growth.