Q&A with Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya
Spiritual Progress

Question: Swamiji, I have been doing spiritual practices for a while now. Is there a yardstick to measure my spiritual progress, to assure me that I am indeed moving forward spiritually?
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Answer: From a worldly perspective, we tend to measure success or progress in terms of money and physical wealth accumulated through our efforts. For example, we might measure the success of a business magnate by how much money they have amassed and how many factories they have built. Or the “successful” business person might say, “I used to own one Rolls Royce car, now I have five.” We cannot apply this to spirituality. In spiritual life, there is no luxury car, computer program, app or other external yardstick by which to measure our progress. There is absolutely nothing.
So, how do we measure our spiritual progress? No one else can measure this for us – we must do it ourselves. First, we need to check the amount of dedication we have for our spiritual practices. Has our love for spiritual practices increased or decreased? Second, we need to see how much of our time we have wasted. Such an assessment could guide us -- “Last year, I wasted 10 months of my life. Let me not waste time this year – Let me dedicate more time to spiritual practices.”
It is this inner transformation that matters. The real change comes from within and not from outside. On the outside, we are always undergoing transformation, whether we like it or not, from external factors such as nature and our interactions with other people. Instead of being angry 100 times, for example, are we going down to 50 times? Then definitely there is a change. It is progress. Have we tried to forgive others more this year than last year? Do we love people for a reason or unconditionally? Are we able to forgive people, even if they did something that we did not expect? If we are, then there is spiritual progress.
Sometimes we might be tempted to attribute spiritual progress to experiences that occur while meditating. We think that the ability to see lights when we meditate, or ability (siddhi) to start flying, or to read other people’s thoughts are progress. But these experiences don’t mean much. If we experience such things, they are only giving us the impetus or enthusiasm to move forward. But the real progress comes only when we transform from within. When somebody hurts me have I forgiven him or her? Or when I spoke angrily to my spouse or children, have I asked for forgiveness. If I am wrong, do I observe that I am wrong and that I am hurting others or is my ego insisting that I am right? These are indicators to our spiritual growth. Spiritual practice is the only karma which helps us to change from within. This is ultimately what we can call spiritual progress.
Of course, the only person who can understand our progress is our Guru, Amma. That said, the people around us may feel it through our changed attitude. For example, when we become less angry, more patient, more loving, people will be able to observe this. They will feel that love, the change, though we may not be able to understand it ourselves, in the beginning. This is the way to assess our progress and not through developing siddhis or ability to perform miracles. Even if we do so, those abilities don’t last long.
Amma says the greatest miracle is when you smile at somebody and you say a kind word. It affects others and changes their lives. This is the greatest miracle that we can perform effortlessly.

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