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One Path, Many Paths

When we start exploring life’s spiritual side, we may hesitate to commit ourselves to any particular spiritual path: “Won’t that make me close-minded and incapable of appreciating other paths?”

Possibly. But if we don’t commit ourselves to one path, we may never appreciate any path.

To understand, consider the metaphor of climbing a mountain. The top of the mountain is spiritual consciousness, wherein we relish the ultimate reality. The bottom of the mountain is material consciousness, wherein we pursue worldly objects as life’s greatest pleasures. Various time-honored spiritual traditions are different paths up this mountain. The Bhagavad-gita (04.11) indicates that all seekers are on the same journey to the one ultimate reality.

If we climb the mountain by any one path, we start perceiving things from a higher perspective. Then, if we interact with others who have also climbed the mountain, even if by other paths, we can better understand their perceptions – both those that concur with our perceptions, and those that differ.

Similarly, when we commit ourselves to one spiritual tradition, that committed practice raises our consciousness to a higher, non-material level. When we thus gain some spiritual experiences ourselves, we can better appreciate others’ spiritual experiences. Then, if we study different traditions, we can make greater sense of both the universality underlying all traditions and the specificities characterizing various traditions.

If, however, we don’t commit to any tradition, we are like trekkers who don’t climb the mountain. We can hardly see things from a higher perspective. And all traditions remain hypothetical.

Commitment to spiritual traditions that raise our consciousness doesn’t close our mind – it opens our mind to higher realities, as revealed in both our and other traditions.

Hence the paradoxical principle: to deeply appreciate various traditions, we need to first go deep into one tradition.

Think it over:

  • How is exploring life’s spiritual side like climbing a mountain?

  • How does hesitation to make spiritual commitments keep us deprived?

  • How can committing to one tradition help us better appreciate other traditions?

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