The Difficulty of the Spiritual Path

By Manu Rheaume

July 26, 2020

I can’t say things ever get easier on the spiritual path, in fact, I don’t believe they ever really do until you reach the end. I know that may sound scary or pessimistic, but if your aim really is to undo all the conditioning from previous lives that has kept you from knowing your True nature, you might want to first ask yourself, how it is that this conditioning/ego has managed to last this long? The truth is it’s managed to last this long because it’s convinced us that our conditioning is us, hence why when you try to change it, it feels like your dying. It’s also convinced us that, that which feels good is good and that which feels bad is bad. These are two things not easily undone.

To change our conditioning, we must go against what feels good because what feels good is that which is simply familiar and conditioned. This is what keeps most people stuck. It also doesn’t help to do what is painful, because that just creates conditioning in the opposite direction. However, resisting that which we are conditioned to do by observing it equanimously, you could say, is the pain that’s “just right.” This is a large part of what meditation is, but it’s no easy task. Just as a side note, there are other ways, but I don't want to get derailed here.

Over the years, I’ve found myself becoming more and more compassionate. This isn’t because I just wanted to be or willed myself to act in some way, it’s because I’ve been through a hell that I think very few people know about or can even imagine. This hell taught me that deep pain and ignorance is the real source of all evil. When you stop seeing yourself as better and start seeing yourself as a simple product of the amount of pain you experience and your own unwilling ignorance, you also start to understand the evilest men in history on a subjective and visceral level. At that point, you also stop judging.

The first Nobel truth is Dukkha or suffering, in the sense that we suffer from wanting things we don’t have and having things we don’t want. This is really a fairly surface-level view of this idea however because what you’re not told is that as you grow stronger spiritually, deeper and deeper complexes, or demons, will start to raise up from within you.

I really do care about others; this is something really took me a long time to admit to myself because on the surface it really does look like everyone is out for their own interests. However, I’ve noticed that without caring about others and only having your own struggle to worry about, a desire for annihilation quickly sets in, for many this is the urge toward suicide. I believe this is the true idea behind the bodhisattva vows. In all truth, you can’t become liberated only caring about yourself because whatever selfish desire you have won’t be enough to get you through the hell you’ll have to face on this path.

This is why so many people avoid the spiritual path altogether, but that doesn’t really help anything either, it just prolongs things. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjun all of a sudden finds himself on a battlefield being forced to kill his friends and family in a battle based solely on principle. This represents the fact that on this path everything you are attached to must be severed. Also in a similar way, we may find ourselves awakened and having to fight when we would rather just give up, but giving up leads only to shame and dishonor.

In spiritual circles, I find that this is very rarely if ever discussed, which is why I think people give up so often on it as soon as difficulty arises. This idea of suffering being the basis for true wisdom to arise couldn’t be truer. Wisdom is earned through being willing to go through the process that great sages before you have also gone through, it’s as simple as that.