Becoming spiritual is creating the capacity of subtle perception. Subtle perception is the attribute of relaxed mind free of stress. Patanjali’s term for stress is Klesha; according to him the summit of spiritual (self) realization is achievable only at the total uprooting of Klesas.
Stress results from the perception of a gap between a person’s likes, wants, desires, habits, and addictions and her/his reality on the ground. The response of the body and the mind to this perceived gap is stress. The response of the body is physical disease and disorders and that of the mind is mental disorders and disease. The origin of most of the physical and mental disorders and diseases can be traced to stress.
According to Patanjali, klesas are rooted in a person’s mistaken identity. Practically everybody begins life with the misunderstanding of ones identity relating only with the physical body. With some growth, mind begins to be included in this identity. A person then thinks that she/he is the mind-body complex. In fact the reality is bigger than that. We are not only the body, not only the mind nor their combination, but we are spiritual being also. The spirit not only pervades every being, animate and inanimate, that exists but underlies them all as their unseen ground of being from which they all spring forth.
The corollary of the mistaken body-mind identity is that all beings are very much aware of their being limited finite. The strength of the body is limited. The body changes and perishes. The reach of the mind is limited. Our finitude in time and scope is the second level of misunderstanding with origin in the root of all ignorance, the mistaken body-mind identity.
Our finitude leads us to want to possess things that we feel like and we lack, dispossess those we think we don’t like or don’t want. Fear of getting what we don’t like and don’t want, and/or getting of what we dislike and don’t want. An analysis of what is termed as the perceived gap between our wants and our reality on the ground, it can be traced to the later three causes identified by Patanajli with the roots going down to the former two..
Like and its offspring such as wants, desires, greed, habits, addictions, appetite, hunger etc., dislike and its offspring such as aversion, jealousy, envy, resentment, hate etc., and fear and its offspring such as doubts, suspicion, misgiving, mistrust, etc. define human condition which keep us stressed. They all come from our sense of feeling limited which in turn is a product of the ignorance of our spiritual identity.
Knowing about and gaining our spiritual identity is the ultimate of learning. Stress or klesas in Patanjali’s terms prevent us from learning. We are incapable of thinking deep for our personal insights when we are stresses. The reason is our hankering or yearning to remove the cause of our stress, our perception of where we want to be and where we are in material term.
So the way to spiritual knowledge or any knowledge is to manage our stress level.
We can remove our ambition but that will be a negative and self denying solution.
We can build our capacity to achieve what we want. That is the positive way. Although it is a necessary condition to achieve what we don’t have, but we know that this, in itself, is not sufficient. Deserving is not achieving although it increases the probability of achievement. Don’t we know of so many people who deserve more but don’t get more?
Then what is the solution? The solution lies in building our capacity and at the same time managing our stress level. In that case, if we don’t achieve we can still think calmly and adopt an alternate strategy of achievement. If we permit our stress level to go high, it robs us of the ability to think deeply to gain insights that may lead to success. Our low stress level will not lead to desperation if after repeated unsuccessful attempts, we still do not achieve. We perhaps are not meant to achieve what we set out to achieve and it perhaps is time to re-evaluate and re-target. We can do that effectively only when we are not heavily stressed.