The question is often asked: are we living in more spiritual times? According to the yogic traditions, shades of ignorance and knowledge swing eternally like a pendulum. Today, there is, without question, more access to wisdom texts than ever before. The latter is a direct result of our click-of-a-mouse technology. We can buy books, sign-up for a webinar, or take online courses without leaving our home. In this sense, there is more access to spiritual wisdom than ever.
On the other hand, our minds are more externalized than ever. Our attention is deeply fragmented, and having the mind jump constantly from one thing to another causes it to become weak. We should always remember the basic spiritual principle that a calm mind is a reservoir of peace and bliss. So when our attention is made to jump from social media, to email, to text messages, and back to email, we disturb the mind’s balance and it’s ability to relax. Since the mind is habitual, training it to jump from one thing to another causes it to crave that mode of existence, even if it’s harmful. This is why we check our phones upwards of one hundred times a day.
In terms of living in a time of greater spiritual awareness, a great being once said that the measure of mankind’s decline is proportionate to how much external space and time are reduced. In other words, technological progress that makes our world “smaller” and “faster” is a harbinger for the end of civilization. This is because a smaller and faster world implies a mind that is constantly plugged-in and pointed outward. The more externally connected we are, the less time we have to turn within and the more we identify with our body and mind. We can only manage our hyperconnectivity if we pay attention, so people are slowly being robbed of the memory of enjoying a quiet and unstimulated mind. The mind in its natural state experiences contentment without any stimulation.
Ultimately, a mind that is unable to rest and therefore unable to experience the peace that lies within falls into destructive tendencies. This is why we are surrounded by so much unhappiness, depression, and mental illness.
So where does that leave us? In reality, spiritual contraction and expansion occur simultaneously. While Europe was in the Dark Ages, India was in the midst of its golden age of spiritual wisdom. Shankaracharya and Abhinavagupta lived during the Middle Ages. Likewise, while the world was in the grips of World War II, both Bhagawan Nityananda and Sri Ramana Maharshi graced this earth. For this reason, wondering if society is in the midst of a spiritual upsurge or decline is not that important.
Since Consciousness is an eternal vibration, the ability for Consciousness to expand presupposes its ability to contract. When the universe is projected outward from the great Heart of Consciousness, it’s a contraction, and its return back to undivided oneness is its expansion. That is, Consciousness cannot expand back into its pure state if it has first not undergone a contraction. Since yogins conceive of countless universes, countless Big Bangs, some universes are being born while others die out.
If we pull back our view up to the level of absolute Consciousness, we would see countless universes simultaneously dying and being born like stars twinkling in the sky. So the cycles of expansion and contraction are always unfolding at the same time. At a micro level, the exact same thing happens within our body. Cells are born while other cells die. Thoughts arise as other thoughts die. Shakti, which is the vibratory power of Consciousness, is always on the move.
From this perspective, we don’t really have to worry about whether society at large is in a state of spiritual contraction or spiritual expansion. The cycles of knowledge and ignorance rise and fall together like waves in the ocean.
Instead of wondering about the spiritual state of this world, we should focus on our own awakening. Sri Ramana taught that fixating on the world is like fixating on our dream instead of working (through meditation and spiritual practice) to wake up from it. When asked about the Mahayana Buddhist vow to remain a Bodhisattva until every other being attains freedom from spiritual ignorance and limitation, Sri Ramana laughed. He said that Buddhist teaching was akin to insisting on not waking up from our dream until everyone else in the dream had first “woken up.”
From the perspective of absolute Consciousness, there has never been any real expansion or contraction. As I like to express, creation is nothing but a false (or relative) appearance dancing over the face of an unchanging mirror.
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