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The Need For An Ideal In Spirituality

Without a purpose not even a fool embarks on an undertaking, goes a well-known Indian saying. Uprightness too has a purpose behind and a lofty one at that: transformation of character and God-realization, which amounts to Self-realization or the manifestation of our potential divinity. With this ideal before us cultivation of noble virtues becomes a rewarding challenge. An ideal before us can serve as a radar for our spiritual journey: we can become aware of the pitfalls on the journey and correct our course. How important having an ideal is becomes clear from the words of Swami Vivekananda: ‘Unfortunately in this life, the vast majority of persons are groping through this dark life without any ideal at all. If a man with an ideal makes a thousand mistakes, I am sure that the man without an ideal makes fifty thousand. Therefore, it is better to have an ideal.’ In other words, a man with an ideal knows if he commits mistakes, since he has a reference point with which he can judge his actions. He commits less mistakes than someone who does not have an ideal.

Purifying The Means

Work is not an end in itself, but only a means to purification of mind and manifestation of divinity. When this point is lost sight of, the end becomes more important than the means and often justifies it. But such an attitude does come with a price. We may accomplish the work all right, but the questionable means adopted will leave an impression in the mind, strengthen the bad impressions already in store, and thus forge one more link in the chain that binds us to the world. In his illuminating lecture ‘Work and Its Secret’ Swami Vivekananda assures us, ‘Let us perfect the means; the end will take care of itself.’ And what follows is more significant. Swami Vivekananda explains what means and end mean: ‘For the world can be good and pure only if our lives are good and pure. It is an effect and we are the means. Therefore, let us purify ourselves. Let us make ourselves perfect.’