Just as in every other aspect of life, there are dangers and mistakes which one may fall into while following the spiritual path. On any journey there is the danger of diverting onto a wrong road, or having our vehicle breakdown, or stopping somewhere along the way and forgetting about our original destination. Here we will look at some of those possible traps which spiritual aspirants may fall into.


In Summary, some of the basic goals of spiritual life may be expressed in the following ways:
1. An expansion beyond the ego and personality into union with the universal, the divine; with what we call God.
2. The development of the basic virtues of LOVE, PEACE, TRUTH, RIGHT ACTION AND NON VIOLENCE.
3. The manifestation of our inner spiritual potential here on Earth through spiritual qualities of love, service and creativity.
4. The transcendence of the veils of ignorance into the light of the spiritual life – wisdom.
5. The discovery of the ULTIMATE TRUTH, which is the basis of all this reality, which we experience.
6. The establishment of a perfect dynamic harmony between the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical in one’s life.
7. The expansion of personal love into UNIVERSAL LOVE for all beings.
8. The expansion of the limited individual mind into the universal mind, containing all knowledge.
9. The development of inner spiritual peace, which remains unaffected in any situation, regardless of external events.
10. The ability to keep the mind totally aware of the ONE UNIVERSAL BEING, while the eyes see a world of many different objects.

These are only a few ways of expressing some of the basic goals of spiritual life, regardless of what religion or path one may belong to. Let us now look at some of the common mistakes we tend to make while seeking to fulfill these goals.


Throughout history there has been the unfortunate tendency among spiritual groups and religions to isolate themselves from other groups or religions and to claim that their system, or teacher, or methods, or «God» is the best and the only way to salvation.They feel alienation from the others, and in many cases, even antagonism and competition. They feel that they must convince the others that they are on the wrong road. They believe that they must force others to accept their truth, which they consider to be the only truth. Many wars and atrocities have been imposed on men in the name of saving their souls. God is not so small as to be limited to one religion, group or specific technique. God is all of life. He is living in all men, and is available to all men in the various ways in which they have learned to approach their inner self throughout the ages. This truth is humorously expressed by the following parable. There once was a village comprised entirely of blind people. (This represents all of us who are spiritually blind). One day a huge elephant came thumping into the village. The villagers all came running to find out what this incredibly huge being was. The King called for the five wise men of the village, who were also blind. The King ordered the wise men to determine the nature of this obviously divine being who had entered their village. The first wise man approached and came upon the elephant’s side. Feeling it well, he declared that it was «a large moving, pulsating wall». The second wise man fell upon the elephant’s trunk and refuted the first saying, «No, it is an incredible thick self moving hose». The third wise man stumbled onto the elephant’s ear and declared, «No, it is a large leaf which moves by its own power». The forth wise man came upon one of the elephant’s legs, and announced, «These others have no idea what they are talking about. This is a self moving tree trunk». The last wise man went up to settle all this confusion, but alas, he grabbed onto the elephant’s tail. He only created more uproar by announcing that, according to his personal experience, it was a snake. The king, the five wise men and the villagers to this day have not been able to solve this mystery. They have divided into five camps, each claiming that only it has the truth. None of them has had the insight yet to realize that they have all touched upon a part of the same reality. That they are all, in part, right, but that the being which they are trying to perceive is much too large to be limited into concepts and descriptions. The analogy is clear. God is the elephant. All the religions, while perceiving, loving, worshiping the same ultimate reality, describe it in a slightly different way. (Actually if anyone really cares to look more carefully, the difference, in most cases, is only a matter of semantics). Thus all religions and spiritual paths are valid for those who follow them. They may or may not be valid for us. We do not have to change our beliefs or follow any other religion. We would do best to follow our own system, while respecting, however, the others. This does not mean that all systems or religions can be mixed. Sweet fruit like peaches and cherries are good food. Cooked beans are also good food. But if we mix them together we will have various problems in digesting them. The same is true with trying to mix many spiritual paths or religions together. It is true that they all have the same goal, that they lead to the same UNIVERSAL BEING. But they move down different roads. We cannot start out for Los Angeles via Chicago and, half way there, decide that we want to go through New Orleans and change roads; we will waste time and might never get there.


People who do not have enough self-acceptance or inner affirmation, tend to use the spiritual path in the same way that they use every other situation in life; to prove that they are better than others. Thus they develop what is called spiritual pride. When the Christ was incarnated as Jesus, he refused to criticize or condemn anyone except the scribes and pharisees who had put themselves above the common people. Thinking that one is better than others because one prays, or meditates, or is vegetarian, or reads spiritual books, or is knowledgeable about philosophy or psychology, or because one does selfless service, or donates money is a serious trap and a great mistake on the spiritual path. We ARE ALL EQUAL. We are neither superior nor inferior to any other being. All beings are equally children of God. We help ourselves to become more pure expressions of divine love and wisdom through prayer, meditation, selfless service etc. But that does not make us better than others. Is the university student better than the grade school student because he knows more? We who have spiritual pride are no different than those who are still lost in the self affirmation games of society. We have taken the same games with us, into our spiritual life. Rather than counting how many houses, money, cars, positions, contacts and abilities we have, we start to count how many hours we have prayed, meditated, served others; how many years we have been vegetarians etc. The same game is being played in a different scene. Whenever there is pride, then there is also the possibility of guilt. As long as we measure our worth in terms of what we do; and, even worse, in terms if what we do in comparison with what others do, we will continuously oscillate between feeling pride that «we are better» or guilt that we «are worse» than the other. A person who has true spiritual sight would never look down on any being, no matter what he did or did not do. He would see all beings as manifestations of the one Universal Consciousness of which he himself is also a part.


When one is caught up in this trap of trying to appear spiritual to others ie. praying loudly in public or announcing his vegetarianism, or days of fasting for all to know, then he may also fall into another trap. He may try to appear to be something other than he really is. He may actually fool himself into believing that he is not feeling anger or fear or jealousy. He believes that these are not spiritual, and because he wants to be «good» or «spiritual», he will deny to himself and others that he has these feelings. Of course, the others see the truth and sometimes are turned away from the spiritual path, which they somewhat rightly condemn, after his example as being simply hypocrisy and self-delusion. We would best accept ourselves exactly as we are, and forgive everything that we hold against ourselves. It is okay to be imperfect. We are in a process of evolution from animal through human nature into our divine nature. It is only natural that we will still have some animal traits. They are the result of fear and ignorance, and not evil. No one is evil. All «evil acts» are born out of ignorance, and fear. Thus we can be truthful about what is going on in us. Then we can face our traits and overcome them, and transform them more quickly and easily. If we deny their existence in us, then there is no chance of getting free from these tendencies. We are not little children anymore who have to have our parents’ approval. We are adults who have the right to live as we believe is right. God sees everything we feel and do any way. So who are we hiding from? The others around us who we have put into the role of our mother or father so that they can accept us or reject us, or tell us if we are «good» or «bad» boys and girls? We must realize that all feelings passing through our minds are not our real and lasting nature. These are temporary movements, or reactions which are passing through our being. Our real being is much greater. It is permanent. It does not change. We are not our thoughts or our emotions. They are temporary and changing states which are passing through us as a result of thousands of years of conditioning. We can watch them and accept them and let them go just as we watch a leaf coming down a river, pass in front of us and continue on out of our view. When we accept our real feelings, then they too will pass on in this way. When we deny them or cover them up, they remain in us, waiting for expression or resolution.


The truth is unchanging. It is beyond experiences, perception and changing phenomena. Yet many spiritual aspirants get caught up in the game of searching for unusual «spiritual» experiences. Various experiences may pass through the mind of an individual as a result of blocked energy being released through techniques such as prayer, meditation, fasting, breathing techniques, spiritual therapy etc. But these experiences are simply the result of the stimulation of the inner sense organs by sudden flow of the blocked energy which is being released. They have little spiritual value in themselves. Some systems encourage their students to talk about these experiences as if they had some inherent value in themselves. This may be useful in developing enthusiasm in the followers of that path, but it may also develop various negative side effects. Feelings of inferiority and jealousy may develop in those who do not have such experiences. Those who do have them, may begin to think that they are somehow better, more developed spiritually than the others. They may develop an inflated ego. Spiritual aspirants may spend their time seeking after such experiences, rather than concentrating on the real spiritual goals ie, purification of character and transcendence of identification with the mind and its contents. Thus one may simply seek to have experiences and give up making a serious spiritual effort. Experiences can also be had with various drugs such as alcohol, hashish, LSD and tranquilizers. Does that make them spiritual? Another problem develops when we try to have specific experiences in meditation or other spiritual techniques. We may try to reproduce experiences which we have had in the past, or ones which we have heard others describe. This prevents the natural flow of energy and development. Thus, we may try to recreate experiences which may have no usefulness for us at this particular stage of our growth. In this way, we simply carry our need for sensual stimulation with us into the spiritual realm, where such «experiences» replace our cigarettes, alcohol and social interaction. This might be useful as a stage in our development, but it would be a mistake to remain in the stage, rather than moving on. And, in some mysterious and yet wise way, these experiences tend to come more frequently when we first employ a new technique and they gradually diminish with time. They give way to a blending of our spiritual essence into our daily life in the form of expanding love, inner peace, clarity of mind and creativity throughout each day.


Some people enter into spiritual life as a form of escape from the material world which they feel unable to cope with. In most cases, when this is the motive, very little real spiritual progress is made. It must be understood that the attempt of SELF-MASTERY and the development of spiritual qualities is the most difficult of human endeavors. The material and social world exist for the purpose of the soul’s exercising of its inherent powers so that it may eventually manifest those powers, expressing the infinite possibilities of spirit in the material world. An individual who feels too weak or fragile to cope in the social, economic, or material world, is unlikely to have the inner strength required to succeed at this most difficult of human adventures – spiritual growth. We must not, however, confuse, this type of escapism with the situation in which someone has seen what the world has to offer, has tasted it (regardless of the length of period of time he may have tasted it) and finds it not to his liking. In this case, it is not that this individual cannot cope or succeed in this material world, but he simply has realized that it has nothing to offer him. He has come to a state where he realizes that money, possessions, professional positions, social positions have no permanent happiness to offer him. He is searching for something deeper, more lasting, more real; something which satisfies his higher needs. We should check to verify that we are not entering into a spiritual path because we are trying to escape the world. We must face and master and then transcend the world. The real test of spiritual development is in our reactions to the world around us. To go into a forest and sit alone and say that we have conquered anger or fear means nothing. Can we conquer anger and fear in the midst of family, professional and social obligations and difficulties? That is the real test of our spirituality. Thus we can use the situations which our family obligations, professional responsibilities and social contacts create as opportunities for applying the spiritual virtues which we want to develop. It is, of course, useful to take time off for going inward so as to contact the center of peace and clarity within us. This we may do in the form of daily meditation and occasional weekends or longer retreats where we can charge our batteries and reflect on our lives, goals and attitudes more objectively. This is by no means escapism. This is tuning up the vehicles of the body and mind so that they can be more effective instruments for carrying out our worldly responsibilities to the best of our abilities. We do the same with our car and other instruments and machines. Thus there is no real conflict between spiritual life and material life. All life is spiritual. We are spirits and thus we are spiritual in the center of our being. The spiritual techniques and guidelines exist for the coming into contact with and manifesting outwardly of this already existing spirituality into our mental, emotional and physical life. Thus, spiritual techniques offer us a way to harmonize our body, mind and intellect for more inspired, creative and harmonious functioning in the material world. Our material obligations offer us a medium into which to express our inherent spiritual qualities such as love, peace, truth, creativity, harmony, right action, compassion, forgiveness and nonviolence. This may also be understood by using the example of a cassette player which is plugged into a cord which is connected to the main electricity line of a house. In order for the current to flow, the cord must be plugged into both the wall socket and the tape player. If it is plugged only into the wall and not into the cassette player then no current will flow. If it is plugged also into the cassette player then the current will flow. If it is plugged into the cassette player and not into the wall, the result will be the same, no current. The current represents the spiritual energy which is always waiting within us to flow out into the physical world. The cassette player represents our creative and productive activities, our responsibilities and interactions with the world. If we have nothing to do, then the energy has no where to go, and remains stagnant within us. If, on the other, hand we are not in contact with that center of spiritual energy within us, then we will perform all these actions, mechanically without clarity or inspiration. Our creativity and productivity will be either minimal or simply ego-oriented, which means that they will, sooner or later, create problems and unhappiness for us.


People who have a tendency for various reasons to be ambitious, carry this quality with them into their spiritual efforts. They may be impatient to have results. If they do not have immediate results, them may become disappointed, and give up the effort. They do not realize that this effort is something which takes a whole lifetime and, if you can believe in reincarnation, many lifetimes. PATIENCE is an absolute must on this path. One who has patience will definitely succeed. In addition to patience, practice and persistence are required. If one practices daily, and persists for many years, having patience for the slow changes which take place in his character and his life, then he will gradually become a very content, fulfilled, peaceful and happy individual. Those who do not have patience often resort to shopping around in the «spiritual supermarket» for «faster systems», which require no effort and give «immediate results». This is, of course a waste of time. It is like the man who wants to dig a well to find water. He may dig in one part of his field for about five meters. After doing so, he may become disappointed and move to another area to start digging. Then after not finding water, quickly, he may go to another area, which he hopes will give quick results. In this way he may dig a total of 20 or more meters but no more than five meters deep in any one place. The water may be found at a level of 18 meters. He would have reached it by now, if he had the patience and perseverance to keep digging deeper at the first hole. In the same way, people tend to switch from one system to another, never going deeply enough in any one system to gain any real benefit before they superficially switch to some other religion, system or spiritual teacher, with the hope that they will have quicker results. And, of course, they want these results without making any serious or deep effort. Others spread their energy then by trying to follow many paths or techniques simultaneously. They do not want to leave any possibility uncovered, lest someone should proceed more quickly than they. They run after every new technique which comes into town, hoping that «this will be the one». They hope to find some miraculous system which requires no effort and will give them speedy results, and if possible many spiritual powers. Such people will eventually realize that the road is long and hard and requires forbearance and serious effort. They may discover that there are some basic guidelines and techniques which are common to all the systems they have tried out. They may also discover that the power and wisdom, that they are searching for outside of themselves in all these systems and spiritual teachers, is actually within themselves. In which case they will limit their running around, stop hoping for that new miraculous system, decide on a path and follow it in depth, employing the necessary disciplines required to make real and lasting changes in their lives. Those who do not come to this realization, will be easy prey for the various systems coming out of the vast spiritual “supermarket”, which claim to be able to give participants fantastic powers in no time, with no effort, no sacrifice, no preparation and no change of character. The only requirement, in most cases, is money. Some groups claim to give spiritual powers, without any effort on our part. Of course, it is unlikely that anyone could suffer any serious harm from such a system. It is, however, like paying someone to tell you that your stomach is digesting or your mind is thinking. We are all already connected up to the divine source of cosmic energy. We are all manifestations of cosmic energy; it is always flowing through us. The amount of cosmic energy we can pass on to others will never be dependent on some magical symbols which someone else will make upon us (unless that individual is an enlightened being). It is one thing to pass energy on to another person, and another entirely to claim that we are giving him the power to heal others. Spiritual powers, talents and abilities are the function of constant inner purification in conjunction with opening ourselves to that cosmic source of life and power. The ability to pass healing energy onto another person, or even onto ourselves is already inherent in all of us. Perhaps such a seminar could be a stimulus for us to concentrate on that energy and use it. But we must not think for one moment that the energy flowing through us is a function of some initiation or magical symbols which someone has mysteriously performed over us. Our ability to channel energy is a function of five basic factors.
1. The length of time and intensity of our practice of that ability in this and previous lives.
2. The purity of our bodies, emotions, minds and soul which are the vehicles for the transmission of that energy.
3. The degree of our development of love and wisdom.
4. The degree of our surrender to the divine flow.
5. Our ability to concentrate on this source of higher energy and let our mind get out of the way so that the energy can flow.

This is extremely important to remember on the spiritual path. Otherwise, we may fall subject to various people who have certain powers and claim that they can make various significant changes in our lives. Only we can make these changes; so we can stop shopping around wasting money, time and energy trying to find a system which will do the work for us. Another point which a spiritual aspirant should be cautious about is groups or systems which charge large fees of money. Wherever there are large sums of money involved, you can be sure that sincere spiritual growth will be absent. I say these things not to criticize any particular system. I feel it necessary, however, to point out all these facts and logical thoughts, because I have been appalled by how many seemingly intelligent people do not have the logical reasoning or common sense to think of these so obvious facts, and are wasting their time and energy and causing others to do the same. They would better spend their time in some sincere spiritual practice such as self-analysis, prayer, meditation, service to society, rather than running after every new product on the spiritual supermarket. This is the age of false prophets, and one of their signs is their large profits. Let us close this section with a quotation from Satya Sai Baba: «Each one’s power is within him. It is not possible to give such power to another person. In this manner, by allowing a weak mind to get control over us, if we begin running from place to place (searching for spiritual powers), when are we going to get strength of mind, and control our own mind? We must be able to follow one thought, one path. One does not have to search for spiritual power, going around the world and spending a lot of money. Be in your own house, develop it in yourself. Such spiritual power is in YOU. You don’t have to run for it here and there. God is not external God is not outside you; God is inside you».


In the previous section we mentioned the common mistake of searching for spiritual powers and abilities outside of ourselves, especially in some techniques claimed to be easy and quick. Here we will consider whether spiritual powers are worth seeking after at all. The answer to whether the development of spiritual abilities will be beneficial or detrimental to our spiritual growth depends on the answers to the following questions.
1. What is our level of selflessness and feeling of unity with all?
2. What is the level of development of our universal love and wisdom?
3. What is our motive in developing these powers?
4. What is our dharma or role in this life?
We will use our powers and abilities in life in accordance with our level of consciousness and motives. If we are still basically identified with our separate ego and have yet to develop love for all beings, then these powers may be dangerous in our hands. We will not have the discrimination to use them properly. Just as we would not let a little child play with knives and matches which are powerful tools both for good and harm, the same is true with the various spiritual powers such as astral travel, the ability to know others’ thoughts, to know the future, to see auras, the ability to heal. If we know the others’ thoughts, are we advanced enough to love them in spite of their thoughts? If we know that some unpleasant event is waiting in the future for ourselves or our loved one, do we have the faith in the Divine Plan and in our immortality and invulnerability so as not to worry or have anxiety about the future? Do we know who should be healed and who should continue to experience his illness or problem for the sake of his spiritual growth? Our level of development and our motives play an essential role in determining whether the development of spiritual powers will be beneficial or harmful to us. Is our motive to gain the others’ acceptance and esteem through these abilities? Are we in secret seeking power over others? Are we getting ego-identified with these powers, so that we begin to think that we are better than others because we have these powers? In such cases, then we will not only become blocked in our spiritual growth, but we will regress spiritually. Are we ready to use these powers and abilities only for the good of humanity, and not for our own personal needs? The use of spiritual powers also has other drawbacks. This spiritual energy which we use goes out in the form of actions in this world and does not then rise up onto the higher centers of consciousness of love and wisdom. It is suggested by those who have gone before us that it would be better to aim for the purification and transformation of character and development of universal love and absolute truth first; and then these powers will come as side effects. Thus, they should never be goals in spiritual life, The goal is the realization of the Real Self which is beyond all these. If, in the process of moving towards this goal, various abilities manifest themselves, then we may use them, but with much discrimination and never for self interest, reward or praise from others.


There is tendency among spiritual aspirants to confuse the various techniques which they use with the goal itself. They may think that the goal is to meditate many hours or to be a perfect vegetarian, or to chant as many hours as possible, or to have as few possessions as possible, or to serve as many people as possible. These are techniques or means towards a goal and not goals in themselves. We need not evaluate ourselves or others on this basis. Nor would it be wise to make a god out of these techniques. They are the various boats which we take in order to cross the sea of illusion to the shore of truth. Our goal is the realization of the ONE ABSOLUTE TRUE SELF OF ALL BEINGS – WITHIN AND WITHOUT. Everything that we employ along the way are the various boats which we may use for a period of time and then change eventually to another which is more suitable to the waters that we are passing through. Thus, no religion is a goal in itself. They are means to a goal, boats which help us pass through the difficult waters of life with less problems and delays. The goal of all religions is one -unity with God. And God is Love. Thus the measurement of our spiritual growth or level is not in how many hours we meditate, or pray, or serve others, or how pure our diet is. The level of our spirituality is indicated in the degree of our manifestation of the divine qualities of Love, Peace, Harmony, Self-knowledge, and feeling of unity with all. As we approach the shores of enlightenment, then we will necessarily leave all techniques behind and function from within, remembering always the ultimate truth that there is only ONE CONSCIOUSNESS which is living in all the beings and inanimate objects of this world. We will gradually realize that our true SELF is this one consciousness, and that all we see is our own self, and that we are all that we see.


But this too is a danger on the spiritual path. Some teachers encourage their students to give up all techniques and «spiritual crutches» immediately. What they say may be absolutely correct for themselves and a few other souls on the earth who may also be learning this lesson. But the rest of us still need the help of these spiritual «boats» which help us stay afloat in the sea of illusion until we come closer to the shore of realization and the distance is small and the water not so deep, and we have developed our spiritual muscles. Those aspirants who have not yet developed clarity of mind, a certain amount of detachment and discrimination between the real and temporary, will most likely suffer and progress much more slowly if they give up these useful techniques too early.


1. Just as in every other aspect of life, even in the spiritual path there are detours, dead ends and stray roads where we may mistakenly find ourselves.
2. We cannot always avoid them, and in fact they are a part of our learning process and are helpful to us, if we are clever enough to see them and learn through them.
3. Even though there are these various traps, the goal is worth it, and in the end we are always learning; and this is positive.
4. We can avoid some of the traps by following some general guidelines:
a. We must always be true to our inner self. This must be our ultimate guide. Do not accept anything from anyone, no matter how great and wise he may seem if it does not feel okay with your inner conscience and intuition. Believe in your self and follow your inner inclinations.
b. Remember that God is within you. The spiritual path is not an outward path in which we need to change our clothing and our names and give up our belongings and worldly responsibilities. God is within us NOW. He is the consciousness which is US, when the body and ego fall away.
c. PREFER INNER EFFORT and change to outer changes and external help from others. We can take advice, encouragement, love, inspiration from others. But only we can make the inner changes which we need make.
d. Remember that the GOAL IS UNIVERSAL LOVE AND UNLIMITED WISDOM. That means self knowledge, not fantastic experiences or spiritual powers. The goal is transcendence of identification with the body and ego and, thus, the experience of our Universal Self – God.
e. Practice continual SELF-OBSERVATION, always analyzing your motives, desires, attachments and programming behind every thought, word and action. This will prevent a large number of mistakes and much suffering.
f. BE REGULAR IN PRACTICE OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES. Persevere in the effort with ultimate patience for the results. Realize that the transformation of character is a very slow process, because the tendencies constituting that character have been developed over millions of years of human development and even from the animal state. It takes time.
g.LOVE EVERYONE – UNCONDITIONALLY – INCLUDING YOURSELF. Love is the direct and safest path of development. Love protects us from all dangers.
h. Realize that there is NO GROWTH WITHOUT DISCIPLINE and continual concentration on the ultimate truths.
5. SPIRITUALITY MUST PERMEATE OUR DAILY LIFE, otherwise it is just an empty meaningless game. It must be expressed as increased love, patience, understanding, compassion and peace in our human reactions.
Let us complete this chapter with the story about the spiritual aspirant who was not satisfied by the techniques which his teacher had given him. He went to the teacher and complained, «I have been practicing these techniques for ten years now and I am not yet enlightened. You must teach me something else so that I can proceed more quickly». The teacher smiled calmly and told him to come with him to the river. The student was excited, because now he would be taught the technique which would enlighten him. When they arrived the teacher said, «Now I want you to put your face very close to the water and look at the river bed». When the student did this the teacher placed both of his hands on the student’s head and submerged it into the water, holding it under the water for almost a minute. The student struggled to be released but the teacher’s grasp was firm. Finally at the last moment the teacher released the student’s head and he came up gasping for air. The student looked wildly at the teacher wondering why he had done this . With the same calm smile the teacher asked, «What were you thinking about down there?» The student blurted out, «About getting free, of course, so that I could breath». The teacher asked, «You had no other thoughts? No other desires?» «No», answered the student, «how could I, I just wanted desperately to get free, to live». «Yes», answered the teacher, «you see, when you desire enlightenment this desperately and have no other desires, then you will become enlightened». From this story we understand that our growth is not dependent upon the techniques we use or the system which we follow, but on the degree of our desire to really free ourselves from our ignorance and limitations.