The knowledge is often not enough. Intelligence is a strong aspect of the human mind but often fails to help us practice what we know. Reading books, listening to lectures, meditating, and even talking about subjects spiritual does not make one spiritual. The knowledge may all be there but living a spiritual life full of virtue may still be difficult. As an outsider looking in this is difficult to understand. How can a person who is talking about God, chanting God's name, meditating, praying, attending sermons still be afraid to trust others or even stoop to gossiping, lying and cheating? Where is the disconnect? When we are not in touch with the real 'I' we cannot live the life that the intellect believes is possible.
Imagine going into an office of a person of authority and seeing a display of an elaborate altar right in the office and then imagine the officer asking for a bribe to do what he is being paid to do. Not uncommon. Imagine going for a religious function and hearing people sitting there gossiping about their neighbor. Imagine going to a sermon and thinking about what is for dinner after the sermon. One is not worse than the other. They are all symptoms of the same thing.
We who claim to be spiritual actually are talking about understanding what spirituality is all about. When I read about Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna I can see that they are what being spiritual is all about. To them spirituality was not a virtue it was just who they were. It is who we all are but have not acknowledged. We talk about practicing spirituality not about being spiritual. We talk about not lying when we should just be speaking the truth because we cannot help but speak the truth. We talk about having no fear when we should be courageous because we have conviction in our knowledge of who we are. Virtue is not a quality it is who we are. Evil is good gone bad and that can be reversed - always, everytime because it means going back to the original. The first step needed is to want to be authentic and then use the knowledge to get there. It is not a change it is only an acknowledgement of who we are.
There is a story about Swamiji who lived an idealistic life. As a young man he and his friends played regularly in the garden of a neighbor. There was a large tree that they would climb up and make a lot of noise talking and laughing amongst themselves. The old man of the house had tried shooing the boys off, scolding them, complaining to their parents all for nothing. Eventually one afternoon he came out and stood looking up at the boys and told them that he had seen a monster in the tree and that this monster was capable of wringing the necks of little children. The boys were afraid and slowly started climbing down the tree. The young Naren continued to sit up on the tree and said, "Why are you believing him? We have been visiting this tree for years and have not once seen this monster - how is that possible?" The boys were not convinced. After all the old man - a man of authority had told them there was a monster. Naren was unconvinced and continued to enjoy the tree. A simple example of how much strength this young boy had in his own conviction. He refused to believe the story simply because it was told to him. He continued living his life with such conviction. He questioned and argued with his Guru Sri Ramakrishna for six long years before accepting his perfection and finally saying that everything good that he said were the words of his Guru and anything wrong were his own. Swamiji's life deserves to be emulated. He was courageous in every way - physically, morally and spiritually simply because he was deeply in touch with himself.
We lose virtue because of fear and so do those around us. We need to be sympathetic and forgiving towards ourselves and others and learn to see and acknowledge our true Self. What we see and abhor in others is really a reflection of our own weakness. We may manifest it differently but it is still a reflection of who we see ourselves to be. A nagging wife, a controlling husband, a truant teenager, an angry driver, a lying friend, an interfering parent they all reflect our fears if we are affected negatively by them. We must develop the courage to face them with conviction and so face our own fears as this takes us to our true Self and releases us of the fear. We do not need to be critical of others or ourselves but we do need to stand up for our own convictions and for truth without fear. Confrontation or avoidance pushes us further into fear. Courage allows us to stand tall and remain present without reacting or being afraid of repercussions. Listening with complete presence has the power to calm the environment around us enough that sensible conversation or action can follow.
We are invincible in Spirit. It is our ever vigilant ego that thinks we are destructible. Impermanence is a state of the ego not of the Spirit. Only when we destroy our ego can we recognize our true Self. The ego is a reflection of our Spirit but believes it is the real thing. Since it is only a reflection it has the fear of impermanence - naturally since it knows it does not really exist. The ego tries to prove its presence by attaching itself to things, people, emotions etc. All of these happen to be impermanent and ever changing and so we develop fear. When we can see through the ego we can see the real Self. That which is permanent, that which gives us life, that which never changes, that which is unaffected by anything is virtue personified. There is nothing right or wrong, good or bad, dark or light in the realm of the Spirit. That acknowledgement is the first step in our journey towards it. When we are non-judgmental we can look through ego and get a glimpse of the Spirit. We often see it in children and animals. They have not developed their ego and what we see in them is who we all are when we are stripped of our ego. We must stop labeling ourselves and others. We must accept that inherently we are all good.
Being authentic means being true to our inner being which means being courageous, being truthful, being honest, being faithful, being forgiving, being ethical, being giving, being loving, being compassionate, being peaceful, being accepting under all and every circumstance. It does not mean being godfearing for there is nothing fearful about God. It means being in communion with one and all and recognizing that we are all One.