Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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St Ignatius of Loyola

Hari OM

Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.

Tomorrow is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, a founding father of the Society of Jesus, aka The Jesuits.

Image result for st ignatiusIt is interesting to note that all spiritual philosophies arise from one over-arching desire in the hearts of Mankind; the desire to Know the Higher. Not a single living creature which holds any amount of intellect at all fails to ask itself at least once during its life, "who am I and why am I here/what is the point of life?" Depending on the period of time, the environmental and social circumstances and other such factors, rare individuals expend just that little bit more effort in following through on the enquiry. Sometimes it is from choice, other times by events which force the issue. Always - always - when the story of great spiritual masters are related, there is a common thread of their having strong intellectual power; nearly always, they overcome early and perhaps ongoing physical adversity; and no matter within which doctrine their search is formed, the conclusions are drawn that one must be meditative, surrender one's ego and then seek a way to bring the spiritual awakening into daily life. For the common theme which comes through is that Mankind's nature has not changed throughout history and therefore we are ever in need of guidance.

Almost all of the great Masters of the Christian tradition emulated the pattern of the more ancient Hindu tradition, by seeking to withdraw; usually to a mountain, a cave, a forest and hut, generally with water nearby.

St Ignatius was no different in any of this. One of the things which marks him out from others might be his pre-conversion life; he was a soldier with aristocratic heritage, he liked that life and the attention it brought from the ladies… he was, by his own later admission, arrogant about his good looks and abilities. That ego-nature did not automatically leave him, either. In his autobiography he writes of the personal struggle against that continued arrogance which merely translated from dreaming of victories and accolades in battle and society, into dreaming of spiritual success and recognition.

The ego is represented by the snake in Hinduism… and it is not a stretch to accept that the serpent in Eden which enticed the eating of 'forbidden fruit' was nothing but the ego becoming aware of itself, resulting in the tumble into a separation from the Higher. The ego is a viperous thing, ready to strike at the most unexpected time!

There is plenty of information about the life and times of St Ignatius for you to follow-up online; but some key points are worth placing here.

Image result for st ignatiusAfter the battle of Pamplona, in which his legs were severely damaged, Ignatius was forced to a lengthy recuperation during which time he had but two books as company; The Life of Jesus and a book on saints. It was these which started his 'dreaming' in a different direction. He was sufficiently intellectually observant, however, to note that the daydreams about God and saints tended to lift his mood and stay with him, whilst the daydreams of 'derring-do' and female adoration left him feeling empty and dissatisfied. Therefore, the former became more regular and the latter began to drop away.

Over time, this form of thinking pattern got formulated in his ideas about "Consolation" and "Desolation", which figure prominently in his spiritual exercises. For readers here, Consolation relates to the Vedantic concept called Shreyas, whilst Desolation equates to Preyas. Thus, independently and through diligent observation, using viveka (discernment) and vairagya (self-discipline), Ignatius concluded that we are bedevilled by our own weakness of thinking and that we can raise our lives from mundane to meaningful by changing our way of thinking, thus making informed and better decisions.

The spiritual exercises require that one surrender to a teacher (aachaarya) who has already traversed them. Whilst the handbook is available, its full import and benefit is likely only to manifest through spiritual direction from one already experienced and who can support and correct us where necessary.

Ignatius advocated service to others as a direct means to, and consequence of, high spiritual life.

He came to understand "God" as being personal and imminent - a God who is within us at all times and also within all other life, whatever form it takes.

Ignatius kept a spiritual diary in order to aid his self-observation and undertook a daily regimen of 'review' (the examen) in which the day's events were recalled and noted and learned from. This to be accompanied by prayer for improvement and for a better tomorrow.

To live life simply and effectively, devoted to the Lord, having His Name forever in one's heart and seeking to emulate the acts of Jesus in the service of one's fellow human beings, is the essence of Ignatian spirituality. In this, we find once again the similarity with Vedanta rather than the differences.

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