One of the common issues that a seeker on the spiritual path comes up with is: Am I really making any progress?

This is a very human response. We are accustomed to goal oriented activity. We study to clear examinations and get into the next higher class. We take medicines to achieve cures for a disease or an undesirable condition. We go for beauty treatments to get a fairer or clearer complexion. We work for a salary or for profit, or to grow crops for instance, or catch fish for consumption or sale. Even sports, though called sports, are generally competitive or goal oriented. Sports for the sake of sports, with no element of winning or losing attached to it, is a very uncommon thing.

In the process,  we get wired to achieving results for everything we do.

Now the spiritual path is a different thing altogether. You don’t necessarily gain perfect control over your temper in, say three months. Nor do you have God speaking to you in any predictable length of time, or  have a vision in two weeks of regular, long meditation, even if you could gather the persistence and stamina to engage in regular, long meditation.

Despite the spiritual lore many seekers are familiar with, of visions that saints have  had, or miracles they have effected, and despite the assurance of all paths that the human soul is a part of the Divine Spirit, the normal spiritual seeker has practically no spectacular experiences. Most meditational sessions are quite routine, and often one is just struggling to keep the mind on the object or idea of meditation.

So one ends up wondering whether the effort to stay on the spiritual path and continue with the practices you engage in, is really getting you anywhere.

What Paramhansa Yogananda said in answer to one of such students was this: “If you plant a seed and dig it up daily to see if it is growing, it will never take root. Take proper care of it, but don’t be curious!”

The right approach is, to have faith in the effectiveness of the spiritual path, and to be aware of the little changes that come about in life. Such as for example, feeling greater love and compassion, being more willing to get out of your comfort zone to help a friend or family member, or even a stranger. Or, not being too ready to criticise another, but being able to see beyond to what could possibly have brought about the unpleasant behaviour of the person. Not being too keen to make a point or win an argument if it involves hurting someone or requires you to be too violent in your expression of what you have to say because you feel it is right.

I have, for instance , seen my own temperament undergo a gradual but definite change. Where I was only too ready to see the faults in another, I now observe neutrally, with no element of criticism and, in the back of my mind the thought that arises is : God knows what this person has gone through to be like this.

Automatically, a feeling of kindness and  affection sweeps through your heart and mind, even for one who may otherwise be aberrant in behaviour.

Yukteswarji has said that without developing the natural love of the heart it is not possible to take one step on the  spiritual path.

Jesus  emphasised forgiveness as when Peter asked him how many times he ought to forgive someone who had sinned against him, and Jesus answered “ not seven, but seventy seven times.” The idea was that one must forgive as many times as the other person hurts. Now we all know that forgiving is not easy, because hurt rankles in the heart, and brooding over hurt incites in us the desire for revenge, which darkens the mind and takes away all joy.  But if you can have enough love in the heart, for whoever touches your life, if you can look upon everyone as a dear brother or sister prone to making ego-driven mistakes, then you can forgive.

So, therefore, one of the  most important signs of growth on the spiritual path is, whether one is more loving and more forgiving. The ability to love without expecting in return, and to forgive, without holding anything against another are the true signs of a spiritual person.

If you find some of these growing within you, you certainly are making spiritual progress.