There was a time when I couldn’t stand biographies. And then, I was introduced to the world of spiritual memoirs – the less factual, more emotionally invested kind of look into people’s lives. It was like a paradigm shift!
While our ultimate goal as spiritual beings is to attain Enlightenment, not all of us are aspiring single-mindedly to achieve that goal within this lifetime. Also, not all of us are inclined towards renouncing our material lives to go live in ashrams or caves with the monks, to attain this guidance.
That being said, we need all the encouragement, wisdom and inspiration along our way that we can get, even whilst we choose to engage in worldly matters.
To me, these are the books that brought different flavors of enlightenment to the comfort of my lazy space. Here’s highlighting what stood out to me, in each of the recommendations listed below.
* The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer
This inspiring story looks into Michael’s life of almost monk-hood; spending 40-years in the forest trying to live in solitude but by a strange twist of fate, being anything but alone, ever!
Not just that, there are humbling insights like him teaching meditation to jail inmates, building a spiritual temple that is a magnet to spiritual masters from around the world, coming clean from an FBI raid, and demystifying several spiritual experiences in simple layman language.
Without giving away too much, here are my 5 key takeaways.
#1 – ON MEDITATION
Meditating for long hours is not comfortable, not easy and definitely not rosy. But he shows us how to get through the sluggish phases, as well as embrace the overwhelming ones.
#2 – ON EGO
Even years of meditation can lead to stagnation in spirituality. You might be able to use his life incidents to identify your own shortcomings and ego blocks, so that you can accelerate your journey once again!
#3 – ON LIFESTYLE CHOICES
It is possible to earn a LOT of money, get married, have kids and still be increasingly, spiritually-conscious. The real-life incidents in this book are more than plenty of evidence in terms of practical spirituality.
#4 – ON HAPPINESS & SURRENDERING
Our personal preferences about what should and shouldn’t happen, is the reason we experience resistance. Once you stop feeding these preferences, you are able to do what needs to be done without being emotionally driven.
#5 – ON PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY
Pursuing Spirituality is NOT black and white; the universe continues to throw other necessary ‘obstacles’ such as jobs or relationships, and the only way out to the other side of Oneness, is through these obstacles. As the saying goes, obstacles on your path are your path.
This book affirmed my belief that we are no longer in the time where we go sit in caves and become monks. The monks need to live amongst us – WE have to find our Light and spread it, all the while being amongst those that are in the darkness.
* Sadhguru by Arundhati Subramaniam
What stands out about this book from other spiritual memoirs, is the strange experiences that are described. Though strange, they are not impossible to believe. It also is perhaps the deepest introspection into Sadhguru’s life, I’ve read thus far.
#6 – ON MARRIAGE
Marrying a non-spiritual partner is okay (and as proven by this mystic, at times necessary in your journey). This book helped me close the loop on my personal pondering – Should Spiritual People Get Married?
#7 – ON ENLIGHTENMENT FOR THE COMMON MAN
Non-spiritual people might attain nirvana before the Enlightened being (called Bodhisattva) who was evidently more spiritual in life! Everyone is moving at their own pace, don’t let someone’s journey disappoint you or make you arrogant either.
#8 – ON PAST LIVES
Not only are past lives proven to be very real experiences as proven by Sadhguru’s stories, what seems like an ‘instant’ and effortless enlightenment is actually many lifetimes of raising awareness to attain that peak point of bliss.
#9 – ON THE AFTERMATH OF ENLIGHTENMENT
Enlightened beings can fall sick and undergo a lot of challenges too, their life doesn’t become rosy and effortless. As long as you’re alive, you’re going to learn a lot! This makes me think we’ve exaggerated the topic “your external is a manifestation of your internal”. Some things happen regardless, and that’s just that.
#10 – ON MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES
Disembodied spirits (ghosts) are real, but they aren’t as spooky as we believe them to be. They’re just searching for the light and sometimes they think we, as humans, can show them the way. So are other concepts like chakras, soul bonds, and much more.
* Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh
This was single-handedly the most influential spiritual memoir I have ever read on my journey yet. If there is one book you ever buy on my recommendation, please make it this one!
Though over 400-pages, it is not overwhelming at all. It is a gentle, easy-breezy read that will transform you in the most subtle and lasting ways.
I learned a lot about Buddhism and the life of the Buddha, by reading this but also was able to adopt many aspects into my own life. Here are 5 highlights :
#11 – ON ESSENTIALISM
The Buddha and his disciples only ate one to two meals a day, before sunset, depending on the food available.
The practitioners were not required to cook meals because it was considered an added household chore – so both with the intention of learning humility, and saving time, they would beg alms once every morning, and that food would be used throughout the day. (Focus on what really matters, Essentialism)
#12 – ON MINIMALISM
The same for clothing – the monks were advised to have only two pairs, one to wear, one to wear whilst the other pair was in the wash. This minimized worldly duties. (Minimalism has been around longer than us new-age folks want to believe)
#13 – ON MONKS & COMMONERS
Lay disciples were the followers that didn’t want to be monks, but wanted to benefit from Buddhism while pursuing their livelihoods. The lay disciples had five simple practices to follow – don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t steal from anybody, no alcohol, no non veg, and don’t lie. (If you can’t be a monk, following just this little bit of advice is enough to change your life)
#14 – ON DIVERSITY
Though the Buddha did not voluntarily cook meat, if during bhiksha, the process of begging alms, he was served non vegetarian food, he would not decline because he saw this as an opportunity to connect with and share the Buddhist practice in every household. (Don’t stand against those that are not like you; gently gain their confidence and show them a better way; but stay open to the possibility that they will still not walk your way)
#15 – ON HUMILITY
Buddha was aware in advance of the exact moment of his death, and reason. Still, he continued to carry out his life without trying to win death. (Stay humble, and know when your time is up, don’t try to bargain with destiny)
BONUS READING MATERIAL
That being said, a special mention to the classic works of Paramhans Yogananda, called An Autobiography of A Yogi. This is one of those spiritual memoirs slash autobiographies that get the review “this answered many of my doubts”.
And this has been true for me too. Whether it was my confusion about hypnotherapy, fear of negative entities, or any other personal experiences, this book gave me the guidance I otherwise had no access to.
The language is a bit dated and complex, but if you try not to get too stuck in all that and simply glide through the story, your answers too will find themselves in this 400+ page biography.
There are many wondrous books that bring us the lessons that we otherwise would have to learn though ardent life obstacles. It is a fortune more than ever to have such a beautiful bouquet of diverse information.
Hope these works inspire you to read and gain from them too.
Also, these are some spiritual fiction books that I highly recommend reading as well!
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