Ordinarily the mind divides everything into separate and distinct elements and then understands them through comparison and contrast. In reality however God and world and all else are together. Or we may say that the world is nothing else but God’s outer robe, His progressive manifestation. Equally God is the core and Source, centre and circumference of everything.
Humanity therefore passes through three distinct stages of evolution. First is when the ego is being formed. During this phase, the ego resists and challenges everything that feels like a threat to its little circle of Nature which it wrongly appropriates and believes to be its reality. During this phase surrender is difficult because it means that the ego must abdicate itself. Because of this we hold on to our false identity regarding ourselves as a body that dies, or a mental personality which is nothing more than a temporary construct of nature, a framework to operate in the world.
In the next phase, generally through crisis, we begin to awaken to a deeper reality, we start seeking for something higher and greater, something that is Permanent, we start idealizing our thought and emotions and yearn for a perfect state of things. During this phase at some point of time, conscious turning towards the Divine, the Eternal, the True takes place. This seeking, this aspiration, through whatever outer circumstances or inner transmutation it comes, is the defining moment of initiation into the Path. Mere belief in God, ritualistic observance of customs and traditions of the religion in which one is born or to which one conforms, prayers to a Deity for personal gains, following the prescriptions and proscriptions of the scripture regarding food and daily routine are religion and not spirituality. It may be a preparation, like many other things but the real sign of the beginnings of spirituality is aspiration, a true seeking for that which is Beyond all that we conceive and imagine and yet secretly hope and yearn to be. Then comes the progressive transfer of the ego-self to the true self. This transfer progresses, whether through jnana or bhakti, concentration upon the Divine or through works and surrender. But it is not something immediate, a sudden rupture and breakaway from the ego-ridden life of samsara. There is a time, often a long time, when the two dwell together creating inner tussles and struggle between the ego-self and the true Self. But eventually, once the process has started it is bound to ultimately swing in favour of the true Self, whatever time or lives it takes. It is a phase when vigilance is needed, above all humility that reminds us that we are nothing and can do nothing without the Divine. At the same time to nurture the faith that with the Divine, there is nothing that is impossible.
The third phase, which is given only to a few chosen heroic souls is to return back to the field of unrest that the world is and work out here amidst challenging circumstances the Will of the Divine so that this earth and humanity is shaped nearer to the Divine Idea implanted within its core.
As we can see, the struggle is there as long as the ego does not completely abdicate to the Divine. This can happen only through a growing inner sincerity. Listening to lectures, attending to satsangs, reading books can all be aids but still they cannot replace the actual surrender that takes place through real Time and all the varied situations of life. This surrender is fulfilled through the choices we make. There are choices and actions that bring us closer to the Divine and His Truth and Light and Love such as through daily meditation, practice of equanimity, cultivating faith, acceptance, will towards all that is true and beautiful and good, dedicating our actions to the Divine, the choice of the people we associate with and the company we keep. There are other choices that obstruct the path such as through fear and greed and lust and anger and ambition. It means to become conscious of the real inner motives of our actions that often hide behind the apparent justifications that our mind gives.
This is the broad framework of our spiritual evolution. Of course the time taken varies because each one us is unique with an equally unique spiritual destiny. The spiritual consciousness is not a monotone but a field with infinite freedom and plasticity. Yet the one saving Grace is constant Remembrance of the Divine and dedicating inwardly all one’s actions, thoughts and feelings to Her.