Advancement means Progress. It means Positive Movement or Displacement from one point to another.
To answer the question – what is Spiritual advancement? – we need to to understand our current spiritual situation and then logically realize what would a positive movement from this starting point be.
In absence of guidance by a Guru, Aacharya – most of us unfortunately tend to be stuck in the material conception of life. We identify our self with our material body and are not very comfortable with the notion that we are a spirit soul and our current body is only a temporary abode for us.
Starting from such a platform, Spiritual Advancement would entail
a.) Find Direction: Developing an understanding about our true-self.
Using the help of scriptures, genuine Aacharyas and our own logic and intelligence to reach the realization that our true identity is spiritual and our true nature is ‘Sat’, ‘Chitta’, ‘Anand’ – eternal, full of knowledge and blissful.
We just need to ask ourselves few very basic, fundamental child-like questions such as why were we born? what happens after death? as our body changes from infancy to old age what helps us maintain a single identity? Vedic texts such as Bhagavad Gita provide rational answers to all these questions that would satisfy our intellect and offer us a world-view that is scientific, meaningful and TRUE.
b.) Pursue the Right Direction: Practicing spiritual attachment and material detachment.
Once we come to understand that our true identity is spiritual, we would notice that material objects can’t make or keep us happy and only spiritual engagement can provide us a fulfilling experience. However, due to material nature of our brain and senses they tempt us to engage with inferior material energy. Our intelligence would need some time to overcome this material conditioning from years of consistent consumptive messaging from sources all around us. Hence, we need to gradually and consciously practice material detachment and enhance spiritual engagement of our senses – Acquiring Spiritual knowledge, Mantra Meditation, Devotional Service.
Our heightened positive experiences inspite of lesser material fulfilment of our senses shall soon reinforce that our realization was true and that we must strive for simple living and high thinking.
c.) Avoid Distractions: Keeping our mirror like consciousness free from dust of materialism.
Consciousness is manifestation of Spirit Soul. The more vibrant our spiritual state of being, the more conscious, alert, mindful we are. In a materialistic conception of life, our consciousness is in a kind of mild hibernation and we lead our life in an auto-pilot mode without giving much thought to purpose of life.
Due to our strong conditioning and unbalanced lifestyles, even after having once realized our true identity we run the risk of falling back into the material trap. If we do not continuously sharpen our intelligence, our senses can drag us back into the dark corners of material indulgence. We need to keep bathing our intellect in the knowledge offered by scriptures and using those insights to keep our consciousness clean and bright.
d.) Enjoy the Journey: Transforming each act, each moment on this material planet into a spiritual phenomenon.
We need to align our interests, skills, activities to ensure that eventually every moment of our life-time is spent fulfilling our true Dharma – Spiritual Service. We must use our vocational skills, wealth, intellect to help ourselves and others to get out of material nescience and experience spiritual bliss.
Work towards creating a truly sustainable society where people realize the importance of our human life-form and live not just as a consumer but as a conscious spiritual being striving for perfection.
This is the stage when we begin experiencing spiritual bliss even in this material world as our every activity acquires a transcendental nature.