Spiritual awakening is a uniquely subjective event. There is no fixed number of stages of spiritual awakening. Spiritual awakening is a journey. While the journey itself is similar for each adept, their experience of the journey is unique. The destination for each traveler in this journey is the same. It is the escape from ignorance.
Deepak Chopra speaks of the 5 stages of spiritual awakening. Johan Burkhardt, a spiritual teacher, and healer discusses 4 stages of spiritual awakening from her personal experience. There are several others who have claimed to have undergone 10 stages of spiritual awakening. If we examine these cases of the experience of spiritual awakening, we may realize that it is pretty much the same. It is a journey from an intense feeling of forlornness, depression, abandonment, to one of joy, abundance, and enlightenment. The Buddhist Scriptures discuss four stages of spiritual awakening. These include Sotapanna, Sakadagami, Anagami, and Arahant. The teaching of the four stages of enlightenment is the foundation of the early Buddhist schools, including the Theravada school of Buddhism.
Stages of Spiritual Awakening
Deepak Chopra is an influential spiritual teacher of our times. It may be interesting to discuss the five stages of spiritual awakening according to him. The essence of all awakening is the escape from ignorance. Spiritual awakening is a profound experience that is marked by a paradigm shift. It is an encounter with your divinity. It rips apart the fabric of reality as you have known so long and puts you on a trajectory of spiritual evolution. As is evident from the term, it represents a kind of “wake-up” from every day, material level, mundane reality into the higher reality of spirit. It is an awakening from the illusion to which you can never go back once you are awakened. This may or may not be an overnight process but whether it is a short or a long process, you experience different stages spiritual awakening.
Escape from Ignorance
Our mundane, everyday life of material existence is known as ‘Avidya’ in Sanskrit. It is also known as ignorance. Deepak Chopra interprets it as an incorrect understanding. This is a kind of ignorance that keeps us operating at a lower level of consciousness. This kind of ignorance is primarily caused by the excess of tamas, one of the three primary qualities of the universe that embody inactivity, sloth, dullness, and darkness. The process of the stages spiritual awakening dissipates tamas in the first place. This process begins with a pull towards a transformative growth, gradually limiting the impact of avidya.
According to Deepak Chopra, awakening is your destiny. It is your birthright. It is mapped into your consciousness. The fact that it is your destiny implies there must be clues to indicate that you are moving ahead in the right direction.
Your spiritual journey consists of stages spiritual awakening. Deepak Chopra uses the analogy of vision to describe the stages of spiritual awakening. This model uses five different qualities of sight to depict the stages of spiritual awakening.
These five stages of spiritual awakening are as described below:
The first stage is glimpsing the spirit. It is known as the call to adventure stage. It is the beginning of the hero’s journey. The primary push-off point in this journey is the call to adventure. The call to adventure stage leads to a break from the life lived so far. It is a signal that emits from your subconscious. You do not fail to recognize the signal that changes the course of your life. It is an unmistakable spark that triggers your spiritual journey. It is the moment that comes in every life that must be seized. This is the moment of transformation. Life begins to change from this point on. You begin to look at life differently with a new perception that you access.
There can be any among the several trigger point that begins the process of stages of spiritual awakening. It can be the loss of a job, a near-death experience, the death of a close someone, a challenge, illness, or any other shocking event. No matter what your experience is, your world view is shaken. You perceive the world with a new vision and begin to live the ordinary life in an extraordinary manner.
Examining and Choosing a path
You have already begun your journey through stages of spiritual awakening. You are in the second stage. As your consciousness begins to expand, you realize the limitations of the world view you held earlier. This stage could be exciting and unsettling at the same time. You may have already begun questioning what you had taken for granted so long. These can include worldviews, the nature of reality, ideologies, the nature of time, the nature of the self, relationships, and everything else.
You are also trying at the same time to re-anchor your belief system. You are looking for a new philosophy, belief-system, practice, or tradition to help you contextualize. You have begun your spiritual exploration in earnest now. You are re-mapping your world view. You are actually examining and choosing a path, which is the second stage among the stages of spiritual experience. This is the period of self-study, information gathering, and exploration. You are looking for traditions or practices that might answer the queries you have. The Hindu tradition believes there are hundreds of paths leading to the same goal. No matter which path you take guided by your intuitive vision, you are well on the path to success through stages of spiritual awakening.
Seeking and Following the path
The next stage in the five stages of spiritual awakening is the stage of sadhak or the spiritual seeker. Once you have discovered your path, you begin the practice and study. You are almost drawn to regular practice and study that takes you on to the path of greater vision and expanded awareness. The spiritual practice in Sanskrit is called sadhana. It is a regular and focused study and practice not by external choice but by an inner compulsion that attracts you to the path. You may encounter twists and turns, ups and downs passing through the stages of spiritual awakening. However, but you remain steadfast as you have begun to gain more knowledge about yourself.
This stage is marked by a shift in identity. The identity begins to shift in this stage from external to self-referral or internal reference. The external references are positions and possessions, while internal references are higher guidance, intuition, and stillness. You recognize your spiritual dimension while fostering the evolution of your consciousness.
This stage has two clues to help you determine your growth. The first is a sense of upliftment. You begin to get grounded in joy and happiness. You are uninfluenced by melodrama and hysteria, while you feel much more at ease with life. The second marker or clue for you is the ease with which you find your desires fulfilled. It is probably the result of spiritual practices that physical, mental, and energy blocks to the manifestation of desires are removed. You let go of your life with the flow of life. You begin to experience the grace, little miracles, and synchronicities.
Struggle and Challenges of the Loss of Sight
The stages of spiritual awakening are not a smooth transition from one stage to the next. You may encounter struggle, resistance to change, cognitive biases, self-deceptions, and other personal shortcomings. It is not uncommon to encounter struggle when your thoughts, behavior, speech, and emotions are transforming and leading you towards kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. The struggle is less with the self than with the external world. The external influences might irritate and even infuriate you. You may even be assaulted with temptations to get back into your old skin.
The challenges could be encountered in the form of setbacks, limiting beliefs, life circumstances, enemies, and rivals. They may hurt you, knock you down, lead you to question your chosen path, and test your resolve. The setbacks may persuade you to give up your quest, especially when you feel lost or helpless. You may want to give up the quest, having succumbed to spiritual blindness. You probably fail to realize that this challenge or spiritual blindness has its source in your ego that fears its extinction. As you realize this, these dark forces or the spiritual blindness become your spiritual teacher in your journey through the stages of spiritual awakening. This stage is the test of your courage and fortitude and you can emerge into light only through this darkness.
Seeing and Merging
When you have been through the four stages of spiritual awakening, you may eventually discover something that your inner quest had led you to. This is the transcendent and visionary stage, an altogether new stage. You have completed your sadhana and entered into the stage of resplendence and light. It is quite likely that you have attained the stage of unity that mystics speak of. Your paradigm shift has taken place completely and you exist in this state unflinchingly. You are now your true identity. Your awakening has taken place. The world and the universe have taken a new and highly meaningful dimension untouched by the illusion that you were till now subjected to. You discover the immortal, infinite, and unshackled God force everywhere eternally.
This is the stage of homecoming and discovering your true identity. It is the process of letting go rather than the process of gaining more knowledge. You discover you were always the same and the only difference now is the deep insight you have gained.