“They who devote themselves both to life in the world and to meditation, by life in the world overcome death, and by meditation achieve immortality” (Isha Upanishad 11).
Life is not just some maze to be somehow gotten through, or a Monopoly board with random advances and regressions–and there is certainly no Get Out of Jail Free. Rather, life demands the fullest exercise of the two faculties that mark human beings out from the rest of earthly life-forms: developed reason and intuition.
Intelligence of the highest order is necessary. This does not mean that the aspirant needs to be an intellectual, but he must be intelligent. Stupid people simply do not make it–mostly because stupid people never seek it. Nor can the seeker’s intelligence be kept on the shelf for only occasional use and amusement. At all times the yogi must be keenly aware of what is going on in his life sphere and ever seeking to understand and work out the mystery.
As already said, he needs highly developed intuition as well. Both these are only produced by meditation. This is because both intelligence and intuition (direct knowledge) are divine attributes. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna declares himself to be intelligence (7:10; 10:34) and the knowledge of the mystic (9:12). In the Katha Upanishad (2:2:13) Brahman is said to be the “intelligence of the intelligent,” and in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2:1:13) the sage Gargya says: “The being who dwells in the heart as intelligence–him I meditate upon as Brahman.”
I am not speaking of cunning or cleverness or “savvy;” I am speaking of the intelligence which only arises in those who are of highly evolved consciousness.
The inner and outer at the same time
It is those who possess right intelligence and right intuition that can live both the inner and outer lives simultaneously–not first one and then the other in alternating cycles–in a spiritually productive (i.e., evolutionary) manner. By doing so they will accomplish two things: they will come to understand the real meaning and purpose of all they experience and do and thereby learn the lessons for which they came into relative existence; and they will come to experience (not just intellectually think) that the two are really one, manifestations of the One. Having seen the One in all, they have attained immortality even in this mortal life.
Dedication to Dharma
A final point. Notice that the upanishadic sage speaks of being devoted to the outer and inner lives. This means steadiness and regularity in practice as well as adamant adherence to the required disciplines such as yama and niyama. But most important it means wanting, even loving, to lead the outer and inner lives according to the precepts of dharma. There is no place here for grudging admittance of necessity, of stingy eking out of the barest minimum that is required, grumbling and resenting and wishing it need not be so. Such persons should not even try. They are not just losers, they are losses.
A practical example
Consider the perspective of a Christ. Crucifixion was the most horrible of deaths, yet according to Saint Paul: “Jesus… for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).
What a different perspective from the morbid and sentimental carryings-on over the passion of Jesus that some Christians engage in. Loving the world and the body that links them to the world, nothing seems to them more painful or tragic than its torture and death. But Jesus hastened to the mockery, the scourging, and the crucifixion for the joy that was set before him. No wonder he has been misunderstood and rejected through the ages by those who bear his name.