There are generally two categories of spiritual seekers it seems -
- Those seeking God (to understand/realize)
- Those seeking Self (to understand/realize)
In the Hindu traditions, there are four paths outlined that can be followed by a seeker to find God or Self. I use the term "God" in a non-religious sense (as much as possible). By God I mean 'That which is the Source of Existence', as opposed to a Creator-God sitting in heaven and passing judgements and giving us positive or negative points (punishing us with Hell or rewarding us with Heaven).
None of this is new for most spiritual people, but I would like to articulate it nonetheless.
The four paths are --
- Bhakti Yoga -- Devotional surrender of individual self identity
- Karma Yoga --Selfless Service recognizing all as Self
- Raja Yoga -- Path of Energy and mind refinement
- Jñāna Yoga -- Path of Knowledge (of Self/God)
The fact that Hindu and Indic spirituality and philosophy have always been inextricably intertwined, that they are not considered separate at all -- together they are known as Darshan Shāstra (Darshan means "To See", Shāstra can be translated to being 'the field of systematized knowledge'). So as philosophical traditions, logic is very important.
One main aspect of Darshan is Pramāna (or Proof of Right Knowledge). There are multiple modes to pramāna --
- Pratyaksha - Direct experience
- Anumāna - Inference
- Agama/Śabda - Testimony of a reliable witness
- Upamāna - Comparison and Analogy
- Arthāpatti - Postulation (based on circumstances)
- Anupalabdhi - Inability to produce (inability to proove)
- Abhāva - Absence (absence/non-existence of something disproves it)
I've linked to a nice wikipedia article on pramāna -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pramana
Depending on which path one chooses, one starts with one or more of the modes listed above.
Most powerful is direct experience which is usually the result of the path. When we know, we know. This is like a flipping of a light switch -- direct apperception of the Truth/Reality one is seeking. Once known, it can never be lost.
Before that can happen, one of the other modes are required. The words of a teacher, our own intellect's ability to logically analyze something and ascertain whether it is in the possibility of reality or not.
What's more important is the degree of skepticism in the seeker's mind. If the individual is too skeptical, they can never really commit to learning and practicing any of the paths, because they have already presupposed what is right and what is wrong. A good criterion for a seeker that they be of an open-minded nature -- intelligent but not stilted by presumptions and presuppositions.
Just thought I'd write down some ramblings before I forget.