How can I know if I am advancing on the spiritual path?

george's picture

Average: 4.7 (26 votes)

How can I know if I am advancing on the spiritual path? How can I know if I'm not fooling myself but really developing?

There is one clear indication for being considerably advanced on the path: it is when you don't care anymore if you have advanced or not.

It does not mean you have abandoned the spiritual path. You still have that underground pull towards the spiritual domain that keeps you on the path beyond your volition, you may even still enjoy the spiritual practices or may not, but you have become completely indifferent to whether you are progressing or not, you find yourself accepting whatever spiritual progress, non-progress or anti-progress concerned with your being. You have surrendered all objectives and targets. This is the clear indication that you are progressing, if you wish to have such an indication.

But do not turn this indication now into a new objective. It will happen when its time comes.

There are spiritual teachers who say that being calm, peaceful, relaxed is an indication to spiritual progress.

You cannot take this as an indication to progress. Sometimes on the contrary, it may indicate that you suppress hard emotions and past karma conditionings deep down in your subconscious and on the surface feels peaceful and relaxed.

Take for example the Vipassana meditation technique, the deeper you go, the stronger are the mental reaction patterns, the sanskaras, that pop up and make you more agitated. In Vipassana as well as in other certain meditations, actually it can be said that in great parts of the practice, feeling agitated is a good sign of progress.

Is there anything I can do to make sure I will progress

Yes, always be sincere with yourself.

You are always in progress. You may make the progress more speedy and efficient by always being sure that you are sincere with yourself. When your mind deceives you, it, of course, can make the path longer, longer even in extra lives, this is an objective of the mind: to delay your progress forever because spiritual progress means for the mind one thing: its extinction, or more accurately, the extinction of its control over you.

This is the case, by the way, where a guru may be most beneficial by spotting in real time when you are deceiving yourself and showing it to you. This is the main role of a guru.

I may wander on the path for eons and not progress

Who is this "I" that worries about wandering for eons on the path? Search for it.

You look at the spiritual path from your personality's skeptical point of view as if the trail of the path is chosen by you and is limited only to the official satsangs, meditations, reading spiritual books etc. Your spiritual path is always there, it is there also when you go to work or walk with your dog or crawl with a neighbor. Just embark on the path in the same way you step on an escalator, leave aside worries about progress and instead always be alert to make sure you are sincere with yourself, always check on yourself like a suspicious petty employer.

(From verbatim of Talks with Riktam Kantu, Vol. A)

banana's picture

words of truth

Exactly what i needed, i think this progress issue pops up in each seeker from time to time and usually the answers are not that encouraging. this q&a is so unusual and so true, thank you!

banana | Tue, 06/24/2008 - 04:57
santthosh kumaar's picture




santthosh kumaar | Mon, 06/30/2008 - 21:26
Wahido Theriaca's picture

Why even ask the question if we know there is no answer?

Dear George, Dear Santthosh, Dear All,

In my perspective all that is written comes from the mind (except if it comes from an enlightened one), therefore might be interpreted by a judgement, an emotion, a belief and so on. What you are both saying is true, but i believe that there is no right or wrong, no this way or that way. I believe that all is an experience and can be taken lightfully, joyously. Thinking is good and always leads us to something, and then another thing, and then many more related things and then it's just a bottomless vacuum of thoughts. Why even try to understand? Do we really have anything to understand? or is it just another belief? I believe that one of the indicators of spiritual progress is not "trying" to understand, hence even what i am writing is... what it is.

Thank you.

Love, Theriaca

Wahido Theriaca | Sat, 07/05/2008 - 23:01
sisi's picture

because it is like a koan

I refer in the following only to the original post:

I think the post itself posted by George is not of george himself but a transcript of talks with Riktam Kantu (see at the end of the post).

To my opinion it is a brilliant Q&A in the very fact that it puts the so common question (that each one of us asks himself/herself from time to time on the spiritual path) in an absurd perspective like a koan which has no logical answer. It demonstrates that we actually have no control over the progress and it does it through the same tool of the questioner: logic and reasoning thus shows also the absurdity of the reasoning itself.

The answer there:

There is one clear indication for being considerably advanced on the path: it is when you don't care anymore if you have advanced or not.

is the best out-of-the-box wise answer I have ever encountered to this irritating question of whether I'm progressing spiritually (usually teachers give standard answers based on simplistic indications, e.g. you should be more relaxed etc.). To me this creative simple answer helped a lot.

sisi | Sun, 07/06/2008 - 11:58
ramadvaith's picture

zen and enlightenment

an enlightened Zen master was asked: what is different, now that you are enlightened.

he said: before i started on my journey, i saw a mountain as a mountain and a river as a river. During the journey mountain was not a mountain and river was not a river. Now again a mountain is a mountain and a river is a river.

During the journey nothing is what it seems to be. In the end it is reality. But the mountain and the river are not the same mountain and the same river.

it is not that one does not care whether one has grown or not grown when one really has, but the certainty of growth leads to a detachment. One knows, there is no doubt and therefore it does not matter.

ramadvaith | Fri, 08/01/2008 - 16:15
leo's picture

no certainty or uncertainty

At some point, your ancient attachment to growth just breaks as other attachments break. There is no certainty and no uncertainty, you see how ridiculous and futile was this habit of measuring progress and growth and setting targets (as growth is by its nature measured according to some targets) and you just let go the whole system of calculation of developments that you were conditioned by society from age 0 to maintain and were using your whole life. You don't care anymore whether you have grown or not, you are happy with what is.

This was a tremendous moment of liberation for me.

Again having the certainty is the same as having uncertainty, you are still within the system of measuring yourself and setting imaginary targets as if you were the doer. When you abandon the whole useless system of neurotically measuring your development and start to just be and flow with the stream of life, then you feel tremendous liberation. You have just released yourself from another heavy burden, the burden of self expectations and constant self measurement.

leo | Fri, 08/01/2008 - 21:52
donnaapple's picture

i really liked

i really liked this
sometimes stories
are easier for me to understand

donnaapple | Mon, 08/17/2009 - 20:31
tejaswini's picture

I so agree with you.

I so agree with you. Whenever the conscious is prodded whatever questions you have popped above will be popped by the conscious amazing thought.


tejaswini | Sat, 05/05/2012 - 05:23
madan_gautam's picture

progress in spiritual path

you inner self is the best guide to tell you about this or a guru can tell about this.

madan_gautam | Fri, 09/05/2008 - 10:12
jayesh's picture

When your awareness is

When your awareness is increasing and you accept the the things way they are without any judgment,You are on the right path to Divine.Awareness about who you are,Mind,body and the world around you.When your attachment toward mind body and world is melting you are advancing on the path.When you walk on the path (life)with apperication and gratitude towards creator and creation you are advancing.

When five sense and the mind is under your control,you are advancing.When you are free from greed,fear and worries and your heart is open to all the divine creation, you are not fooling yourself,but advancing on your path.

May you experience the bliss!

jayesh | Wed, 09/17/2008 - 19:22
Surya Kumar Mishra's picture

Symptoms of advancing in the spiritual path

Many a people think that the spiritual path they are treading upon needs to be reviewed from time to time. A self-examination is always good. But the better way is to observe the actions done in the spiritual path with sincerety. The advancement will become obvious to others. For a spiritual person, the mind is guided by the wisdom and the wisdom in turn is guided by the jiva or the atman. A person who is aspiritual, his mind will guide the wisdom and the wisdom in turn will guide the atman. By this way the atman is veiled.
So a simple test method is:
Just see whether towards sense enjoyments, your mind is withdrawing or going with it.
If it is withdrawing, you are advancing in the spiritual path.
Knock at the door and the door will be opened.

Surya Kumar Mishra | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 13:00
happy together's picture


This is beautiful and very profound. Should be read carefully a few times to realize the deep essence hiding in the first paragraph.

"A person who is aspiritual, his mind will guide the wisdom and the wisdom in turn will guide the atman. By this way the atman is veiled."

True. There are so many aspirituals who masquerade also to themselves as spiritual but actually they are controlled by the analytical mind. This is typical to many western buddhists and advaitans who are trapped without noticing in their atheist analytical mind misunderstanding the metaphysical notion of these approaches. Such will not understand the metaphysical essence nor see the beauty of a sentence such as:

Knock at the door and the door will be opened.

happy together | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 13:26
Omkaradatta's picture

Seeing the beauty...

"Such will not understand the metaphysical essence nor see the beauty of a sentence such as: Knock at the door and the door will be opened."

It's ironic that one who complaints about those trapped in the mind sees beauty in words/sentences ;-). It seems here those who *aren't* trapped see them mainly as tools, not beauties.

Anyway, why be concerned about others... folks can take care of themselves.


Omkaradatta | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 13:42
Phroggy's picture


We find beauty and profundity in words that resonate clearly for us and offer the potential to move us beyond our current boundaries of awareness, and so mostly it speaks to an alignment of awareness between author and reader. Some find beauty in emotional sentimentality and others are unmoved by the powerful verse of an 'Awakened' poet.

There's nothing at all wrong with any of this, but when one believes that all should be moved by the beauty we perceive, then that one has fogotten that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Phroggy | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 18:49
Omkaradatta's picture

Or perhaps

"We find beauty and profundity in words that resonate clearly for us and offer the potential to move us beyond our current boundaries of awareness, and so mostly it speaks to an alignment of awareness between author and reader."

Or perhaps between words and reader, for the reader is not in contact with the author -- only the words.

Ultimately this 'alignment' is happening solely within the reader. What is it about the words that offers this 'potential' that we don't seem to have available otherwise? Or perhaps we do, and words just happen to be our particular way of 'accepting' this potential?

Omkaradatta | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 19:03
Phroggy's picture


Yeah, what it looks like in the largest context that I can see is that the words have no potential at all and are merely the expression of an impending clarity. (Or internal conflict or desire to be right or to experience beauty or whatever) It's like we've talked about with the body, which doesn't actually provide the potential for perception but is merely another part of the experience of perception itself. So, the words may be a 'playing out' of an impending clarity that's just happening.

Phroggy | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 19:40
Omkaradatta's picture

Another symptomatic posting ;-)

How to know if I'm advancing on the spiritual path?

Advancing: Are things simplifying, getting simpler, drying up, getting more effortless, more focused, more one-pointed, more singular, more clear, more limited, yet more and more unlimited?

Regressing: Are things getting more complicated, more difficult, more troubling, more involved, more effortful, more multi-pointed, more unclear, more unlimited, yet more and more limited?

Omkaradatta | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 13:16
lagrima's picture


Not necessarily at all. Usually the contrary, the signs you mention for advancement are usually symptoms of strong control of the mind and suppression.

When deep rooted sanskaras and conditioning are rising through acceptance in advanced stages, the sadkha may be in great restlessness and trouble but it is an excellent sign of progress.

On the other hand I have seen so many who were focused, non-cheotic, everything was clear for them etc who were simply in amateur ignorance and denial which are typical to sadkhas in the preliminary stages.

I think the main indication is the level of stillness one is ultimately projecting. His/her level of meditativeness, the presence of deep love and happiness in whatever he is doing, how much he/she is in a reactive mode (and so involved in fights and heated arguments with friends, family and others), how much is ego is active in fights, the quality of his speech beyond the words, to what level mind and logic are still building blocks in his/her arguments. These are things which one cannot mimic or hide for long. I think Eckhart Tolle is a good illustration for these qualities in the positive side.

lagrima | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 13:52
Omkaradatta's picture


> I think the main indication is the level of
> stillness one is ultimately projecting.

What do you mean, projecting? One cannot project anything -- people interpret/misinterpret, based on their own conditionings. By you saying "projecting", it shows here that you're judging other's progress, not your own.

From here that's one of the biggest signs of non-progress: Constant attention to others, rather than oneself. All gurus say "Turn within". Go within, turn within, look within, come back to your Self, pay attention to your self. The obsessive focus on others prevents this, and infact the other-focus creates and maintains the "me".

Sorry you disagree with my post above, but really all you talk about in your message above is others -- what you've heard about from others, how you judge others, what's wrong with the progress of others, what people supposedly project to others, etc. Fwiw, I based my posting above on my own progress, not what I believe to have seen in others.

Omkaradatta | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 15:00
Phroggy's picture


I think the difference in perception here is that you are observing objective phenomena that indicates to you the level of awareness in others. From that perspective, I agree with most of your obserations but I contend that the observer will see only a reflection of his own level of awareness. For example, how much ego is active when one states a truth that stimulates the observers ego or how much mentation appears to be present when the words are not understood and therefore stimulate the observer's mental faculties.

In contrast, Omkar was relating his subjective experience of simplicity, effortlessness and singularity. Those in the "restlessness" of impending ego death are threatened by the very simplicity and absence of egoic effort implied by Omkar. Those in the self righteousness of conceptual clarity are not experiencing simplicity or mental effortlessness.

Complexity is always of the mind. The Truth is a knowingness beyond mind that need involve no conceptualization at all unless one wishes to point to this Truth in words.

Effort is the mind believing it must learn something, accomplish something, get somewhere. Truth is not leanred or accomplished and it is what you are here, now. It may become effortlessly apparent in the ending of all effort.

Multiplicity is the great delusion of mind. In Truth all bifurcations collapse into an indivisible Singularity. To touch it with mind is to divide it again, and so wherever the mental focus goes becomes ultimately irrelevant.

Phroggy | Mon, 02/09/2009 - 19:24
RandomStu's picture


If the idea of "advancing" appears in the mind, it means that you want something. (If you don't want anything, then there's just where you are... no desire to advance or retreat.) So it's a wonderful opportunity to either just let that idea appear and disappear on its own... or to inquire into "What is this 'I,' and what exactly do I think it's supposed to 'advance' to? For what, for who?"

Please see this link to my blog posting on "Am I doing it right?":


RandomStu | Fri, 08/28/2009 - 20:37
bonya basu's picture

Be sincere be truthfull

Be sincere,be truthfull in action and behaviour towards yourself and others.

No need to measure your progress, you are definitely in progress.You will find that you are not in the world.But you will create a world within yourself,that is magical and profound.........whatelse you need.

bonya basu | Wed, 09/09/2009 - 09:25
PranaBeats's picture

In the end...

Is there progression, advancement, regression? Aren't all these things measured from a linear mind? Who is the judge?

I understand the question of course, but when I asked this question to Tony Samara a few years ago, here is what I received as an answer to work on: "Where does the sea begin and where does it end?"

I leave you with the koan :)
(And yes, I did answer it!)


"Trust allows you to navigate imagination beyond where shadows lie". Tony Samara

PranaBeats | Tue, 05/04/2010 - 15:13
Surya Kumar Mishra's picture

How to know that you are advancing in the spiritual path

Just please read a book:
Yoga Tattwa Upanishad.
You will get the answer.

You need not bother whether you are having spiritual progress or not.
Just carry out your spiritual practice, that's all.
Do not tell anyone, that you have attained any siddhis.

If you can stay in this state, then you are progressing spiritually.

Surya Kumar Mishra | Thu, 05/06/2010 - 06:21
RandomStu's picture

Re: How to know...

> You need not bother whether you are having
> spiritual progress or not.

This is wonderful advice. In this moment, just perceive and act with clarity and compassion. What more do you want? (If you want something, you have a problem.

> If you can stay in this state, then you are
> progressing spiritually.

This is terrible advice. Whatever ideas you have about "progressing spiritually," it's much better to throw them all into the garbage.


RandomStu | Thu, 05/06/2010 - 17:17
Surya Kumar Mishra's picture

Where i sinks : I an advancing ......

where there is no I
where there is no boby
I am advancing inthe spiritual path
where the mind is a notion
where memory, intellect and ego has lost existence
I am advancing inthe spiritual path
where praise and disparage are one and the same
where hot and cold are temperatures only with a diff of degrees
I am advancing inthe spiritual path
where everything I come across becomes brahman for me
where i do not have a Guru, nor a disciple,
where I have no friends, where I have no relatives,
I am advancing inthe spiritual path
where I couragiously knock at the dorr,
I am advancing inthe spiritual path

GOD BLESS YOU ..........

Surya Kumar Mishra | Sat, 05/08/2010 - 11:09
jasdir singh jaura's picture

To know the advancement of spiritual path,

The simple way,
To know the advancement of spiritual path is:
We are not be able to sleep properly at night, Secondly,
When we get up in the morning from our sleeps, If we remember our "Dreams" taken during the night means we are advancing on the spiritual path,
Less clear dreams means less "spirituality" or "sleeping"
More clear dreams means more "spirituality" or "Awaking"
No dreams means "spiritual" or "Awakened"

jasdir singh jaura | Wed, 09/01/2010 - 10:22
Nathyogi's picture

Re: How can I know if I am advancing on the spiritual path?

Without Guru no advancement is ever possible.
Only one's Guru can assess the progress.
Self-assessment is an indication of advancement of ego.

Nathyogi | Thu, 07/31/2014 - 11:49