When it comes to spiritual enlightenment, whether you will really reach self-realization or not depends on how much you are seeking or how deep your seeking is. Some people have just a thought-induced seeking. They see ‘spiritual seeking’ as an ideal quality to have and spiritual enlightenment as kind of a ‘cool thing’ to attain. But this curious seeker will reach nowhere. He still sees spiritual enlightenment as something to gain or attain. But spiritual enlightenment is really a profound rediscovery of what you already are!
The seeking should come from a longing at the bottom of heart to become liberated rather than just a thought-induced craving. When there is such a deep longing to be liberated from the bondage which makes a person be prone to suffering, you are ready to proceed on the spiritual path. Every one has such a longing but he or she believes that this longing can be fulfilled by the objective outcomes of life and by improving one’s self-concept. Once a person realizes the futility of it, he will be ready.
Non-Doing and Doing
There is a direct approach to spiritual enlightenment. It doesn’t involve doing anything but abiding as a non-doing witness (click here to read more). But this is not possible for everyone because people have invested too much in their dreams and the self-concept. They have a lot of conditioning to break and their minds are too heavy. So for almost all the seekers, it is necessary to do certain practices as a groundwork. The practices help you to attain certain inner purification and develop discrimination (Viveka).
So basically there are two kinds of spiritual practices. The first category is everything that involves doing something. The second category is not really a practice but a non-doing. Self-inquiry, mindfulness, and witnessing belong to this category. If you find witnessing a difficult thing to ‘do’, you must focus more on these ‘doing’ practices which mainly involves concentration. These practices can help you to prepare the ground. In other words, doing leads to non-doing.
Many traditions advocate implementing these two simultaneously. For example, Buddha advocated Samadhi to prepare the ground and Vipassana as the non-doing meditation. He called them as SammaSamadhi and Sammasati. Devotional practices such as chanting are also said to prepare the ground but only if they are practiced with a complete sense of surrender and not looking for the fruit of such actions. Such a devotee personifies the truth or the inner guru and engages in chanting, singing etc.
Preparing the Ground
Here, I will suggest three different systems of practice to prepare the ground. You can pick any one of these three but don’t mix them together. It is very important to not get attached to the techniques. The techniques themselves cannot help you to reach liberation. Liberation is only possible via non-doing, a direct approach such as ‘witnessing’. So, you need to let go of the techniques at some point and focus more on the direct approach.
Osho has developed certain techniques for modern men. I recommend these meditations the most than the other ones. They constitute different kinds of meditations that involve many activities. You can try them all and do them from time to time but pick one meditation that works for you and try to do it every day.
Here are the links which describe each meditation in detail:
I usually don’t recommend Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga has many pitfalls. The main purpose of any Yogic Kriya is to abide as long as possible in the after-poise-effect of Kriya once a Kriya is done. Whatever technique you follow in a kriya is only meant to still the mind and help you abide as the witness. But most of the organizations who teach Kriya Yoga today give more importance to the techniques and make it way more complicated than it actually is. You also end up spending way more time, money and energy than you have to.
If you are already practicing Kriya Yoga through another organization or you are interested in learning Kriya Yoga, I strongly recommend the book Kriya Yoga Exposed by SantataGamana. This book will give you the essence of Kriya Yoga. Click here to read more about the book.
Samatha is the Buddhist Practice that helps to achieve the stillness and purification of the mind. It is just a close monitoring meditation in which you maintain an unwavering attention to a certain object of meditation. You need to sit in a comfortable posture, close your eyes and fix your attention on the object of meditation. Whenever your mind wanders you need to bring the attention back to the same object. This is the essence of Shamatha. It is pretty similar to the meditation in Ashtanga Yoga.
There is a category for the objects of meditation which is called as kasina. A kasina is a device representing a particular quality used as a support for concentration. You can choose one among the ten kasinas mentioned here: earth, water, fire and air, light, space and the colors blue, yellow, red and white. You can read more about Samatha here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratana/wheel351.html
Here, you can learn a 3-level meditation: 3-Level Meditation using Visual Meditation Aids based on Vajrayana and other Tantras.
The third level is the actual Shamatha meditation and the first two are based on different psychological concepts. You can also use this as a practice to prepare the ground and practice them whenever you can and as much as necessary. Keep in mind that all these techniques are only intended to prepare you towards non-doing meditation.