Do we need rules in spiritual practice?

Over the years I’ve seen many people running away from spiritual paths (especially my own) due to inherent need to follow certain rules and regulations, do’s and dont’s.
Anyone who might have studied or read spiritual biographies or stories will understand the need for these things, especially when this instructions are coming from the spiritual aspirant’s master himself. Sometimes they are easy and understandable, other times they are void of any logic or reasoning, but still, it is in the disciple’s best interest to follow those instructions.

I guess this allergy to rules is just one of those things of these modern times, a side effect of this so called “new age” mentality, that wants you to be “free”. And, as such, working for this “freedom” seems to imply that you only do whatever you want to do. “Listen to your heart”, they say. That’s nice and sweet talk, but that won’t get you far.

Let me use a simple analogy here. If you have a 3 year old son who wants to be free (and you want it too, of course), you just won’t let him do whatever comes to his mind. That would be chaos! As a parent, you know that the child consciousness and discerning capacity is very reduced. You know that he may think that something is the best for him, but as a grown up and with more experience in life, you know otherwise. And in his best interest, you forbid him to do a few things, and demand that he does a few other things.
He may get mad at you, but you know it’s ok because it’s temporary. You know he will grow to understand those decisions and that, one day, he himself will do that for his children, in their best interest.

In the spiritual path, and especially in the guru-disciple relationship, this is a very important lesson to learn and live by. The guru’s instruction may or not may not be logic, may or may not be understood by the disciple, yet, it is in his best interest to follow his guru’s advice.
I definitely advice, and I also like, to understand things in a logical way. That makes it easier to accept, practice and explain to others. But my point is that, even if you don’t, that should not be a reason to stop you from doing it.

In this Sádhaná [spiritual struggle], the effort to overcome the extrovert, matter-seeking forces is a very hard one. Without proper guidance, it is near impossible for a normal human being to be able to maintain his mind steady along the path. There are just too many propensities in our mind that get activated, desires, past reactions, karma, etc, everything is playing against us. The way down is very broad and slippery. The way up is narrow and steep. It’s so easy to slide down…

Principles will guide us along the way, but Rules will protect us.

This “prison” of rules and regulations, do’s and dont’s are nothing but a blessing to a disciple, as they function like a rope we can grab while trailing this rocky path. The more he follows his discipline, the more he will be protected and pushed forward. By taking control of the horse’s rein’s (sensory organs), his chariot(mind) will move at a greater speed towards the ultimate goal of life.
It is a prison, that sets us free.

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