Spirituality is meant not just for transcending the world but also for transforming the world

Some people conceive of spirituality as world-transcending. While that conception is correct, it is not complete – spirituality is also about world-transformation.

World-transformation and world-transcendence are sometimes seen as two separate purposes that can work against each other – the first requires engagement in the world whereas the second requires looking beyond the world. However, bhakti wisdom helps us synergize the two.

The harmony of these two purposes of spiritual growth can be seen in the Bhagavad-gita’s description of divine descent, which is meant to inspire human ascent, that is, the ascent of human consciousness to the spiritual level. Gita wisdom explains that the highest divinity is the all-attractive transcendental being, Krishna. When we understand the metaphysical truths underlying his descent, we attain his eternal abode, going forever beyond material existence (04.09).

Significantly, this verse about world-transcendence is preceded by two verses about world-transformation. Krishna descends to this world to establish dharma by strengthening the virtuous and subduing the vicious (04.08) – and he descends millennia after millennia, whenever vice becomes dominant and virtue becomes dormant (04.07). Clearly, he is concerned about transforming the world to keep it on the path of dharma.

When we connect ourselves intensely with transcendence through devotional absorption in Krishna, we feel inspired to serve as channels of his compassion, thereby becoming effective agents for transforming the world. Simultaneously, when we strive to transform the world, we soon realize that no transformation can be sustained without transformation of consciousness – and the transformation of consciousness has to begin with ourselves. Thus, we feel inspired to connect more intensely with Krishna.

When we become diligently devoted to Krishna, understanding ourselves to be his servants, we see the symbiosis of the purposes of world-transformation and world-transcendence – and our spiritual practices become both individually and socially uplifting.

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