“Arthasya nishchayo drishto vicharena hitoktitah; Na snanena, na danena pranayamashatena va.” – “By reflection, reasoning and instructions of teachers, the truth is known; not by ablutions, not by making donations, nor by performing hundreds of breath control exercises.”
Adi Shankara spelled it out for everyone. But few listen. It seems the last thing people want to do is think, reason, reflect, ponder, and discern. Unfortunately, people often view spirituality as an escape into emotionalism or desire for someone or something else to carry their cross. Spirituality should be a determined, relentless pursuit of Truth.
View your understanding of spirituality as something that must be refined, deepened, evolved over time. It is not an understanding that should be attained, put in a box, and rigidly adhered to. Evolution means change… advancement.
Ablutions, donations, breathing exercises, etc. when done properly can of course all be of value. However, first and foremost is discernment… discrimination. Remarkably, discernment is sometimes viewed as blasphemous. Questioning is considered dangerous, disrespectful doubting. Instead, questioning is the steadfast pursuit of deeper understanding.
Discernment is not just done with the intellect. You can justify anything with the intellect and people do. Thoughts are limitless. How you feel about those thoughts is what matters. But fine feelings are what is important. Superficial feelings and emotions are all too often based upon indoctrination, bias, personal childhood issues, and a myriad of limited judgmental notions.
Discernment is the integration of the surface of your being with the depth. Proper meditation is the most powerful tool of discernment. To advance spiritually, humanity must deepen the understanding of what spirituality is. Spirituality blossoms from within. It is not an indoctrination. No gardener would ever take the petals of a bud and peel them back to make a blossom. Discernment facilitates the natural blossoming from within.