Very few people realise the true purpose of this human birth. Undoubtedly, the sole purpose of this human birth is to realise the self or attain Nirvana in other words. But more often than not, most people get involved in the materialism that this world has to offer. A lot of people tread on the spiritual path, but again get stuck at certain stages of spirituality.
Atma sadhana (self realisation) or worship of the atma can broadly be classified into four steps (1) Sthulatma (gross form of worship), (2) Sukshma Atma (subtle form of worship), (3) Bhavatma (meditative state) and (4) Bhavateetatama (transcendental state). The detailed description of these four steps is as follows:
(i) Sthulatma (gross form of worship): This is external worship and in this form idols, pictures, fire, yantra (the divine geometrical drawing), etc are worshipped and Godly praises, mantra-chanting, singing of divine songs, prayers, service, rituals, aarti, etc are performed.
This is the most common form of worship among most of the people and in most of the religions. This external form of gross worship generally bestows external and gross forms of results such as wealth, a house, prosperity, name, fame, etc. It also binds us to the cycle of karma as we often get entangled and attached to worldly objects.
(ii) Sukshma Atma (subtle form of worship): This is internal worship and all the forms of external worship are worshipped internally i.e. by visualising the form of God or form of worship in the mind and by mentally chanting God’s name, a mantra, etc.
This is a higher level of worship as we are closer to the worshipped object or God (as God resides within us and not outside in idols or in fire or in pictures). External worship is to help us get connected with the internal reality. It acts as a medium to invoke our divine feeling.
(iii) Bhavatma (meditative state): This is the pure form of worship of the Supreme Divine Being, the Consciousness or God. Here we meditate on the formless Consciousness, the empty space or the self. This meditation helps us to become one with the Universal Consciousness. It is that Consciousness which is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of all the worlds and universes.
(iv) Bhavateetatama (transcendental state): This is the state where one is permanently established in the Universal Consciousness, the Divine Being or the pure self. In this state one identifies oneself with the formless consciousness and not with the physical body, mind or the soul. The effort to meditate also stops in this state as it becomes a natural state of being.
This state is also called Sahaj Samadhi, the ultimate union with the Divine Reality. This is the result of the third meditative step and equals complete enlightenment, self realisation and God realisation. This is the state of complete freedom and bliss. One gets liberated from all the bondages and breaks the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.