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The Seven Stages of Life


What is the total process of human growth? What would occur in us if we were able to grow to the full extent of our potential? Avatar Adi Da Samraj offers a schema of seven stages of life which represents His Wisdom on the entire spectrum of human possibility. He has systematically described not only our physical, emotional, and mental development, but also all the phases of Spiritual, Transcendental, and Divine unfolding that are potential in us, once we are mature in ordinary, human terms. This unique schema, which proceeds from birth to the final phases of Divine Enlightenment, is a central reference point in Avatar Adi Da Samraj's Wisdom-Teaching. It is an invaluable tool for understanding how we developas individuals, and also for understanding how the Teachings and practices proposed by the various schools of religion and spirituality fit into the entirety of human potential.

The first three stages of life are the stages of ordinary human growth from birth to adulthood. They are the stages of physical, emotional, and mental development, occurring in three periods of approximately seven years each (until approximately twenty-one years of age). Every individual who lives to an adult age inevitably grows in the first three stages of life. In most cases, though, that growth is not complete.


Stage One: Individuation

The first stage of life is the process of adapting to life as a separate individual, no longer bound to the mother. Most important for the first stage child is the process of eating, and learning to accept sustenance from outside the mother's body. In fact, this whole stage of life could be described as an ordeal of weaning, or individuation.

Tremendous physical growth occurs in the first stage of life (the first seven or so years) as well as an enormous amount of learning; one begins to manage bodily energies and begins to explore the physical world. Acquiring basic motor skills is a key aspect of the first stage of life: learning to hold a spoon and eat with it, learning to walk and talk and be responsible for excretion. If the first stage of life unfolds as it should, the separation from the mother completes itself in basic terms. But there is a tendency in most human beings to struggle with this original individuation, or to not accept its necessity. The result of such resistance is that, by the age of seven or so, we are left with a chronic (usually lifelong) feeling of being separate from the source of life and support. (Note that this feeling of separation from the food source is an overlay on top of the original feeling and activity of separation that is the ego itself: the self-contraction.)


Stage Two: Socialization

Between the ages of five and eight years, we begin to become aware of the emotional dimension of existence; how we feel and how others respond to us emotionally becomes of great importance. This is the beginning of the second stage of life, the stage of social adaptation and all that goes with it: a growing sense of sexual differentiation, awareness of the effects of one's actions on others, a testing of whether one is loved. These are all the natural follow-ons to the individuation of the first stage of life. Avatar Adi Da Samraj points out that in the second stage of life, children naturally develop their psychic capacity and their sensitivity to etheric energy. For this reason, children should be encouraged to feel that they are "more than they look like" they are not just their physical bodies for the sake of their future Spiritual growth. The full process of growth in the second stage of life is frustrated if we become locked in patterns of feeling rejected by others and rejecting and punishing others in return.


Stage Three: Integration

In the early to mid teens, the third stage of life establishes itself. The key development of this stage is the maturation of mental ability the capacity to use mind and speech in abstract, conceptual ways together with the power to use discrimination and to exercise the will. On the bodily level, puberty is continuing (having begun during the later years of the second stage of life) with all its attendant bodily and emotional changes.

The purpose of the third stage of life is the integration of the human character in body, emotion, and mind, so that the emerging adult is a fully differentiated (autonomous), sexual and social human character. If the process of growth in the first and second stages of life has proceeded unhindered, then this integration can take place in a natural manner. If, however, there have been failures of adaptation in the earlier stages a chronic feeling of being separate or unsustained, or chronic feelings of being rejected or unloved, and consequent difficulties in relating happily to others then the process of integration is disturbed. Unfortunately, this is the case for most individuals.

Thus, in most people, the process of the third stage of life becomes an adolescent struggle between the conflicting motives to be dependent on others and to be independent of them. This adolescent drama tends to continue throughout adult life. It is one of the signs that growth has stopped, that the work of the first three stages of life was never completed: the conflicted individual is not fully integrated. This is the case with most of us.

So how does one begin to grow again? One certainly can find all kinds of conventional help psychotherapeutic help, conventionally religious help, conventional education, etc. for one's liabilities in individuation, socialization, and mental development. But this help is not provided with the "bigger picture" of the seven stages of life in mind. These forms of help tend to turn development in the first three stages of life into a lifelong effort, rather than merely the beginning of a life dedicated to realizing one's fullest human potential.

The ideal way to begin to grow again is by participating in a living culture of spiritual practitioners, that understands and rightly nurtures each stage of development. This is Avatar Adi Da Samraj's recommendation, and it is the circumstance He has worked to create for His devotees by establishing the Way of Adidam. Anyone, at any age, who becomes a practitioner of Adidam can begin the process of understanding and transcending the limitations of his or her growth in the first three stages of life and in all the stages of life that follow. It is that last part all the stages of life that follow that makes Adidam unique.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj refers to the first three stages of life as the "foundation stages", because the ordeal of growth into human maturity is mere preparation for something far greater: Spiritual Awakening, and ultimately, Divine Enlightenment. This greater process begins to flower in the fourth stage of life on the basis of a profound conversion to love, the natural human development after individuation, socialization, and mental development. If, as often occurs in this or that spiritual tradition, one tries to "skip ahead" to spiritual development without first having fully established the human foundation for it, one will tend to use the spiritual practices as a means for dramatizing one's human shortcomings: yogis who becomes good at escaping from this world into other astral worlds because they are not capable of functioning or relating to others in this one; "holy men" or "holy women" who develop miraculous powers for the purpose of showing off and getting attention or "love", to compensate for their unconscious feeling of not being loved; shamans who use their highly developed psychic and etheric capabilities for "black magic"; and so forth.


Stage Four: Spiritualization

Even while still maturing in the first three stages of life, many people devote themselves to religious practices, submitting to an ordered life of discipline and devotion. This is the beginning of establishing the disposition of the fourth stage of life, but it is only the beginning. The real leap involved in transitioning to the fourth stage of life is one that very few ever make. It is the transition we associate with saints: nothing less than the breakthrough to a Spiritually-illumined life of Divine contemplation and selfless service. How does such a life become possible? Only on the basis of a heart-awakening to the Divine that is so profound that the common human goals to be fulfilled through bodily and mental pleasures lose their force.

For this reason, Avatar Adi Da Samraj strongly recommends that young practitioners in the Way of Adidam do not engage in sexual activity until their growth in the first three stages of life is sufficient to enable them to make the transition to the fourth stage of life, which is ruled by the awareness of, and communion with the Divine Being. The joy of God-Communion vastly exceeds the pleasure of sexuality, as one deepens in one's practice of it. But if one becomes addicted to the pleasure of sex first, after that point, one may never again be able to free up enough energy and attention to even find God, let alone practice God-Communion to the point where the binding force of sexuality is naturally transcended (whether sexual activity is still engaged or not) by the joy of God-Communion. This is the ideal sequence in life; but of course, many of us find the Way of Adidam later in life, and have to deal with the task of overcoming the force of habit associated with our self-absorbing addictions to money, food, and sex. The longer we've lived a life given over to bodily and mental self-indulgence, the more difficult the task of transcending the force of habit later on the necessary prereqisite for the transition to the fourth stage of life.

We have mentioned that the fourth stage of life is a Spiritually-illumined life of Divine contemplation and selfless service. Both elements are necessary. We often point to people who have devoted their lives to helping others and call them "saints". They are good people, no doubt. But they are only saints that is, in the fourth stage of life if their selfless service is, first of all, to God, and only then to others; and that on the basis of awareness of and communion with God. True saints are Spiritual Realizers, not merely moral human beings.

The purpose of existence for one established in the fourth stage of life is devotion, a moment-to-moment heart-intimacy with the Spiritual Reality. That intimacy is tangible and ecstatic, and it changes one's sense of reality. Everything that appears, everything that occurs, is now realized to be a process full of Spirit-Presence. This new vision of existence is given through Spirit-Baptism, an infilling of Spirit-Power described in many different religious and Spiritual traditions. The source of Spirit-Baptism is almost always a Spiritually Awakened Master (either in this life or a past life).

For the devotee in the Way of Adidam, Avatar Adi Da Samraj's Spirit-Baptism is first felt as a Current of energy descending from above the head, down through the front of the body to the perineum, or bodily base. This descent is forceful, sublime, and very effective in purifying and Spiritualizing the human personality, bringing forth the signs of radiance, peace, and universal love that characterize a Spiritually Awakened being. By the time the fourth stage of life is complete, not only has the Spirit-Current descended down the front of the body but It has turned about at the bodily base and ascended up the spine to a place deep behind the eyes (called the "ajna chakra" or sometimes the "third eye"), where It is felt to rest.

Even though the fourth stage of life represents a profound and auspicious advance beyond the foundation stages, in the "big picture" of the seven stages of life, it is only the beginning of truly Spiritual growth. Avatar Adi Da Samraj points out that the primary presumption of (and primary error made by) someone in the fourth stage of life is that God and the individual personality are inherently separate from one another. God is the Sublime "Other" with Whom one Communes and in Whom one may become ecstatically absorbed at times, even to the point of apparent union. Nevertheless, such raptures pass, and one is left with the continuing urge for union with the Divine Beloved. The individual being is still a separate ego, still searching, even though the goal of seeking is Spiritual in nature.



Stage Five: Higher Spiritual Evolution


 

Avatar adi Da SamrajAll Yogic, and religious (or mystical) practices associated with the process of Spiritual ascent (via the spinal line and the brain core, to and through the subtle levels of mind, and to and through the crown of the head, and, ultimately, to the "Highest" Realization, above the body, the brain, the mind, all conditional knowledge, all conditional experience, and all conditional worlds) may, in some general sense, be described as "fifth stage" practices. However, that ascent is made in two distinct phases (or steps). The first step is associated with ascent to the "ajna door" (or brain core) [in the fourth stage of life], and the second step is associated with ascent above the "ajna door" [in the fifth stage of life]. The first step is associated with bodily exercises (of posture, breath, and so on) as well as exercises of feeling (or intentional emotion) and attention (and mind in general), whereas the second step is almost exclusively associated with the exercise of attention alone.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Basket Of Tolerance

 


The fifth stage of life could be described as the domain of accomplished yogis or saints
individuals involved in the pursuit of Enlightenment through mystical experience (such as the vision of the "blue pearl", the vision of Jesus Christ), or the attainment of psychic powers. But it is important to note that, just as exceedingly few religious practitioners fully Awaken to the Spiritual Reality in the fourth stage of life, even fewer would-be yogis or saints become fifth-stage Realizers.

The important difference between the fifth stage of life and all the stages of life that precede it is that awareness on the gross physical plane is no longer the normal mode of existence. Rather, attention is steadily engaged in subtle realms, that is, dreamlike or visionary regions of mind.

The phenomena of the fifth stage of life arise as a result of the further movement of the Spirit-Current, now in the higher regions of the brain. In the fifth stage of life, the Spirit-Current moves from the ajna chakra through and beyond the crown of the head, and attention moves with it. At its point of highest ascent, the Spirit-Current triggers the yogic meditative state traditionally called "nirvikalpa samadhi" ("formless ecstasy"), in which all awareness of body and mind is temporarily dissolved in the Divine Self-Condition. Even though it is temporary, such an experience marks an enduring change in one's being. It is now clear that the individuated self in any limited form whatsoever physical body or "spirit" or "soul" - has no eternal existence or significance. Only the Divine Condition of absolute Freedom and Perfect Happiness truly exists. Once the Divine Condition has been glimpsed in the state of "formless ecstasy", one's relationship to embodied existence is entirely different. One begins to see the body as a rather arbitrary, even humorous phenomenon.

Even so, a limit on one's Realization remains. Nirvikalpa samadhi, the culminating achievement of the fifth stage of life, is not a permanent Realization. It is, rather, a fleeting experience. At some point, bodily consciousness returns, and so does the ache to restore that boundless, Bliss, free of the limitations of embodiment. What goes up must come down. For all its profundity, fifth stage nirvikalpa samadhi is held in place (while it lasts) by a subtle stress, performed by the ego. It is the ultimate fruit of the yogic strategy to escape the body by directing one's awareness upward into infinite Light.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj reveals that higher mystical experience and the achievement of profound meditative states in the maturity of the fourth and fifth stages of life are not prerequisites for ultimate Divine Enlightenment. The Way of Adidam provides a means by which most practitioners (except those few who have karma associated with the fourth and fifth stage phenomena) can bypass the entire tour of the subtle planes, via Avatar Adi Da Samraj's unique Transmission of the Love-Blissful Power of the Divine Itself.

When, in the fourth stage of life, the devotee in the Way of Adidam is mature enough to be steadily receiving and "conducting" Avatar Adi Da Samraj's Spirit-Current, a most extraordinary process begins in the body-mind. The Infusion of His Spirit-Current purifies and quickens the body-mind in every cell from the crown of the head to the toes. Every knot in the body-mind is opened up in this ecstatic reception of Him.

When this sublime Infusion has completed its work, a great conversion has occurred in the body-mind. One is no longer susceptible to the fascinations of visionary experience, even when such experiences arise. Neither is one moved to direct one's attention up and out of the body into the infinitely ascended state of "formless ecstasy". Rather, the "ttour" of mystical experience has been revealed to be simply more of the futile search to be Perfectly Happy via egoic fulfillment. The pursuit of mystical satisfaction relaxes, and the devotee is then easily drawn beyond all habits of identification with bodily states and even beyond identification with the subtle mind states of the fifth stage of life, into the pristine sixth-stage understanding of Reality as Consciousness Itself.


Stage Six: Awakening to the Transcendental Self

In the sixth stage of life, one is no longer perceiving and interpreting everything from the point of view of the individuated body-mind with its desires and goals. One stands in the Transcendental Position, Awake as the Very Consciousness that is the Ground of all that exists. In that position, one stands as the "Witness" of all that arises, even while continuing to participate in the play of life. While life goes on like a movie on a screen, one sees the greater import of Existence and the non-necessity of all that arises. This is the beginning of what Avatar Adi Da Samraj calls "the ultimate stages of life", that is, the stages of Identification with Consciousness Itself.

The sixth stage of life may include the experience of jnana samadhi, which, like fifth stage nirvikapla samadhi, is a form of temporary Realization of the Divine Self. However, fifth stage nirvikapla samadhi comes about through the strategy of ascent, the urge to move attention up and beyond the body-mind; in jnana samadhi, awareness of gross and subtle states is excluded by concentration in Transcendental Self-Consciousness. Nirvikapla samadhi occurs via absorption in the Divine, whereas jnana samadhi occurs via exclusive identification with the Divine.

Historically, the most prominent among the great sixth stage Realizers have been the Hindu and the Buddhist sages, and in some cases, the Taoist sages, who eschewed the fascinations of experience physical or subtle from the beginning. These great Realizers turned away from the enticements of "money, food, and sex" in the first three stages of life, as well as from the attractions of devotional (fourth stage) rapture and yogic (fifth stage) mysticism. Instead, the sages of the sixth stage of life have traditionally contemplated the freedom and purity of Consciousness to the degree of Realizing that Consciousness Itself, eternal and prior to any mortal form or temporary experience, is our True Condition, our True Self.

But even deep resting in the freedom of Transcendental Consciousness is not Most Perfect Enlightenment. An egoic stress is holding this Realization in place, as was the case with the fifth stage Realization of nirvikalpa samadhi. Sixth stage practice and Realization is expressed by turning within, away from all conditional objects and experiences (including the energies and the movements of attention of one's own body-mind), and concentrating upon what is felt to be the Source of individual consciousness. Thus, the root of egoity is still alive. The search still remains, in its most primitive form. The sixth stage of life is the search to identify with Pure Consciousness prior to and exclusive of phenomena.


Stage Seven: Divine Enlightenment

The seventh stage of life is release from all the egoic limitations of the previous stages of life. Remarkably, the seventh stage Awakening is not an experience at all. The true Nature of everything is simply obvious. Now the Understanding arises that every apparent "thing" is Eternally, Perfectly the same as Reality, Consciousness, Happiness, Truth, or God. And that Understanding is Supreme Love-Bliss.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj calls this Divine Awareness "Open Eyes". No longer is there any need to seek meditative seclusion in order to Realize Identification with the One Divine Reality. The Ecstatic and world-embracing Confession, "There Is Only God", is native (and therefore effortlessly perpetual) to one who enjoys the State of "Open Eyes". Consciousness is no longer felt to be divorced from the world of forms, but Consciousness Itself is directly understood to be the very Nature, Source, and Substance of that world. And so the life of the seventh stage Realizer becomes the Love-Blissful process of Divinely Recognizing, or intuitively acknowledging, whatever arises to be only a modification of Consciousness Itself.

The Divinely Self-Realized Being is literally "Enlightened". The Light of Divine Being Flows in him or her in a continuous circuitry of Love-Bliss, that rises in an S-shaped curve from the right side of the heart to a Matrix of Light above and Beyond the crown of the head. This is Amrita Nadi, the "Nerve of Immortal Bliss", mentioned in the esoteric Hindu Spiritual tradition, but only fully described for the first time by Avatar Adi Da Samraj. After His Divine Re-Awakening in 1970, Avatar Adi Da Samraj experienced the "Regeneration" of this Current of Love-Bliss, and He came to understand Amrita Nadi as the Original Form of the Divine Self-Radiance in the human body-mind (and in all conditional beings and forms).

In the seventh stage of life, or the context of Divine Enlightenment, the evolutionary process continues. Avatar Adi Da Samraj describes the seventh stage of life as having four phases: Divine Transfiguration, Divine Transformation, Divine Indifference, and Divine Translation.

In the phase of Divine Transfiguration, the physical body of the Realizer is Infused by Love-Bliss, and he or she radiantly demonstrates active Love, serving the Awakening of others.

In the following phase of Divine Transformation, the subtle or psychic dimension of the body-mind is fully Illumined, which may result in extraordinary powers of healing, longevity, and the ability to release obstacles from the world and the lives of others.

Eventually, Divine Indifference ensues. Divine Indifference is a spontaneous and profound Resting in the "Deep" of Consciousness, Blessing the world directly from the Heart-Place, rather than Working outwardly to effect benign changes.

Divine Translation is the ultimate phase of the entire process of Awakening the Outshining of all noticing of objective conditions through the infinitely magnified Force of Consciousness Itself. Divine Translation is the Destiny beyond all mortal destinies, from Which there is no return to the conditional realms.

The experience of being so overwhelmed by the Divine Radiance that all appearances fade away may occur temporarily from time to time during the seventh stage of life. But when that Most Love-Blissful Swoon becomes permanent, Divine Translation occurs and the body-mind is inevitably relinquished in death. Then there is only Eternal Inherence in the Divine Domain of unqualified Happiness and Joy.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj has described the unfolding Mystery of the seventh stage of life through the homely image of crocks baking in a furnace:


 

When you place newly made clay crocks in a furnace of great heat to dry and harden the crockery, at first the crocks become red-hot and seem to be surrounded and prevaded by a reddish glow, but their shape is still defined. Eventually the fire becomes white hot, and its radiation becomes so prevasive, so bright, that you can no longer make out the separate figures of the crocks.

This is the significance of Divine Translation. At first conditions of existence are Transfigured by the inherent Radiance of Divine Being. Ultimately, through Self-Abiding and through Divinely Recognizing all forms, in effect all forms are Outshined by that Radiance. This is the Law of life. Life lived Lawfully is fulfilled in Outshining, or the transcendence of cosmic Nature. In the meantime, cosmic Nature is simply Divinely Transfigured, and relations are Divinely Transfigured by the Power of the Divine Self-Position.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj

 





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