Q62. What are the stages of spiritual development, according to Sikhism?
Spiritual attainment is directly allied to personal development. Much depends on the amount of effort - Sadhana - the devotee puts in. Meditation on "The Name", joining the company of the saints, performing good or noble deeds all help one to progress on a spiritual plane.
Guru Nanak has mentioned five stages of spiritual growth in the Japji. The first stage is in the region of duty - Dharam Khand - here, man does act and reaps the consequences. Those who carry out their duties sincerely and honestly, enter the second region - the region of knowledge - Gian Khand. Here a devotee may obtain a knowledge of God and the Universe. He learns of his own human limitations, the omnipotence of God and the vastness of His creation. He may then realize that there is some further purpose behind God's creation. He then enters the third stage - the region of effort - Saram Khand - here his mind and understanding are purified. He endeavours to act according to the instructions of the Guru. Such efforts may lead him to the next region - the region of grace - Karam Khand; here the selfless devotee may find divine grace and develop spiritual power. Finally, only with God's grace he may enter the next stage - the region of truth - Sach Khand - where he may unite with God. Such is the progress of man from the worldly to the spiritual plane. Undoubtedly, being moral is a great help to spiritual progress.
In Sikhism, the grace of the Guru or of God is necessary to help a pilgrim on to the spiritual path. It may be possible for an ordinary person to walk steadily on his own, but if he is primed by another personality, possessing dynamic power, he can further gather momentum, to go forward. The care and the tutelage of the Guru protects him from many untoward calamities and encourages him through the many crises in life.
Guru Nanak laid down a way of spiritual discipline in the penultimate verse of the Japji. The devotee should excercise control over their mind and body, strive sincerely to walk on the spiritual path, use their reason when confronted with problems, fear no one and ceaselessly repeat the Divine 'Name'. Such persons will radiate joy and peace to all people who come near them.