The common question is “I am not able to advance towards Self-realization. I feel I am impure and bound. I feel that I am a separate and distinct entity from Shiva. How can I get rid of this imperfection and ignorance? How can I realize Shiva, though I always repeat a mantra?
One’s essential nature is always Shiva and in order to realize one’s essential nature, dedicated sādhana (practice) is required, which alone is capable of transforming one’s mind. The perfect sādhana is the one, where one repeatedly visualizes and affirms that he is Pure Consciousness (Shiva) and this sādhana is often called jñāna yoga. The main reason for limitation or bounding is one’s ego. In order to become unbound, one has to have knowledge and also follow regular sādhana, both are taught by a realized spiritual preceptor. The essence of his teaching would be “limitless pure consciousness pervades in all shapes and form without any distinction and this is known as the cosmic energy of whole existence.” In other words, Shiva is not only within, but also pervades throughout the universe. But, those who are afflicted with māyā cannot understand this simple knowledge and continue to get deluded by duality.
How can meditation help to attain the highest reality or truth (Shiva)? Even meditation does not help to attain Shiva, as Shiva is not different from one’s own essential nature. How can Shiva become an object of practice, when the practitioner himself is Shiva? For example, contemplating a form of deity or repeating a mantra perpetually and even for that matter, aligning one’s breath with a mantra are considered as mundane practice. This is because going with a particular shape or form violates the very basic principle that Pure Consciousness pervades everywhere, and only not understanding this reality prevents us in realizing Him, in the form of Pure Consciousness. As far as transcendental (a term used in philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical and material) reality is concerned, there is nothing to remove, as Shiva already exists and the only issue is that we are not able to realize Him due to innate spiritual ignorance. Further, it the lack of experience that also makes us to believe that duality is a reality, and in fact it is not. Shiva is always Self-shining (Prākāśa) and ignorance about this fact which is innate in our existence is to be removed gradually and this process is called sādhana. In other words, Pure I Consciousness attains realization of its true nature of purity, eternity, omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience.
There will be no use of repeating a mantra constantly (japa) without trying to understand one’s true nature (one’s true nature is Shiva). Japa typically means mentally repeating and affirming that “I am Shiva” (Shivoham), which is nothing but the realization of one’s own reality. The entire universe is accommodated in three powers (śakti-s) of Shiva. His Superior Power is known as Parāśakti, which is in no way different from His Own Consciousness. Next one is Parā-parāśakti, which is His Power to create unity in diversity. The third one is known as Aparāśakti, which is His Power to create mutual diversity. Parāśakti is transcendental, Parā-parāśakti is intermediary and Aparāśakti is diversity in unity, the lowest of there. But it should be understood, that Shiva that we are talking here does not belong to epics (purāṇa), but Pure Consciousness of the Supreme Lord (Shiva Consciousness).
It is emphasized that one should evolve in stages to understand his or her real nature. It is also said that one should not torture himself/herself by resorting to fasting, etc., as they have no relevance says Higher Scriptures. Purity and impurity has no place in higher spiritual life. Shiva is both pure and impure, otherwise He cannot be omnipresent. If one continues to think about purity and impurity, he or she will be continue to be bound and can never realize his or her true nature. If one continues to think that he or she is bound by the physical body, then they continue to be bound by their karmas. But on the contrary, if one is able to realize his true essential nature, he or she is not bound by karmas, as Shiva is free from karmas. Therefore, we should not allow any sorts of doubts nor follow erroneous viewpoints. There are two types of spiritual preceptors. One who initiates into mantras and connected rituals and another is the one, who teaches ultimate reality and the ways to attain Shiva (not the purāṇic Shiva), the Absolute and Pure Consciousness. Realization is not just about realizing the Self within, but also identifying ourselves with the entire universe (universal consciousness). As long as there are confusions in our mind, we cannot progress spiritually. Only such spiritual masters can get rid of multiplicity of mantras and connected ritualistic practices, which are considered as infantile in spiritual parlance. But not everyone is blessed with such spiritual preceptor, as attaining such spiritual preceptor cannot happen without the Grace of Shiva.