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The three Stages on the Wisdom Path
To reach the state of abiding inner peace, you begin by inquiring into the very heart of everything. This is the process of inner inquiry, the first stage on the wisdom path. Then you must make use of the deep insights you have gained by applying the spiritual teachings to every detail of your daily life. This is the second stage. If you continue with this practice unfailingly, then, in time, you will reach the goal of God-realization and enjoy unending bliss. This is the third and final stage on the wisdom path.
You can compare the first stage to the period of life when you are a student. As a student and spiritual seeker you are most active in acquiring knowledge. While you are in this stage you inquire into the principle which underlies everything in the universe. You try to understand the deeper meaning of the great wisdom sayings, such as that thou art. Here, that refers to the eternal divine principle we call God, and thou refers to the immortal self, which is the one true reality of everyone. In this first stage you try to understand this saying, which states that the highest self and God are one and the same, and you look for this oneness in the core of everything.
So, you start off by seeking the unity underlying everything in existence. Then, having become aware of it, you live your life by applying this great truth to all your daily activities. This second stage can be compared to the period of life when you are employed and busy in your profession. If you have not pursued your education and earned good qualifications, you will not be able to find an appropriate position. Therefore, in the first stage you acquire a good education and develop your knowledge so that in the next stage you can put that education into practice and use it to do your life's work. The third stage can be likened to the later period of life when you are retired and become a pensioner.
You receive a pension only after you have completed your working career. You start your career and gain employment, in the first place, only after you have successfully completed your education and acquired qualifications. These then are the three stages in your path through life namely, first is the stage when you are a student, then there is the stage when you are a professional, and lastly, there is the stage when you are a pensioner.
Similarly, on the path of wisdom, you start out as a seeker, then you become a practitioner, and finally, you become a wise illumined one. In this final stage you enjoy complete peace of mind and realize the unity of all of creation.
To permanently acquire peace of mind and the state of unending inner joy, you first have to enter into the stage of inquiry and give up all attachments to the world. These days, so-called spiritual seekers are first entering into the stage of attachment, and later they try to enter the stage of inner inquiry. They call each other brother and sister and aspire to practice unity, while at the same time taking on new worldly attachments. At best, they can only be described as part-time devotees. The Gita does not condone such part-time devotion. The Gita teaches complete surrender by offering oneself and everything one has to God.