Spiritual experiences can be in the form of physical sensations, light or sound, vivid dreams, divine visions or voices. Often times the spiritual experiences that one has can lead to a breakdown of their rigid worldview and create an openness towards the spiritual side of life. My initial experiences were important for me in the sense that they made me feel that there was a higher possibility that I may have missed out on. It then motivated me to search for the ultimate truth underlying these experiences. Many a times these experiences can be a figment of the subconscious mind floating to the surface of the conscious mind due to the tremendous energies generated from the practices. Sometimes they can indeed be from a higher source. Unless one is a realized person, it is hard to tell the difference between a hallucination and a divine vision. However, these are indeed beautiful sights along the way to realization and can give one the conviction that the path is right.
There are a few other issues with spiritual experiences. Sometimes it can make a seeker miss the forest for the trees. If one just seeks those experiences then the condition is not that much different from someone immersed in the worldly pleasures. It is just that now the pleasures are of a higher order. I remember the high I got on one occasion in a practice session and it was such a rush that everytime I sat down to practice I wanted to recreate it. I never experienced it again until I let go of that expectation and just did the practice with devotion. So it is important to be able to let go of these experiences too and always keep in mind the larger imperative of self-realization.
The other issue is that there may be disappointment if one hears about the experiences of other seekers and is not able to have the same experiences. Everyone is different with their own karmic structure and unique energy system.The way these practices are, even the same seeker cannot recreate the same experience at will. It creates unnecessary disappointment and jealousy for someone who is unable to have these experiences. This creates a mental block which then comes in the way of the practice. Any such mental block or klesha is an unnecessary barrier in our journey. That is why Gurus have always emphasized on the strict secrecy in terms of these experiences.
There is also the tendency to misinterpret these experiences to suit one’s own view of the self. This is far more subtle and very important to guard against. I remember interpreting an experience a certain way to suit my ego as a great sadhak on the path. Guruji then deflated my ego saying that it was a experience which happened in the beginner’s stage. Here again is an example of why our culture has always emphasized the transmission of this brahma-vidya only in a guru-shishya parampara. Only someone who has crossed the mire can pull you out. It is not possible to pull oneself out of the mire or for someone else who are also stuck in the same mire.