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SPIRITUALITY – BEYOND ORGANIZED RELIGION
Every religion has three aspects – values, symbols and practices. There is diversity in the symbols and practices amongst religions whereas the values are common to all religions. Spirituality is the flesh of the banana and religion is the banana peel. The rise of fanaticism in religion is because people are holding on to the banana peel and losing sight of the value system which is the essence of religion. Religion is focussed on the symbols and rituals whereas spirituality is focussed on human values.
Spirituality, in a broad sense, is the reflection of the finest aspects of matter. Attaining a spiritual level is simply recognising that there is spirit everywhere and rising to the highest level of human potential. Life is made up of matter and spirit. Matter is amino acids, proteins, bones, blood, flesh and other things. The spirit is made up of enthusiasm, joy, love and beauty. All these are a part of one’s life and spirituality is something that encompasses all these values, compassion and caring. The grossest aspect of the spirit is matter. The whole world is a combination of spirit and matter. Spiritual practices focus on being spirited, happy, compassionate and enthusiastic. It is a way of life.
It is necessary to have a broader vision about life and a deep rooting in culture, tradition and value systems. Deepening of roots gives a sense of responsibility and ownership, while a broader vision gives a sense of relaxation. A broader vision and deeper roots really means responsibility with ease, calmness and equanimity.
Most of the problems plaguing society has arisen from a parochial and narrow view of life and is unable to identify with the larger purpose of life. To quote this example from Swami Vivekananda in his Chicago address more than a century ago, a frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course the evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story’s sake, we must take it for granted that it had its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another frog that lived in the sea came and fell into the well.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from the sea.”
“The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?” and he took a leap from one side of the well to the other.
“My friend,” said the frog of the sea, “how do you compare the sea with your little well?”
Then the frog took another leap and asked, “Is your sea so big?”
“What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well!”
“Well, then,” said the frog of the well, “nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this; this fellow is a liar, so turn him out.”
That has been the difficulty all the while. Each person and each country is stuck with its narrow concepts of religion with its associated dogmas and practices and is unable to appreciate the value system underlying all religions, which is a broader vision of life, appreciation of the finer aspect of each religion and working towards a spirited and enthusiastic world which is focussed on the larger well being of the masses and the universe. Spirituality is the value system which focusses on the universal peace and well being and is beyond religion.
Spirituality emphasises on eradication of negative emotions such as greed and jealousy, anger and arrogance, lust and desire, attachment and entanglement. This leads to the blossoming of human consciousness and development of positive virtues such as love, compassion, empathy, humility, caring and sharing, enthusiasm and team work which goes a long way in the achievement of goals at the individual, family, social, organisational and economic level and the overall growth of the nation.
Spiritual practices and celebrations lead to a more fulfilled and joyous life and looking into their lives in a broader context. It helps one go beyond a transaction oriented approach and looking into one’s actions in the larger context of impact on society and the environment. All spiritual practices and celebrations lead to a more fulfilled and joyous life, with more caring and sharing. This leads to a shift in focus from competition to contribution .
Spirituality is the ability to keep smiling through tough times. People perform austerities like prayer and fasting, which are common across all religions. The austerities strengthen the body, strengthen the senses, bring increased independence and a greater feeling of lightness. Adversities are seen as times for higher growth and spirituality empowers one to move through them with a smile on the face. It emphasises on approaching life with a spirit of renunciation. One is expected to put in 100% efforts and leave the results to the Almighty.
Chants are an integral part of spirituality. By singing and chanting, the sound penetrates to every cell of our being. Recognition of the Divine and devotion to the Divine is another important aspect of spirituality. Worship of God is to acknowledge and honour the Divine.
Working with a spirit of renunciation is another major aspect of spirituality. It requires one to keep performing actions with a smile with a spirit of renunciation with a clear focus on the goal but without any anxiety for the fruits of action.
Meditation is another important aspect of spirituality. It involves bring the back the mind, which is travelling all over the place, to wean itself from the senses and focus on the Consciousness.
Spirituality confers the following benefits:
- It brings enthusiasm
- It helps one manage with lesser sleep
- It enhances creativity
- It increases one’s energy levels
Spirituality is looking beyond the body. The food of spirituality is love, joy, compassion and beauty. The basics of spirituality is Truth, Love and Beauty. Spirituality gives you love, joy and beauty. Spirituality gives the inner strength to handle the most difficult situations in life and keep one ever smiling, joyous and happy.
To quote the Sadguru, “Spirituality does not mean any particular practice. It is a certain way of being. To get there, there are many things to do. This is like a garden in your house. If the soil, sunlight or stem of a plant is in a certain way, it won’t yield flowers, you have to do something. You have to take care of those things. So if you cultivate your body, mind, emotions and energies to a certain level of maturity, something else blossoms within you – that is what is spirituality. When your rationale is immature, it doubts everything. When your rationale matures, it sees everything in a completely different light. “
There is no conflict between spirituality and science. Spirituality is knowing myself and is inward looking whereas science is understanding the world outside and is outward looking. Whether you study matter or consciousness, you will end up in the other. If you study matter, you will end up in consciousness and if you study consciousness, you will end up in matter.
The following profound quote from Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago address captures the essence of spirituality as propounded in the Hindu scriptures:
“Well, then, the human soul is eternal and immortal, perfect and infinite, and death means only a change of centre from one body to another. The present is determined by our past actions, and the future by the present. The soul will go on evolving up or reverting back from birth to birth and death to death. But here is another question: Is man a tiny boat in a tempest, raised one moment on the foamy crest of a billow and dashed down into a yawning chasm the next, rolling to and fro at the mercy of good and bad actions — a powerless, helpless wreck in an ever-raging, ever-rushing, uncompromising current of cause and effect; a little moth placed under the wheel of causation which rolls on crushing everything in its way and waits not for the widow’s tears or the orphan’s cry? The heart sinks at the idea, yet this is the law of Nature. Is there no hope? Is there no escape? — was the cry that went up from the bottom of the heart of despair. It reached the throne of mercy, and words of hope and consolation came down and inspired a Vedic sage, and he stood up before the world and in trumpet voice proclaimed the glad tidings: “Hear, ye children of immortal bliss! even ye that reside in higher spheres! I have found the Ancient One who is beyond all darkness, all delusion: knowing Him alone you shall be saved from death over again.” “Children of immortal bliss” — what a sweet, what a hopeful name! Allow me to call you, brethren, by that sweet name — heirs of immortal bliss — yea, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. Ye are the Children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earth — sinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is a standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter. ”