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Spirituality

You're just left with yourself all the time, whatever you do anyway. You've got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It's all down to you, mate.  John Lennon Spirituality. One word that probably unites  as it should, I think  believers and non-believers alike. The religious ones stake a special claim to it but those who are not go to many lengths to do so too. The former often take the word for granted, given their credentials, as do the latter with equal fervor, despite their credentials, shall we say? There's blood in the name of religion and there's none in the name of spirituality. Is that something to ponder? Many a common man has felt it, many an artiste sought its refuge to transcend the bounds of religions, many a believer has taken it as the essence of all the goodness in his religion and many a non-believer has stood by it to pledge his faith in good karma. The nature of spirituality has been a subject of reflection and study for ages and has been variously defined by philosophers, religious leaders and scholars. Western philosophers have attempted to look at it through the lens of metaphysics, exploring and understanding the nature of human conscience, and man's relationship with his environment. They have attempted to understand the relationship between the within and the without with an interpretive synthesis aimed at answering the ontological questions of the nature and the purpose of the self. On the other hand, religious leaders ended up attempting to give a form and face to this beautiful quality by linking it with values, ethics and a sense of the higher Self - lending it a mystical edge too. Rituals came in, and then followed identity, and perhaps that's how religion tried to become 'spirituality with a face'. But as it happens with labeling things, man grows attached to them, and the things and labels given to them become dangerously synonymous. This is perhaps why scholars have increasingly tried to distinguish spirituality from religion, even though these distinctions have been usually nebulous at times. One of the reasons for this could be that associated concepts of values, culture, customs and religion make the discourse a very complex one. I turned to the Vedas for insights on spirituality, being as they are the oldest written texts in the world, but mainly because most scholars agree that the text of the Vedas is universal in nature and does not cater to any specific religion or set of people. The term Veda derives from the root word 'Vid' meaning knowledge, and according to Indian lore, it has existed in an unwritten, eternal and perfect form from the beginning of time. This knowledge has formed the backbone of Indian philosophy, and is organized in four separate Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and Atharva Veda, all four containing a variety of literature in them. Specifically, Chapter 40 of Yajur Veda provides rich insights into the understanding of spirituality through its 17 mantras (hymns) that also form a part of Ishopnishad, an Indian text on philosophy. Subsequently, an expanded understanding of these 17 mantras forms the text of The Gita, the basic text on Indian philosophy. The Sanskrit word for spirituality is Adhyatma or Adhyatmikta. The word Adhyatma is derived from a combination of two words: Adhi and Atma. Adhi implies empowerment and Atma could mean soul, the self, the Higher Being or conscience. The implied meaning of Adhyatma would be everything that is done by the empowerment of the Atma. This is to say everything that the Atma allows. In this context, therefore, the meaning of the word Atma would be closer to conscience. Thus the meaning of spirituality would be the development of this conscience. The scriptures further suggest that this conscience is developed in people by understanding their own self and their purpose in life. People also need to understand their relationship with the universe that surrounds them as well as their obligations towards this universe and the self. Finally, people ought to act by the guidance of this developed conscience. And this is where, I believe, the distinction between religion and spirituality lies. Religion performs an important function of buffering stress in individuals but spirituality is the 'voice of that conscience' that guides us towards that which is good for our fellow beings. Anything that makes us better human beings, in layman's terms Conceptualizing spirituality as something related to higher powers/higher being puts it beyond the reach of atheists and others who may not believe in the existence of a higher power besides the self. The introduction of ethics here would also make it dependent on other social and cultural variables that would color the 'spirit' in spirituality. It is therefore necessary to either reconcile these conceptual contaminations or do away with them. Considering all of these aspects, I propose the following definition of spirituality: 'Development of one's conscience through understanding one's own self, one's purpose in life, and one's relation with the universe around one (and by extension one's obligations)'. The definition would also extend to include one's following (as in acting in accordance with) this developed conscience.

44 Responses to “Spirituality”

  1. DINESH KUMAR says:

    When religions are creating violence, spirituality is the answer to all problems.

    Sir you have described spirituality in an excellent manner.

  2. jay kumar says:

    Hi,

    I wanted to check if there is an expert on the Vedas and Upanishads in bombay who could explain it in a relevant day to day context or from a management context.

    Jay

    • HimanshuRai says:

      I am not aware of anyone from Mumbai who is working in that field. If you have any specific question on any aspect from either of these two treatises, you could ask me in my askhimanshurai column and I will try to answer it 🙂

  3. charuvagun s says:

    Anything that doesn’t spread dogma and fundamentalism is good for the human culture. Spirituality as described by you, fits the profile. Religion, due to the belief on its origins(Jesus the son of god, Mohammed the prophet or Krishna’s Gita) – has a lot of sentiment, dogma, sense of belonging, division, suspicion and so on. Whatever people might claim, they do get inadvertently get invested in their religions. Spirituality sounds good. But your definition is like an umbrella term trying to be all encompassing. I’m not sure whether this meaning of spirituality would be agreed in the mainstream intelligentsia.

  4. Arunkumar R says:

    For me spirituality is the reflection of art of any form. The whole concept of spirituality is a gift from artists of the world to the world. The real saints were real artists. From their awareness they contemplated, concentrated, meditated and came out with symbols that were immediately accepted and adopted. Through those visionary artists who devoted themselves completely to spiritual life all these symbols of art came out. This is a basic reason why spirituality and art are inseparable. When people dance, sing, meditate or passionately display any of the art from, they express their mood, characteristics, create an atmosphere and through which they convey something to the surrounding. This way they are compassionate and convey their spiritual experiences to everyone.

  5. Swetha S says:

    Sir, I agree when you say spirituality is something that the religious and non-religious people believe in. According to me religion is a set of principles that guides us to a way of life. Spirituality is the way on connects to the ethereal world. Religion takes time to be felt/ realized. Spirituality can be experienced more easily and related to. I believe that the concept of religion has succeeded in traveling through time, though the concept of attaining moksha has not come that far. Religion today gives people something to lean upon. Something to believe in when things go wrong. Something that tells them there is a reason behind every thing that happens around him which is beyond the human’s control. People find solace in that, especially in this fast-paced, competitive world. On the other hand, spirituality is also perceived as something that gives peace of mind, but by listening to the noise of the world carefully. Essentially today, religion and spirituality lead to the same goal – peace of mind and some soul searching. People just call it by different names.

  6. Vasudha Kulkarni says:

    Somehow today it has become fashionable to say” I am spiritual but not religious”. This is something that I loathe. Religion is not what people perceive it to be. It was established as a path to God (or a higher power, or a spiritual awakening) and not to establish any sort of supremacy. Religion has often been confused with rituals which it is not. You do not have to observe fast or perform pujas but you can still be religious at the same time. I believe religion is when you attach a name/face to God. You believe that he will guide you through different stages of life. Spirituality is a part of religion. Again, you may not believe in any single god and still continue to be spiritual. On the other hand, you may continue to observe rituals and still not be religious. Let us accept that everyone chooses his own path and religion gives you a discourse on how to do that.

  7. Jayashri S says:

    Both spiritual and religious are synonymous in the sense that both express belief in a higher power. Being religious includes the rituals which are a part of it. I personally believe that rituals were conducted in the past, as they benefitted the society one way or the other. They are neither right nor wrong. So it makes sense to be spiritual and adapt our rituals to the present context.
    Also the words, “There’s blood in the name of religion and there’s none in the name of spirituality.” seem to strike a chord with my thoughts, looking at the world around me.

  8. Chhering Paljor says:

    To me spirituality is about understanding the world and self. Spirituality is understanding about the purpose and meaning of one’s existence. And religion is more about what has been laid down as rules that have to be followed by people following a particular religion. These rules define what is right and wrong. But religions are meant to lead us to the answer spirituality answers. So religion is a way to spirituality. I may be religious and spiritual but i need not be religious and still be spiritual, for there are no rules regarding being spiritual as are for being religious.

  9. Insightful post, Sir. IMHO, many points have been voiced out in support of either religion, spiritualism & both. Irrespective of what may be true or not, the ultimate outcome which matters is how we lead out life. As you said, the purpose of one’s life here is to realize our purpose, or at-least strive towards realizing it. That’s what makes our life living a pleasure.

    Religion & Spiritualism are like sides of two coin but eventually it is the same coin. Unfortunately, over the years, the meaning of some has been distorted or atleast man with his magnanimous knowledge failed to understand the real purpose behind doing what he is doing. I was having a discussion with a friend of mine on this & i felt that one way Religion differs from Spiritualism is shunning away of responsibility for a man for his deeds, rather for his mis-deeds. It is much more easy for us to say that someone is meting out punishment to us, or we deserve this because of some deed in the past, rather than taking responsibility for their own life.

    In summary, the overall idea is to awaken one’s conscience & strive towards living our life unlocking all the potentials which we have. Its about realizing God within ourselves. As long as we do it, either through religion or spiritualism, the purpose is served.

  10. Lokendra Kaushik says:

    The God Hypothesis has been rejected by most of the scientific elite. The percentage of believers in scientific organizations has been decreasing over the years. In a recent study conducted for Royal Society London, only 3.3% responded with 7 on a likert scale as opposed to ~78% with 1, to the statement “I believe in a personal God.”
    The point I m trying to drive home here is, that in the light of increasing evidence(mostly concerning with evolutionary biology), it is becoming clearer that there is no need of God to explain the world, and it is very improbable to the point of being irrational that there would exist some higher being who is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, has infinite channels of communication to every single being or thing, and even finds time to balance out the karmas. As with all remarkable progress in science, this wisdom will still take some time(maybe a few more generations) to reach the masses.
    With this context, for me, religion is nothing but a set of rules/guidelines to abide by probably(or not?) aimed at creating a better world(though often failing in current world). Spirituality for me is the state when I am able to marvel at the beauty of universe, unraveling some new secrets, opening some more gates of knowledge. Truth is stranger than fiction..

  11. Chandrasekhar Yadavilli says:

    I believe spirituality and religion are NOT mutually exclusive (within a single person) and neither necessarily implies the other. They are like an idea (spirituality) and the language (religion) used to express it. An idea exists even without a language, but a language exists only to express an idea. In fact, the culmination of all religious thoughts is to realize that spirituality is the core which is often wrapped with different religious beliefs and thoughts. Spirituality is the understanding of the interplay between the elements and forces of the universe and to be part of it without disturbing the equilibrium. However, I feel religious beliefs and practices need not be condemned as long as they help us in imbibing spirituality. After all, the physical world is an undeniable reality of the universe.

  12. Anurag Arora says:

    The world is an illusion. Even the “reality” is an illusion. There are several versions of reality. Under normal circumstances, a person can see only one version of the reality, which he ultimately believes to be the truth. A little open-mindedness can reveal a few other versions of the reality but still all the versions of reality are not visible, even with an extra effort. Seeking the ultimate reality/truth is spirituality. It is a journey, not a destination. The destination is enlightenment which Gautam Buddha is known to have achieved.

  13. Richa Thakur says:

    The human species was given the gift of knowledge, and along with this gift came the knowledge that we are all mortal. Spirituality is a natural consequence of this imperfect knowledge; our bounded rationality enables us to know only so much and leaves us in an existential spiral when it comes to explaining anything beyond the realms of emperical and anything beyond this will be mere theoretical postulation.

  14. Amit Roykaran says:

    The dictionary defines spirituality as “deepest values and meanings by which people live”. But values are not something which a person gets by birth. This is something which he/she gradually develops and strengthens till a certain point of time and after that point he spends rest of his life on the same values. Now if we see the history of religion, many of them came into existence for the same purpose. To help a human being find his deepest values, developing one’s own conscience and understand the purpose of one’s life. However distortions have happened in the way religious bodies work, there have been bloodshed too but that in no way change the real purpose of religion. I even feel that worshiping gods in temples and praying in mosques are just symbolic acts but the real purpose always have been to help a human being reach the ultimate objective. So according to me religion and spirituality are as integral as oxygen in the air. Without oxygen life cannot sustain and without air oxygen can’t even exist. Without spirituality religion will be lifeless and if there is no religion there can’t be a question of spirituality.

  15. Vijaynand Mishra says:

    Spirituality has a diffrent meaning to people of many denominations and beliefs.Spirituality is thought to include a system of beliefs that encompasses love, compassion and respect for life. Individuals may experience both spirituality and religion very privately within themselves (internally), and/or through social interaction with persons and organizations in an external way. Spirituality is about our existence, relationships with ourselves, others and the universe. It is something we experience and requires abstract thinking and will. Spiritual development provides us with insight and understanding of ourselves and others.

  16. Riku Sayuj says:

    Religion might now be so far away from it that we think it is divorced entirely from rationality and maybe even philosophy and spirituality. But Religion was the earliest attempts at rationality and philosophy and it was so powerful that it has survived to this day even when less powerful scientific ideas fell by the wayside.

    Spirituality in my opinion is an easy-way-out for rational individuals to avoid attaching themselves to the out of fasion concept called religion and still enable them to stay in connect with this powerful intuitive understanding they feel about the universe.

    I say that there is no reason or this duplicity. Let us be religious and spiritual and rational and scientific at the same time – there is no shame in it – after all, the greatest thinkers of the world from St. Augustine to Galileo to Newton to Einstein managed it and was proud about it.

  17. Jyoti Prakash says:

    Spirituality is making able to identify the human mind in oneself by remembering the age old teachings of super natural power.It helps human to improve his tolerance limit,curb his basic/origin instincts and have fear of doing something wrong as at the end he realizes that he is individually responsible for his actions.Spirituality could be attained by imagining some thing pure which is in form of lords and religions created in history by humans themselves or by being correct in one’s action to the extent possible.

  18. Vineet Singh says:

    Religion could be Monotheist or Polytheist. That is to say following a religion is following at least one good. Contrary Spirituality is a way of personal thinking by your own; you follow no one apart yourself. It is more like a philosophy of living. Religion is based on text (written), Catholics have the Bible (symbol Jesus Cross), Jewish the Torah (the Magen David) and Muslim the Koran. Spirituality is more complex it changes depending your personality / values, it is based on your own opinion. Spirituality can evolve with time. Religious people received their religion because it was the religion of their parents, they can decide which religion they want to follow. For Jewish children the religion is given by the mother for Muslim it on the contrary, given by the father. Religion creates conflicts. Spirituality created peace because people are enough intelligent (open minded) to understand the differences and to accept it.

  19. Saumya Garg says:

    Spirituality is a very personal trait. It cannot be identified with any symbols, practices or affiliations. It is the ability of an individual to live in harmony with his circumstances, relations and choices. A man has to make choices at various points in his life, some are made by him and some by others for him. While for some of these choices he has a few options, for others there is only a semblance of a choice. In such a scenario it is very depressing for most beings to reconcile themselves with these choices and be able to live with some inner peace. It is this ability to see meaning in the path that life has traversed and be ambivalent to both pain and joy, friend or foe that defines a persons SQ, spiritual quotient.

  20. C. Amenla Jamir says:

    “I’m spiritual but not religious” is a very common phrase many use today. But Frankly, I fail to understand how can someone be so selfish. Apologies for my bluntness here but I feel that such a statement is merely an attempt to dispel oneself from the duties of your religion, while at the same time begging to be comforted from a mighty power whenever in need.
    That being said, a leader who is spiritual but not at all religious, is not an ideal one(Strictly my opinion).I once read an article that says, “Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness” which I totally agree with.It also adds that spiritual people shun being accountable to a community; it is just them and their God(s).

  21. Ramba B says:

    Are spirituality and morality the same? Spirituality if it comes only with knowing one’s purpose of life, then many don’t attain spirituality, even half way through, till their end. What I feel is, morality is spirituality which is again a strong belief in goodness. And religion is a directed spirituality for religious people also have strong belief but that belief is on certain rituals and practices. They tend to identify themselves with a certain group, may be because they are not confident to stay alone since spirituality means stand alone for one’s values with only uniting force – ‘morality’.

  22. sonali dekate says:

    Spirituality is attained at different levels for different individuals. For me, it would be about discovering my inner self and associating it with the world that is beyond what we see . It is something that is hidden and one needs to go beyond the worldly pleasures to understand it in true sense. A person who is spiritual would be far more kind, compassionate and in better control of himself than the rest of the world.

  23. Madhuri Baxla says:

    Sprituality and religion
    As I construe, religion is to worship what man has made and spirituality is to worship what God has made; man’s communion with the cosmos is spirituality. The following mystic song written by Sant Kabeer influences me much

    Moko Kahan Dhundhere Bande
    Mein To Tere Paas Mein
    Na Teerath Mein, Na Moorat Mein
    Na Mandir Mein, Na Masjid Mein
    Na Kabe Kailas Mein
    Mein To Tere Paas Mein Bande
    Mein To Tere Paas Mein

    Na Mein Kiriya Karm Mein Rehta
    Nahin Jog Sanyas Mein
    Khoji Hoye Turat Mil Jaoon
    Ik Pal Ki Talas Mein
    Kahet Kabir Suno Bhai Sadho
    Mein To Hun Viswas Mein
    – Sant Kabeer

  24. Tanudeep Mallick says:

    Talking about religion, I feel it to be a culture which we grow-up with. From childhood days, we find people around us are worshiping a particular God. They might go to mosque, church or temple, it is all part of a culture which children see and implement as a result. How deeply and in what manner they practice religion later depends upon external influences and surroundings. In extreme cases, they might take religion as a full-time commitment or might fuel communal riot. It is state of mental closeness for other arguments to even lend an ear to and thus, fan-following or influence of a person gets limited. Spirituality on the other hand is a state of self-awareness and self-realization which comes after understanding and analyzing alternatives. Spirituality, like religion, is again formation of one’s own arguments but is attained through an extensive journey into alternatives of life. Being spiritual, then, is obviously a better achievement than weaving the flag of religion.

  25. Kunal Ahuja says:

    As someone had aptly said, there is a difference between religion, organized religion and spirituality. While the first and the third are very pure, the second one has taken center stage very often in the past in India. Spirituality for me is compassion, with a value system that helps me decide the difference between good and bad and the difference between right and wrong.
    While religion is more to do with rituals, spirituality is that which has to do with one’s Self or, the spirit. Anything done for its growth and advancement is spirituality. They are not opposed, but stem from one another.

  26. Apoorva Gupta says:

    There may be a belief that because someone is active in a particular religion that they are more spiritual, trustworthy, and reliable than one who is not. While in some cases this may be true, my general experience is that there are plenty of good and reliable people who are either not associated with a religion or not active with a religion. The true test of spirituality means seeing ones character and the decisions made when nobody is watching. It is the faith in the ability of other people and yourself.

    Spirituality is associated with the following:

    Compassion (being considerate of others)
    Improvement (seeking to better yourself and others)
    Diligence (sticking with it through good and bad)
    Faith (Believing even when nobody else does)

  27. Karan Chauhan says:

    Spiritual guidance is the humility to believe that there is something greater than ourselves out there in the universe. Whether it is God, or the potential evolution of humanity, spirituality is the pursuit of something greater than each of ourselves. Ask yourself if meditation, pursuit of perfection and mastery are worthwhile? If they are, that is the beginning of a spiritual destiny.

    There may be a belief that spirituality is only attainable by those specifically chosen or qualified to be such. You may think that achieving true spirituality is beyond your reach because you have not achieved a certain level in your life. This is not true. Even the most simple, famished, poverty stricken, less educated, and physically ailed person is capable of ultimate spirituality. Do not think for a second that you cannot tap into spirituality because of who you are or your situation.

  28. Mayeule says:

    The Dalaï-Lama said that ” religion is a personal choice and half of the humanity doesn’t pratice anyone.  Nevertheless buddhist values such as love, tolerance, and compassion may concern every human being. And developing them does’t involve systematicaly religius believes”.

    I had a strong experience which was for me deeply spiritual in Delhi, at Salaam Balaak Trust. It is an NGO which takes care of orphans, living in the street. They come from India, Nepal, Bouthan… Its aim is to find their family and to help them living away from drogs and gangs… 

  29. Candice Tisserand says:

    In my opinion, there is tight correlation between spirituality and religion.Indeed, those two concepts are not totally different. On the contrary, I think there are mostly linked. You can be an adept of a religion without having an intense spirituality (even if it does not mean you do not have one). However, you can be religious and seek a high level of spirituality. “The voice of that conscience” is in both concepts. Thus, the real distinction between spirituality and religion is yet to be found…

  30. Siddharth Bhat says:

    Sir,
    The blog seems to put Spiritualism and Religion at the opposite sides of a boxing ring. This, I think, is a flawed match-up. Religion by bringing forms into its teachings has achieved something spirtiualism has not : appeal to the masses. The fact that (any) religion appealed to almost every person and taught them the importance of good is its greatest achievement.

    Spiritualism is religion without the forms. That does not render it a higher school of thought. However, what really would be interesting is to ascertain whether spiritualism would be as rich as it is now had it not been for religion. For example, I was brought up in a liberal brahmin family with close ties to religious thought. Today, I dont give much importance to religion but i devote time for self discovery and peace- the central thought of spiritualism. But I dont believe that i could have been in this position had it not been for all the vivid forms and symbols of religion. In other words, I believe that religion is the preparatory tool or at the least tool that significantly enhances one’s ability of spiritual prowess.

  31. Caterina Sardo says:

    Spirituality has always been something hard to define. Most people think about spirituality as religion, others consider spirituality as something apart. Despite philosophers, religious leaders and scholars have given their own definition and interpretation, I want to make an attempt to give you my personal one trying to don’t fall in common and predictable toughts. Generally both religion and spirituality refer to a search of something transcendent, not related with the concrete world. But, how can we make a distinction? According to me spirituality is something innate in everybody, it could be more accentuate or less but still everyone has it. I may try to define spirituality as a particular feeling an individual has regarding things, people or events he experiences. On the other hand I thing religion is something culture-driven. Religion includes acceptance of a metaphysical or supernatural reality and requires people to follow specific paths and behaviors. Thus, religion focuses more on “sharing” experience with other member of the same community while spirituality is a personal feeling towards something that goes beyond a purely materialistic view of the world and that we ourselves define “spiritual” in our mind.

  32. Nitesh Raj says:

    “Development of one’s conscience through understanding one’s own self, one’s purpose in life, and one’s relation with the universe around one”, as an extension of the logic it would be fair to say that our work would also contribute to the pursuance of one’s spirituality. We can see that Gandhiji or Siddhartha or J N Tata followed their understanding of how life ought to be and had a vision, moreover these people continually refined their vision based on their experiences and understanding of their surrounding. Mr Tata summed up spirituality when he talked about inclusive development of the society with the industrial development of the nation. Gandhi found spirituality in pursuing means which would lead to the desired goal. He talked of the 7 sins which evaluate human ethics and has appropriately termed them as Sins
    Politics without principles
    Wealth without work
    Commerce without morality
    Education without character
    Pleasure without conscience
    Science without humanity
    Worship without sacrifice
    So one can say that spirituality in a way is also connected to sustainability, spirituality continuously evolves over a period of time.

  33. Ajay Maurya says:

    Religion gives identity and the moral set of value system which an individual exhibits in his day to day life. No religion is good or bad. Every religion teaches equal respect and honour for others. The problem arises when few extremists misinterpret religion in the name of fanaticism and try and superimpose it over others. Spirituality in this regard, would profess that each human being should embrace the notion of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ i.e. the whole world is a single family. This would help one better his relations with the universe around him/her.

    From this, originates the idea of acceptance. In India, we are divided by languages, caste, religion and what not. We hold our unique identity which is described by religious beliefs and values. But amidst all this, we do possess a common identity determined by our nationality. This spiritual belief motivates oneself to ‘accept’ rather than ‘except’ the differences others have. A nation with so many different languages and practices and still recognised as one of the strongest democracy in the world, is a feat in itself.

  34. Arijit Mookerjee says:

    What I’m about to write is something quite personal. It might not seem rational, but it would reflect the state of mind I am in right now. I am someone who has spent way too much time listening to rock music, reading books on the counterculture, and watching stoner films (Trainspotting et al.). I have always been able to relate more to contemporary Western art, not Eastern philosophy/performing arts.

    However, there’s been a recent development in my life which has had a huge impact on me. Bengali rock bands started covering the songs of Rabindranath Tagore (with the copyright of ‘Rabindrasangeet’ expiring)…I started listening to songs by Tagore, reading some of his poetry. I was somehow able to connect with my roots. It turns out that a few songs which seemed to have romantic themes were actually spiritual in nature. It felt as if a door had opened, and a whole new world was waiting out there for me to explore. Flowing with the ebbs and tides of music, I was somehow able to realize that the purest form of spirituality is love. I could connect with my surroundings; an invisible bond of love tied me to everything and everyone around me. Its a state where there’s no doubt, no jealousy, no ill feelings…all I feel is this sense of ecstasy, I can somehow feel for people whom I don’t know…the message that the songs and poetry of Tagore carry, isn’t it the same message which I could derive from the songs of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen?

    I am not very well read, but I know that this selfless feeling, this form of happiness which knows no bounds…has broken the barriers between Worldliness and Godliness in my mind, has resolved the constant duel between reality and whims & fancies…to me, spirituality evokes love. Love which speaks loud in the midst of silence, which makes one feel beautiful from within, which makes one look at himself/herself with the eyes of a loved one. Sir, you said – “voice of that conscience that guides us towards that which is good for our fellow beings. Anything that makes us better human beings, in layman’s terms”. I can completely relate to that. And I wish to hold on to this feeling. Is this a perpetual feeling, or some momentary trip that I am on? I am not sure… but as Tagore said, “Now it is time to sit quite, face to face with thee, and sing dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure”

  35. Marco Bichsel says:

    It seems the purpose of the blog post is to find a definition of spirituality without using religious arguments. Otherwise it would be easy: just take the religious writing of your choice and accept its content, since it was given by God or a similar authority.
    The problem lies in the definitions of philosophical concepts – other than in everyday life, where a tomato is a tomato and not an apple, there are no clear definitions in philosophy. This is especially true for a concept like spirituality. Since spirituality can be defined in numerous ways, people of all backgrounds – from atheists to religious people – can see them self as spiritual.

    The questions I want to reflect on are the following two: Does spirituality has a unifying nature as it is hinted in the blog post? Is the in the blog post given definition universally applicable? Both questions would have to be answered with no.

    If people were asked, how they define their spirituality, their answers would differ. The reason for this is that different concepts are gathered under the umbrella of spirituality, which not necessarily builds a common ground.

    To use the Vedas for a definition turns the argument lastly into a religious one. Emphasizing that the Vedas are the oldest texts in the world says nothing about their “accuracy”. What if there was an older text found, would it be even more accurate? The conviction that the Vedas are universal in nature is shared with believers of the Bible and the Koran and is lastly a religious conviction. This is perfectly fine, but has to be noticed. The universality of the definition suffers also on another basis: the derived definition consists of terms that need further definition. What is meant by conscience, self, relation with the universe and last but not least, ones purpose in life? Even if it was to say, that the purpose of one’s life would have to be defined or chosen by the individual itself, many religious people would disagree to this.

    To conclude, I reached the conviction that spirituality is a deeply personal aspect of life that is strongly influenced by religious- and cultural backgrounds and that is beyond the reach of abstract concepts.

  36. Saurabh says:

    Interesting perceptions about Religion and Spirituality.
    Beyond the spiritual connotations what has really impressed me is the fluidity of the post in an engaging prose.
    Read it completely but would need to revisit it at a later time for more reflection.

    Got the blog bookmarked for future reads 🙂

  37. Davide Benaglio says:

    When people talk about religion and spirituality, the difference between these two concepts is a little blurred. Basically, what I think is that, the spirituality is something very difficult to make concrete, because it is viewed as a sort of mystery and it is difficult to catch. On the other side, the religion has been made concrete through rites and traditions which make this concept a more institutional thing. We can easily say that, there could be spirituality without religion (or the religion is present but not really expressed), because spirituality doesn’t have rules to respect, and it comes as it is, while religion must respect defined rules.

  38. Trine Krogstad says:

    In the western world, a division between religion and spirituality has developed through the conception that religion is deeply rooted in the institutional aspects, and that this is something optional, while real spirituality is a highly private phenomena, pointing at a development of consciousness, the relationship with yourself, a God, the Universe or so. Despite this difference, religion and spirituality is similar in the way they both are an expression for the invisible aspects of life, not able to be measured and quantified by science, and even the concepts used are a subject to individual interpretation.

  39. Silvia Migliorini says:

    Generally speaking the word “spirituality” mainly recalls a religious meaning. Although this main interpretation, especially according to European culture that doesn’t have a such a strong religion and ritualistic background, it is also simply referred to the way of a person is or behaves. In this case spirituality transcends the bound of religion and doesn’t lead to any objective. It is not referring to an external power guiding a person: in my opinion it is something that characterizes him/her character and behavior all the time. Spirituality could be seen on a wider pint of view and applied for those who neither believe in any God nor have a precise objective: they show a strong poetic and philosophical sensitivity as main value with no relation to physical aspect of their bodies.
    According to Heidegger there is a duality in human being experience: “authenticity” is referred to the human being’ s relationship with truth and her/his existence; on the contrary “unauthenticity” concerns a banal way of living your looking for the most opportune and convenient daily life.

  40. Kalyan V B H says:

    Sir,

    Is there an attempt to make being spiritual look “cooler” than being religious in this post ? At the start of the post you wrote “There’s blood in the name of religion and there’s none in the name of spirituality” and somewhere in the middle of the post again you wrote “Religion is .. But spirituality is .. Anything that makes us better human beings, in layman’s terms…”. Why is there an attempt here to make religion look like something that is “uncool” and spirituality as the “in- thing” ?

    I might be wrong in understanding the tone of this post, but i strongly believe that religion and spirituality both go hand in hand. Religion is more for the public self while spirituality is more for the inner self. Like you have rightly pointed out spirituality is for “voice of that conscience” . But the ultimate goal of religion also is to make us better human beings.

    Agreed, there is blood due to religion. But if there were no religion and if 7 billion people in the world were to pursue their own independent spiritual thought then wouldn’t there be chaos in the system?

    If the only idea to seperate spirituality and religion is to unite the believer and non-believer, then isn’t the solution just to make religion more accomodative? Carvaka school of Hindu thought did allow people to be athiestic and be spiritual and be Hindu at the same time.

    Like it is written in the wiki page of SBNR, i think saying that i am spiritual but not religious is “plain old laziness” to not comply with what religion dictates in the public sphere of life.

  41. Its interesting to note the distinction you have made between religion and spirituality. I have heard elsewhere that religion with its numerous rituals are the first step towards achieving spirituality. Its rituals inculcate some discipline and prepares the mind for realizing that spiritual state.

    A man is already spiritual, perhaps he just needs to realize it? Religion steers people in the right direction but then its not mandatory for everyone to reach the spiritual state, Is it?

  42. Akshaya Nair says:

    As mentioned “the following definition of spirituality….. The definition would also extend to include one’s following (as in acting in accordance with) this developed conscience” Mahatma Gandhi’s life reflects the above statements.Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to non-violence and truth even in the most extreme situations as he believed in these principles.His conscience emphasized on the right means to perform any task and hence he went on to do so.Gandhiji says “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that”s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from you action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result”. In his own thought and action Gandhi ji adopted spirituality as a means to guide political action and to cause social change.His concept of ‘satyagraha’ is conceived as generating spiritual force, which he called truth-force.The fundamental essence of Gandhiji’s Spirit-centered leadership was a combination of six essential points- silence, humility, non-possession, self-purification, fasting and prayer.

  43. Vikram Johari says:

    Dear sir, I like the way you encompass atheists and shun the dogma surrounding ethics in your definition of spirituality. Ethics, as we know, are a product of the culture they are observed in. One man’s crime is another man’s redemption, and spirituality is, at its heart, about redeeming oneself in one’s own eyes. The succour, as it were, that nourishes the soul.

    As a child I was initiated into religion by my parents. My earliest memories are of my mother singing “Tum Thakur Tum Paiyyar Das”, a bhajan in praise of Guru Nanak, as my sister and I drifted to sleep. Peace and calm came to be associated with the benign face of Nanak in my mind. For the longest time, that was the face I searched for when I closed my eyes in a moment of difficulty.

    As I grew older, and by older I mean an adult, my reliance on Nanak lessened. He was still engraved in my conscious but my need to visit him dissipated somewhat. My need for any kind of inner support system that stemmed from the outside also diminished as I discovered new and surprisingly strong founts of strength within.

    I am spiritual, not religious, and definitely not ritualistic. I believe there is something called the “soul of the world” but I am not sure it is benign or impervious to less than perfect emotions. In my view, the soul of the world is as much about angst as it is about love. And woe befall anyone who would tell me otherwise! 🙂 I am a strong believer in the story of the underdog and true spirituality for me is about accepting things that make us not better, but on the face of it, less human.

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