- Spirituality – What is it?
- Do we need “Spirituality”?
- Can we not live well with out spirituality?
- Is it same as religion?
- Does spirituality depend on your religion?
- Is “spirituality” non-denominational? How?
- Is Spirituality, something for this life or for after life?
- What are the steps to experience Spirituality in our daily life?
- Can we see evidences of Spirituality in Practice in day-to-day life? How?
- How can I engage in activities that promote Spirituality in Practice?
Spirituality – What is it?
- All of us as human beings function in all our activities through the Body, Mind and Intellect. Swami Chinmayananda has elegantly described this totality of our existence through the “BMI” Chart.
- Through the “Body” we “Perceive” the “Objects”
- Through the “Mind”, we “Feel” the “Emotions” and
- Through the “Intellect” we “Think” of the “Thoughts”.
The most important question one can ask is “How?” with respect to our unique ability of the Intellect to “think”, “reflect”, “analyze”, “ponder”, etc.
The “Body” and its parts of a human are analogous to the physical matter of all objects in the universe. Like all objects of nature, they obey the laws on nature in their existence, growth, decay as well as in their functions. The role of the “Mind” and its effect as displayed through the emotions can well be seen in the humans as well as in the animal kingdom. As far as we know the “Intellect” and its ability to explore thoughts, ideas and concepts, is perhaps the only distinguishing feature or aspect of humans, from other objects or matters of the universe and the animal kingdom.
- How do I think and for what purpose?
- How do I reflect? Analyze? Ponder?
Answers to the above questions is the beginning of “Spirituality”. Answers to these questions set the path, direction and manner in which we as individual humans engage our body, mind and intellect in all their functions and hence their interactions. The nature of such engagement in turn determines the harmony one feels or experiences, within as well as with the world outside.
Spirituality may be described as an outlook, a way of living, that promotes harmony within as well as harmony with everything external limitlessly as part of the universe.
Spirituality is best described by the great pronouncement in the Upanishad:
Thath Thwam Asi (You and the Universe are integral in each other).
The evidences of spirituality in practice are best described by the following examples from Bhagawath Geetha:
- The enlightened living of a spiritually evolved person is like a breeze, which by its mere presence spreads the fragrance from the flowers for all to enjoy, in the process also leading to pollination and growth of the plants. The breeze itself neither recognizes the fragrance, pollination or even its own impact on such effects.
- Spiritually enlightened persons live like a lotus plant, which, while living all the time in the pool of water, does not get attached to it, as seen by the droplet of water, dancing in its expansive leaf.
Lao Tsu, the Chinese Philosopher of 6th Century B.C said,
- Best of leaders are those who help others accomplish their objectives; When finished others say that they did it by themselves.
Do we need “Spirituality”?
Spirituality is an innate quality in all of us. Philosophers would say that the universe exists in a spiritual harmony. What inhibits us and hence the need for constant discovery of this harmony, is our individual perspective. Our choices and preferences in our thoughts limit our ability to see beyond such choices. Much of our experience – acquired through the Body, Mind and Intellect – are a measure of our Spirituality. Our inner agony and hence a lack of true inner contentment, arises out of our unwillingness or lack of emphasis, to explore the matter or subject on hand, with an attunement for spirituality. On the other hand, true inner peace experienced within and a harmonious existence with outside are evidences of spirituality in practice.
Why should any one bother to take the precious time off from other things to reflect on “Spirituality”?
The above is a fair and legitimate question. Certainly no one needs to reflect on “Spirituality” for its own sake. In fact, we should not do anything in life, with out clarity of purpose. But, how do we make a choice on what we want to do? How can we make this a natural habit in our daily life: at home, at work, in bringing up our children, in taking care of our elders, in taking care of ourselves, in our friendships?
Often we engage in life – and in most of the activities – with out even thinking of this basic question “Why am I doing this? How did I make a choice to do this, instead of something else?”
No one can provide specific answers to these questions. These questions are personal; self initiated and answered by ones own self. However, spirituality can:
- Focus our attention to these basic questions.
- Provide a way or method to steer our analysis.
- Create a confidence and courage to pose such questions to one self.
- Create a comfort to find answers, accept and live in comfort with such answers.
- Ultimately engage in whatever we do, with an inner peace and in harmony with the outside world.
- To facilitate such self – inquiry is the beginning of the spiritual journey in life.
Can we not live well with out spirituality?
Life by definition presupposes an object of universe that is capable “breathing” in some fashion, for its mere existence. It would appear that spirituality is much similar to that. As humans we exist, distinct from other objects of nature, by our mere ability to make choices. Spirituality would seem to be the process by which we make these choices.
One could ask, “Can I live with out breathing?” The answer is clearly “No”. We do not know of any one who has perfect health or perfect “breathing”. There is always a shade of something missing or something that can be better. So, it seems to be the case with spirituality. One can always seek a better spiritual condition. But, no one should forget that we are all spiritual in some way or fashion to begin with.
Is it same as religion?
The answer depends on your understanding of “What is religion”? Generally any religion favors reflection and introspection in turn leading to spiritual evolution. Such practices of self reflection or introspection may be facilitated through certain faiths and beliefs. Each religion differs from the other based on the faiths and beliefs promoted by that religion.
To the extent that religion promotes reflection and introspection, there is similarity with the beginnings of spirituality. But, spirituality requires no specific allegiance to any faiths or beliefs.
Ask yourself the question: “Am I Ok?”
Then ask the question: “I am OK, Are you OK?”
Then the question: “We are OK?”
Finally ask the question: “Are we all OK?”
Spiritual evolution finds a frame of mind, that responds with the single answer “Yes” to each of these questions, progressively at first. Finally the answer is “Yes” simultaneously and without limitations or exception to all of the above four questions.
How clear and instinctive is the answer “Yes” vs. How much do you rely on guidelines, beliefs and faiths prescribed by a religion of your choice, to find the answers to the above questions? – The distinction between spirituality and religion begins to emerge. The more instinctive the answer “Yes” more is your spirituality in practice. More hesitant and nuanced your answer based on references to teaching from any source, you are relying on religion as your source of support.
It is important to note that in daily communications Spirituality, practice of religion, being reflective and introspective are all used interchangeably. As a result, being spiritual and being religious is taken to be one and the same. Also being spiritual is assumed to imply merely intellectual and to some extent to become reclusive. All such limitations need not be the constraints for spirituality in practice.
Yes, being religious helps to look at the world we live in a larger context, yet bound by principles and moral codes of conduct. Being religious also promotes reflection and introspection. Hence being religious is the path way for the two essential aspects of spirituality (i.e.): integration and hence harmony with the outside world as well as reflection and introspection and hence harmony within. But, the pathway – being religious – is not identical to the end point of being spiritual.
The focus of spirituality is to recognize the unity of one self with the universe at large. Such unity within as well as with out brings forth an inner vitality, a calm and yet determined purposefulness in life and in all its activities. As a result, spirituality is the spring board to engage in the dynamic world of activities while maintaining a composure, stability and consistency, which might often be perceived by others as being intellectual and reclusive. Hence, the calm demeanor of the spiritually evolved person should not be mistaken for a lack of energy, enthusiasm or vigor.
Bhagawath Geetha describes spiritual evolution, as enlightenment. The enlightened person is described as:
- One who appears to be asleep when others are awake and also as one who is awake, when others are asleep!
- One who remains one’s own best friend.
- One who is steady, and equal in response to the dualities of pleasure/pain, like/dislike, friend/foe, etc.
Does spirituality depend on your religion?
Religion usually is a tool – a stepping stone – to give you a few answers to get started. If you accept the answers as inalienable truths and hence if you live in such world of faith and belief, then you live in the realm of religion. If you accept the guidelines from the religion as a starting point and eventually develop your own personal clarity on the basis of such faith and belief, then you are well on your way in your spiritual journey.
Religion paves the way for spiritual evolution in all of us. Like the many paths on the mountain to the summit, every religion helps in our ascension to the same summit. In fact, the summit is just an evidence of spiritual evolution. If the entire mountain range represents spirituality as a whole, what are the roles of religions, which merely lie on the surface of the specific mountain?
If you are “OK”, why is it so? If you are not OK, why is that? The clarity of answers for such questions is the evidence of further progression in the Spiritual journey
We can begin to address three additional components: “I”, “Am” and “OK”. Religions give us some starting definitions, to each of these three words. Usually these are in the form of dogmas or moral codes, with which we can relate to each other. Reflection and further study leads us to answers to these questions which are universal and devoid of religion.
Then we can look at the question, “We are OK” and its components in the same fashion. Again, religions give us some starting definitions. Society and mode of living in harmony with each other within the society evolve as a result of answers to this question.
Finally, we come to the question: “We are all OK”? As a rule, religion helps to promote the affirmative answer to this question. How far and limitless is your understanding of the term “all”? While religions provide a starting point, spirituality permits the development of an expansive and inclusive perspective for “all”. Religious outlook accepts every one within the religion as the same. Clear distinctions are identified across religions through the real or perceived differences in the faiths and beliefs. Spirituality sees no such distinctions of any kind. Spiritually evolved outlook sees the single entity – the Brahman or the nature – as the substratum of all that is distinct and different.
Is “spirituality” non-denominational? How?
Yes. The exploration of questions such as “Who am I? How do I make choices? How do I relate to the world around me? How can I find an inner harmony that permeates as harmony with the universe?” is spirituality.
These questions are applicable for young and old, rich or poor, man or woman, people of any nationality, religion, race, color or creed. Indeed the same questions could be asked to include any and all objects of nature, conceivable and beyond our cognition. As one begins to see this expansive nature of our existence, one would clearly say that spirituality knows no distinctions of any kind.
Is Spirituality, something for this life or for after life?
This is a difficult question to answer. Before answering this question, one has to address the question: ”Do you believe in the life after?” Spirituality and a true inner contentment through it is real and can be related to in this life. If such contentment also satisfies your belief on life after, then that is well and good.
It will be a pity, if one lives a life of discontent today, while hoping for contentment in the after life. This would be like some one who does not care for physical fitness today and abuses his body, hoping to be in better shape in his/her old age.
What are the steps to experience Spirituality in our daily life?
- Understanding that all our experiences are the outcome of the connection of the inner person (I) with everything external. Such connection is made through three co-existing strands of the rope. These three strands are: Knowledge, Bias and Ignorance. While all three strands co-exist all the time, the dominant one determines our experience for that moment in that connection (experience).
- Practice of objectivity arising out of comprehension of our experiences, their inter-play and how they come into existence. Such objectivity permits us to observe life as a spectator, while also being the actor, director and producer of life, as a stage play.
- Reflection, meditation and contemplation and hence recognition of the abstract themes or concepts that connect and unify all perceived differences and variations. Such spiritual evolution brings increasingly larger meaning and purpose for intangibles such as “Love”, “Friendship”, “Generosity”, “Compassion”, “Absence of ego”, etc.
Conscious awareness of these three steps – in no particular order – and their rigorous practice through self enquiry leads to the union with the self. Through devotion or faith our understanding of a larger order – the laws of nature or God – enhances. As one progresses through these three steps, certain virtues evolve or become self-evident in the individual. Through such virtues and their impact, we observe divinity in our lives.
Can we see evidences of Spirituality in practice in day-to-day life? How?
There are many attributes or behavioral outcomes through which we can observe Spirituality in our daily life. Examples are:
- An attitude or connection to all living beings, without differences: Friendly; Compassionate.
- Without a sense of the possession or “ego”: singular ownership; without the sense of self as the only one responsible or the source of any event.
- Even minded with respect to happiness and sorrow.
- Forgiving in nature.
- Practitioner of self control: Ever steady in meditation, contemplation and contented to be in union with the self.
- Of firm conviction, with mind and intellect dedicated to a larger common cause.
- One is not agitated by others, nor does one cause agitation in others.
- Free from the influences or anxiety due to joy, envy, fear;
- Pure; skillful; prompt (ever attentive, ready and vigilant);
- One who initiates all actions with a sense of renunciation of the self intended purpose; Free of unrelenting wants.
- Does not rejoice (endlessly); Does not hate (endlessly); Neither grieves (endlessly), nor desires (wants endlessly); Renouncing the impact of good/pleasant and bad/unpleasant with faith based on understanding.
- Even minded. Dualities are held in equal regard such as: friend or foe; in honor and dishonor; in heat and cold; in happiness and sorrow; criticism and praise.
- Free from attachment or association (through clarity or understanding that all experiences are the result of the interplay of the three connectors (mentioned earlier).
- Silent (as a result of calm contemplation); Contended in all matters.
- At home, any where and every where: Not rooted in any place or thing solely through emotional attachments.
- Of stable mind; firmly rooted in constant practice of Self Control (Yoga).
How can I engage in Spirituality in Practice?
Spirituality – that we are all OK, we are always in harmony within and without, we exist as an integral part of the universe, Universe exists as a witness to the role and play of the Laws of Nature (Brahman) – is our nature itself. Spiritual acts nurture the mind; spiritual mind nurtures the intellect; spiritually oriented intellect promotes spiritual acts, ………..
We can nurture Spirituality, by engaging in selfless acts. This can be through charity or helping others in need. This can also be by caring for each other, as fellow human beings in the common journey of life.
Engaging the mind to be consciously aware of the emotions and feelings of the self and others is also part of nurturing spirituality.
Intellectually we nurture spirituality through noble thoughts and reflections that internalize the aspects of spirituality as described above.
The essays in this site explore aspects of Spirituality in Practice. Enjoy the reading and reflection. It is our small contribution for your joy in your journey of life.