By Arti Patel
Chicago: After reading the report — Sri Sri Ravi Shankar inaugurates Vivekananda Spiritual Center — by J.V. Lakshmana Rao published in India Tribune dated July 31, I am motivated to write the inter-connectivity of meditation, spirituality and religion.
Devout Hindus are familiar with diyas, tikkas, incense sticks, the mysterious mantras that priests chant, the numerous fasts, and the holy days observed on the Hindu calendar.
However, it is possible to be a sincere devotee without involving any of those material things. Of course, while being a Hindu does not require even one temple visit, spirituality moves beyond the realms of just Hinduism. Spirituality is relatable enough to swallow the devotion of all the people in the world.
“But, is religion not the same thing as spirituality,” spiritual teachers from all religions have been asked, and all those spiritual teachers answer something to essence of “no!”
In fact, religion and spirituality, while related, are widely different. Religion is based on a firm institution that followers can physically visit. Religion has a specific doctrine and requirements for devotees — that guide day-to-day life. Religion also believes in a higher power than man. Usually, we choose to follow a specific religion because we believe that is the only way to salvation.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is more abstract. It focuses on the individual conscience, and the inner-self. It preaches loving God rather than fearing Him. Spirituality places the holy shrine not at an outside place that one visits, but rather in one’s heart. It puts emphasis on the feeling that God is very reachable and can be found in one’s heart, rather than in a distant place called heaven. Spiritual teachers often teach of tolerance; and that all religions are a pathway to salvation.
Don’t both of these sound familiar? Often, people are brought up with the teachings of both their religious institution and the teachings of spiritual seekers from that same religion, leaving both their spiritual and religious education ambiguous.
That ambiguousness leaves followers confused about what is true and what they should believe.
While no one can control other’s thoughts, there are many advantages to put a little more emphasis on spirituality rather than just on religion alone.
For example, there are several components to human health, such as physical, mental, and emotional. Spiritua-lity is actually one of those components, meaning, if we want to lead a generally healthy life, understanding and connecting with the inner self is vital. Humans seeking to attain a sense of well-being are told to meditate and peacefully reflect on their lives.
Thus, being spiritual rather than religious increases one’s understanding of one’s life and surroundings. That understanding opens a world of benefits. One, who understands oneself, makes better decisions, is more mature, and is more confident of oneself. Such people with self-confidence are then generally successful in their endeavors.
Being spiritual also makes one feel more connected to all humans, rather than only the people who share one’s religion. For instance, two spiritually inclined Hindus can discuss conscience or the proximity of God with as much understanding as a spiritually inclined Hindu and a spiritually inclined Muslim; or a spiritually inclined Muslim and a spiritually inclined Christian; or a spiritually inclined Christian and a spiritually inclined Buddhist; or a spiritually inclined Buddhist and a spiritually inclined Jain; or all of them in one conversasion.
While discussions between squarely religious people act as separating acts, discussions between spiritual people are bonding acts. Thus, spiritual people can go anywhere in the world and feel like a part of the people there.
In the end, whether we believe in this god or that god, or whether we believe in any god at all, our spirituality does not and should change. That is the universality of spiritual thinking.
Spirituality connects body, mind and soul. Meditation helps to realize that fact.