It’s not easy to define spirituality. Spirituality is integrated into all the religions of the world, i.e. Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, etc. And there is also spirituality without religion.
Spirituality implies an adherence to a spiritual philosophy, which espouses a sense of connection to something bigger than us. It considers one's relationship with the self, others, nature, and whatever else one considers to be the ultimate.
The following are the tenets of spirituality –
- Spirituality emphasizes the personal growth of the individual rather than a relationship with the divine, which a person seeks in organized religion or institution.
- It requires getting in touch with our human spirit. It's not as much about what we believe.
- It is based on spiritual experiences, which are experiences of a reality that is beyond the ego and its immediate needs. In them, human consciousness seems to have direct access to the structure of reality as such.
- Spiritual persons often arrive at their truths while they are developing their spirituality, rather than following an ideology or set of rules. The experience is often personal and occurs in private, allowing people to do the things that are in their own best interests.
- It is a non-material force in human life that is non-supernatural. It helps overcome one’s immediate emotional drives and integrates one with others. It is comprised of compassion, dedication, emotion, and knowledge.
- It generates a deep sense of connectedness to our world and every other human on the planet and its environment. It is a mind-expanding emotional perspective worth cultivating.
- It motivates us to improve the world, in which we live.
- It makes us find a sense of inner peace and happiness. Often, its goal is to live happily and help others.
The difference between spirituality and religion –
Many believe that spirituality is the essence of all religions. In all religious traditions on the planet, you can find both religion and spirituality but the difference is in the approach. Those, who are spiritual, can pick out the things they believe from any religion and combine these truths to formulate their own set of beliefs. Below are mentioned important differences between spirituality and religion -
- Spirituality is an individual experience of the divine. But religion involves a group of people brought together by their common faith or beliefs about the divine.
- Spirituality concentrates more on each person's soul. Religion shapes one's beliefs, attitudes, and actions by giving importance to the adherence of rules.
- Spiritual person’s set of beliefs evolves as they learn more through their study of their spirituality. In religion, the belief system is usually predefined.
- A spiritual person often arrives at one’s truths while pursuing spirituality, rather than following an ideology or set of rules. A religion often discourages people from listening to their instincts but instructs people to accept and do what they’re told, without questioning it.
- Spirituality does not threaten punishment for a life lived in contrast to a set of rules. The fear of punishment for one's actions is often a driving factor in religion.
- Spirituality concentrates on one’s karma. This is a principle of cause and effect where one's actions or intentions have a direct impact on their future. A religion requires its followers to follow the rules laid down in it.
- A spiritual person looks within themselves for guidance. A religious person looks to the set of rules laid down by the religion for guidance.
- The focus of spirituality is on the process of becoming attuned to one's inner self. Religion focuses on followers' beliefs and how those beliefs play out in their everyday lives.
Being spiritual but not religious means that spirituality is a very important part of your life but you follow it your way. You may have your beliefs and practices, which you follow according to your conscience and not as per the dogmas of organized religion.
Dogmatic religion -
Dogmatic religion is dangerous because it creates a strong group mentality. It encourages people to develop intolerance for other groups, whom they see as inferior and ignorant. When two groups are thrown together with their different beliefs, which are an affront to each other, conflicts are always close at hand.
Spiritual religion -
Spiritual religion is different. It promotes the higher attributes of human nature like altruism and compassion. Spiritually religious people don’t feel any animosity to other religious groups; in fact, they’re happy to investigate other beliefs, and may even go to their temples and services. Their attitude is that different religions are suited to different people but all religions have different manifestations or expressions of the same essential truths.
It’s important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind. It’s only possible to see people when one is able to see the world as others see it.
— - Robert Anton Wilson
Developing spirituality -
Contemplate daily –
You spend time praying, meditating, or something similar. One of the best ways to increase your spirituality is to meditate daily. Set aside a specific time of the day for doing it. With repetitive practice, you will be able to understand more about yourself, have a strong relationship with your God or higher being, and have less stress, anxiety, and anger.
Develop gratitude –
Being thankful for everything you have been blessed with is a way to become a more spiritual person. By thanking God, the universe, or whatever higher being you believe in, for your gifts in life will make you an overall happier, patient, and considerate person.
Read books –
Pick books that are important to your personal religious choices or venture out into new territory. Reflect on the passages you read and figure out a plan for how you can apply the information in your life. You can also read the books of religions or religious faiths other than your own as they may offer you some new spiritual insights.
Help others –
Spirituality involves stepping outside the normal bounds of your routine to gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for what's going on around you. There's no better way to put your own life in perspective than by engaging with the hardships of others. This isn't about cashing in on your sense of pity. But it is about helping others as far as you can.
Get creative –
Spirituality embraces the power of creativity. This includes music, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry, literature, and new forms of media too! Creativity helps you learn things about yourself, which you can then convey to the outside world. Various acts of creativity can help you to be present in the moment of Now.
Listen spiritual discourses –
Such discourses widen your understanding of spirituality. Attend discourses other than those of your choice as they may add something new to your perspective. You may find that there is something common among them, thereby showing interconnectedness of various spiritual viewpoints.
Enjoy nature –
Enjoying Mother Nature often is a crucial part of spirituality. Whether you live in a city, suburb, or rural area, you will find public parks and gardens, forest preserves, and other natural landscapes you can visit. Go alone or with friends, find a spot with a nice view, and allow your mind to savor its beauty. Breathe in the fresh air and engage all your senses.
All the major religions of the world incorporate spirituality in them. But it is also possible to follow spirituality without religion. Spirituality is an individual experience of the divine as it concentrates more on each person's soul. On the other hand, religion involves a group of people brought together by their common faith or beliefs about the divine.
It is worth knowing that a religion can be caused to degrade into dogmatism, which encourages people to consider, those belonging to other religions, as inferior and ignorant. A dogmatic religion can be a threat to the secular society and its people. In contrast, spirituality largely doesn’t cause intolerance toward others, even though they may subscribe to different viewpoints. That is why a large number of people have started following spirituality without religion.
Dr Pran Rangan (author) from Kanpur (UP), India on July 21, 2020:
Thanks Dana for expressing your enlightening views.
It's absolutely normal to follow a specific religion but when we strongly identify with it so that it gives rise to egoism in us, it miserably fails in its purpose. One of the basic purposes of every religion is to promote harmony and peace in the society.
You will find that how much disharmony and discord is caused by by people, who subscribe to the dogmatic religions.
Such people get so rigid in the beliefs that they can go to any extent to harm those, who contradict them.
God bless you.
Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on July 21, 2020:
I believe that true peace comes from every individual understanding that the choice to live a life and exist in a world full of peace lies in their own hands. We have the power to live a life of peace but understanding why we do not exercise the power that was given to us is a personal, spiritual journey every individual must take.
I'm a Christian; but when I went on a journey to understand or see myself it brought me to a place where I knew I had to hold myself accountable as a free-willed, free-thinking, human being for choices I made that took away my peace.
When I said in my previous comment I appreciate your wisdom Dr. Pran, it's because my ears open when precious wisdom flows from the mouths of the truly enlightened. A gift that comes from above and not beneath.
Dr Pran Rangan (author) from Kanpur (UP), India on July 20, 2020:
Thanks Dana for your appreciation. God bless you.
Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on July 20, 2020:
Thank you for sharing your wisdom Dr. Pran, your articles are such a pleasure to read.