Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction to Spirituality
- 2. Definition of Spirituality
- 3. Difference between Spirituality and religion
- 4. Why is Spirituality vital to us ?
- 5. Spirituality and the purpose of life
- 6. Spirituality is a practical science
- 7. Importance of a spiritually evolved guide (Guru) in Spirituality
- 8. Spiritual paths
- 9. Obstacles in Spirituality
- 10. Practising Spirituality
- 11. Conclusion
1. Introduction to Spirituality
Many of us have explored Spirituality in our own ways. Although this quest is very individual (i.e., we all have our own personal definition of Spirituality), it is collective in spirit. This is because Spirituality in people’s minds is synonymous with a search for meaning, for purpose and direction in life.
People get attracted to Spirituality and embark on their spiritual journeys for different reasons. Generically, there are a few main reasons for this.
- Curiosity about the spiritual dimension : This includes seeking answers to the more profound questions in life such as – what is the purpose of life, where did I come from and where do we go after death ?
- When facing a problem in life : Insurmountable problems in life are often a catalyst for people to search for an answer to their problems beyond the purview of modern science. This includes approaching an astrologer, a psychic or a holy man.
- Interested in spiritual healing : The ability to heal by channelising subtle energies is an art that has been pursued for millennia.
- Interested in personality improvement : Wanting to be a better person can lead one to Spirituality and a more spiritual way of life.
- Wanting to grow spiritually : Some of us have an innate need to grow spiritually and do not need a catalyst to push us towards Spirituality.
For those who seek the meaning of Spirituality there is much literature that can be found on the web. However, this presents another problem as one may get confused as to what to choose as an accurate definition. In this article, we provide the definition of Spirituality and provide practical insights about Spirituality.
2. Definition of Spirituality
In Sanskrit, Spirituality is known as Adhyātma. It is derived from two words Adhi and Ātman (Ātmanahā). Adhi means pertaining to the topic and Ātmā means the Soul. The Soul is the God principle within each of us and is our true nature. It is the main component of the subtle body, which is a fractional part of the Supreme God Principle. Its characteristics are Absolute Truth (Sat), Absolute Consciousness (Chit) and Bliss (Ānand). The Soul is unaffected by the ups and downs (and the happiness and unhappiness) one experiences in life as it is perpetually in a blissful state.
Our natural state is to be blissful (which is the nature of the Soul within us) and we all inherently yearn to be in this state. This is also the reason why we all search for happiness in life and run after various things we think will make us happy. However, as we all know with the stresses and strains of modern-day living, ‘happiness’ is elusive and fleeting.
Spirituality, thus, deals with understanding the nature of the Soul and one’s journey back to identifying with the Soul and experiencing it as one’s true nature. Spirituality is the expansive science about how to be blissful.
The scope of the science of Spirituality is vast and also includes answers to profound questions such as, ‘who am I’, ‘where did I come from’, ‘what is the purpose of life’, ‘where will I go after death’, etc.
In Sanskrit, Spirituality or Spiritual science it is called Paravidya (Supreme science), while all other sciences are called Aparāvidyā meaning inferior science. By ‘science’, we mean modern science. Rationalists and most people think that science and Spirituality are two separate disciplines. However, Spirituality is the knowledge of inﬁnity, that is, knowledge of all subjects. It covers the whole physical world and the subtle unseen world, all the physical and spiritual regions, all physical and subtle frequencies, energies and vibrations, all positive and negative entities and all living beings and non-living beings in the whole Universe. Spirituality contains all the knowledge and memory of the past, present and future, from the beginning to the end of the Universe.
3. Difference between Spirituality and religion
For many people, religion provides them with their first learnings about spiritual matters and things that are beyond the physical world. However, religions often tend to be sectarian in nature. A ‘sect’ is a group of people who usually think that their Path to God is the best and the preferable one (if not the only one).
However, one of the fundamental principles of Spirituality is that there are as many paths to God as there are people. Just as a doctor does not advise the same medicine for different ailments which different people may have, similarly the same type of spiritual practice does not necessarily benefit everyone. When spiritual practice is tailor-made as per the temperament and needs of an individual, it leads to faster spiritual progress.
God is expansive, and to experience Him, we too must become expansive in our spiritual outlook. A myopic or ethnocentric outlook about religion or Spirituality often stifles spiritual growth, thus leading to stagnation.
4. Why is Spirituality vital to us ?
Regardless of who we are and where we come from – our need to experience happiness in our lives drives all our worldly pursuits. This need is common to all of us regardless of cultural background, religion, gender, social or financial status, etc. However, through spiritual research, we have found that on average people experience happiness only 30% of the time.
One of the main reasons we experience unhappiness is due to problems in life. Everyone knows about the physical and psychological causes of problems in life. However, what many of us do not know is that problems that are physical or psychological in nature can have a spiritual root cause. This means that even though a problem is primarily due to spiritual reasons, it can manifest as a physical or psychological problem.
Through spiritual research, we have found that over 50% of the problems that a person faces in life are due to spiritual reasons. All major life events such as marriage, good and bad relationships, serious accidents and major illnesses are mostly due to one’s destiny.
Now this is important – The solution for any problem needs to be provided at that corresponding level.
When the problem of a patient has a spiritual root cause, it is best to provide spiritual help or employ a spiritual solution to help. Spiritual measures such as practising Spirituality provide relief to the physical and psychological problems as well and this is especially so if the root cause the problem is spiritual in nature.
5. Spirituality and the purpose of life
At some point of time in our lives some of us begin to wonder – Is this it ?
Is this all there is to life – for example – getting a good education, earning money, getting a loan, purchasing a car, getting an even bigger loan, purchasing a house, purchasing a bigger house, achieving success and recognition in some field, raising a family and then ultimately we die ? Some of us may begin to wonder whether life has any higher purpose.
For those of us who have gone through this stage of introspection, it is like something has shifted deep within us. For some of us, such feelings have propelled us to embark on our own spiritual journeys.
According to the science of Spirituality, there are really only 2 reasons for being born :
- The first purpose of life is to complete one’s destiny or karma that one is born with.
- The second and more important purpose of life is to grow spiritually.
Practising Spirituality as per universal principles helps with both these purposes. It helps to burn adverse destiny that causes us unhappiness and it also helps us to grow spiritually.
Note : For more information please refer to the article on – What is the purpose of life ?
6. Spirituality is a practical science
Many of us have read books on Spirituality and spiritual concepts. However mere theory (even if it is correct) apart from providing direction to an individual, unless it is put into practice can never be experienced. It remains as just intellectual spiritual concepts to a person. Only when one puts that knowledge into practice, does one get spiritual experiences or the experience of Spirituality. Spiritual practice truly helps a person understand the importance of Spirituality. This is why it is said that in a person’s spiritual journey, theoretical knowledge of Spirituality has only 2% importance, while 98% importance is for practising.
If a person just reads about Spirituality and does not practise it, he will never understand/experience its importance. As a result, sooner or later he may stop having any interest in it. In fact, he may also end up doubting its usefulness in life.
Another important point to consider is the veracity of a spiritual book that one may be following. As a spiritual book cannot be easily peer reviewed it is not easy to understand if it is correct. In the article – The effect of the author on books on Spirituality, we have shown that all spiritual books are not equal and the level of spiritual truth depends on the author of the book.
7. Importance of a spiritually evolved guide (Guru) in Spirituality
One cannot overstate the importance of having a spiritually evolved guide (Guru) in one’s spiritual journey. In any spiritual quest, a Guru is of paramount importance. This is because Spirituality is the journey about transcending one’s 5 senses, mind and intellect and instead experiencing that one’s nature is the Soul. Since a Guru has walked the path Himself, He is an authority in the subject and is able to guide us on the journey to God-realisation.
Unfortunately, in the current era, 80% of the Gurus in society are fake or without spiritual authority. They use the garb of Spirituality to earn money and gain importance. They have done a disfavour to society as they mislead people who are interested in Spirituality. Most people in today’s era are around the spiritual level of 20% and are unequipped to discern whether a person is a Saint or not. However, they generally end up following a person who can heal them or perform miracles.
If the desire of a seeker is earnest, then the unmanifest God Principle intervenes and guides the seeker to an actual Guru.
8. Spiritual paths
There are many generic paths to God and the most popular ones are listed below.
- Bhaktiyoga – The Path of Devotion
- Namsankirtanyoga – The Path of Chanting
- Karmakand – The Path of Ritualistic Worship
- Karmayoga – The Path of Action (i.e. to have no expectation of fruit from an action which is performed)
- Dhyanyoga – The Path of Meditation
- Dnyanyoga – The Path of Knowledge (Receiving knowledge pertaining to the Soul through Holy texts or in the subtle)
- Hathayoga – The Path of Deliberate Rigor
- Kundaliniyoga – The Path of Spiritual Energy
These paths have been designed so as to suit the temperament of the seeker. However, regardless of which Path to God one chooses, it is important that one reduces the intensity of one’s personality defects. If one has many personality defects, one cannot sustain on any path.
To help a seeker progress faster in his spiritual journey, His Holiness Dr Athavale founded Gurukrupayoga (The Path of the Guru’s grace). This path amalgamates the best parts of all the other paths of Spirituality. It recommends 8 steps of spiritual practice with an emphasis on removing defects and reducing one’s ego.
9. Obstacles in Spirituality
As a seeker of spiritual growth, one may come across the following obstacles in one’s spiritual journey.
- Incorrect guidance on spiritual practice : Even if one has a lot of desire to progress spiritually, but the guidance one is following is incorrect, then months if not years can be wasted.
- Not as per universal laws : All spiritual practice should be based on universal laws/principles, else it could lead to stagnation.
- No authority to answer one’s doubts : If doubts about Spirituality are not clarified, a seeker may end up following a wrong path and end up losing faith in Spirituality.
- Negative energies from the spiritual dimensions often misguide seekers from the subtle.
- Sometimes what life throws at a seeker can derail his spiritual practice.
- Sometimes one may be stagnating in his spiritual practice and one may not even realise it. This is why having a spiritual guide in one’s journey is important.
- The spiritual path to God realisation can take years if not decades. Sometimes, along the way seekers can experience a lack of will power, diligence or perseverance in their spiritual practice which will impede their spiritual growth. This is why being associated with other co-seekers or a spiritual organisation helps in providing seekers with the necessary impetus and encouragement in their spiritual journeys.
10. Practising Spirituality
Spiritual practice is something that many start, but there are very few finalists. Few persist with spiritual practice for even a year and even fewer progress to higher spiritual levels.
Why is this the case ?
It is not that there is a shortage of genuine seekers who want to progress spiritually. Also, Spirituality is universal and anyone, even a person who has committed many mistakes, can progress spiritually with sincere spiritual practice.
The reason people give up on Spirituality is because in most cases, people do not practice Spirituality as per its universal principles and under the guidance of a proper spiritual guide. Hence, they stagnate in their spiritual journeys and the expected spiritual growth does not occur. SSRF recommends practicing Spirituality as per the 6 basic principles of spiritual practice for faster spiritual growth.
We hope that this article has helped clarify the meaning of Spirituality for you. If it has helped you, please do share it with others who may be interested in Spirituality. We encourage those of you on a spiritual quest to consider reading our section on spiritual practice. For those of you who are new to Spirituality, please do read the section on – Starting your spiritual journey.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via our ‘Ask a question’ functionality.