In today’s capitalist world, spirituality has been packaged and marketed like other products. There are various ways in which it is practiced; from meditation boot camps to Ted talks by spiritualists who have become celebrities to nascent faiths who have their own fundamentals regarding spirituality. But, what does spirituality really mean for today’s youth who are impatient and in the search for quick rewards?
At its core, spirituality is a matter of faith. It stems from belief that at a fundamental level we are all one and driven by the same motivations. Spirituality transcends differences of gender, caste, race, sexuality and belief systems. However, spirituality divides as much as it unites. Today, as a spiritual practitioner you are expected to be part of one spiritual movement or the other. This is a pity and detracts to a great deal from the beauty of spirituality.
However, at the end of the day it is up to you as an individual as to how you wish to interpret spirituality. You could be a spiritualist without going to places of worship, signing up for meditation sessions or chanting groups. All one requires is belief in the essential unity of all living creatures. This is quite succinctly summarized in the Hindu concept of the atman which resides in all living beings. It is no coincidence that the word atman is remarkably similar in sound to the word atom which is indivisible and represents the smallest element of all items.
If one were to subscribe to the concept of atman, one would be forgiven for thinking that spiritual people are vegetarians who are against animal slaughter for food or commercial needs. This too is not true. The Buddha himself said that food is an individual preference and placed few hard coded restrictions on diet for his followers. All he said was that the animal should not have been killed specifically for the eventual consumer.
These details thicken the plot. If the above information is true then how does one go about spirituality? If we were to internalize the simple concept that the same basic energy resides in all of us then we would be a much happier society. Today, when matters of immigration and communal tensions are issues of national debate, spirituality is more important than ever before.
Spirituality gets a bad rap because of the baggage it carries. People automatically connect it to religion and the hard coded tenets that many faiths carry because of the enthusiasm that leaders have had to broaden their base of followers. However, a close analysis of religions too reveals that their essence lies in the idea that others are simply a reflection of an individual’s core values. This fact however gets lost in the confusion of ceremonies, rituals and food preferences.
So, how then does one go about the business of spirituality? Spirituality is an individual journey where you try to make sense of the world in your own way. There are no hard coded tenets, life principles or ceremonies that hold you hostage. You are free to read widely and make your own judgments about philosophical texts and their value to your life. The world of ideas is your oyster and the task before you is to find the pearl of wisdom.
In a way, spirituality is quite intimidating. It is like jumping off a plane with only a flimsy parachute for insurance. However, it is equally liberating to live a life with no boundaries where the onus is on you to make sense of the grey areas of life. As you go about this journey, you realize that there is no ‘one’ truth. Hence, there is space for multiple religions and thousands of Gods. Each of these religions and Gods has a story behind them. Stories captivate our imagination and hence we subscribe to them. However, it is our responsibility to interpret them in our own way and not be held hostage to them.
The task before us is to find our own stories and write them well. We should of course use religious beliefs and principles as a guideline but we should treat these as a buffet of ideas from where we sample liberally without engaging in overeating. As we do so, we realize that all religions have their benefits and limits. Assimilating their strengths to create a unifying theme is spirituality.
Being a spiritualist is simple yet layered. All one requires is an innate belief that we are all one but manifest in different forms. This mindset helps us to make sense of the world in various ways. We realize that politicians, corporate firms and even NGOs all have their respective audiences. Accordingly, they communicate to the world and run their organizations. Spirituality helps us make sense of the underlying agenda of individuals and organizations so that we can look at the world in an integrated manner. It is this integration which is worth its weight in gold.
All attempts to brand spirituality and package it are of little value. While there is a market for all propositions in today’s world, ideas have their own power. Spirituality at its core is about integration and synthesis. This defies branding and marketing. At the end of the day, there is only so much purpose driven communication that people can handle. Eventually, they will gravitate towards individual activities like cycling, distance running and trekking in a bid to learn more about themselves.
The answers to all our questions lie deep within ourselves. We could be well versed with philosophical texts, religious teachings and Sanskrit shlokas and yet be clueless as to how we should conduct ourselves. Ultimately, it is only through individual efforts that we can understand spirituality at its core. This core is essentially what drives us as individuals and brings us happiness. Spirituality is a journey of self discovery with no limits demarcated. It is this limitless space that we must explore in order to do justice to our lives as individuals and responsible citizens of the world.