Very few among us understand the real meaning of spirituality. At least I don’t. Still we use spirituality ambivalently and indeterminately and often mistake it for religious observances and dictum. When it comes to spirituality, we are like “men in the mist.”
Most people equate spirituality with religion. Religion is about dogma whereas spirituality is about thought and behavior. As a matter of fact, spirituality involves belief in higher form of intelligence and consciousness running the universe. I am not trying to imply that religion is void of spirituality, but religion includes a myriad of other topics too that camouflage the true meaning of spirituality and leave it to various interpretations. If in doubt, talk to two different religious scholars and find out what I mean.
According to some in the West, spiritualism is a speculative and subjective term that may mean medium, ghosts, afterlife, healing, heaven, hell, supernatural and mysticism. Spirituality is also considered a separate arm of religion by some that includes communicating with spirits, paranormal power and witchcraft.
According to Hinduism, spirituality is inner purification by transcending ordinary nature and perceptual consciousness to higher states of consciousness. The Buddhists consider spiritualism as the elimination of suffering through enlightened state and understanding of reality. Most scholars all over the world look to either Hinduism or Buddhism when it comes to defining spirituality.
I have not done any critical study of any book on spirituality except for reading “Mandukya Upanishad” on the recommendation of my friend, Dr. Ramesh Patel. Another time my father asked me to read some of the essays written by Aldous Huxley, the British philosopher (1894-1963 AD) when I was a teenager. (My father often asked me to read passages and write their summaries ). I gathered that Mr. Huxley was not much impressed by the prevalent expressions of spirituality, yet believed that through faith one could transcend dogma. He was an agnostic when it came to religion.
Huxley referred to alternative spirituality that believes in transcendental idealism (Later I came to know that Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller were other proponents of transcendental idealism) and combines both the Hindu view of spirituality and Western materialism.
I personally knew a person who died at the age of 99 in 2014. He was a teacher and lived in a village four miles away from the nearest big city where he taught math in a middle school. I’ll call him Mr. Prasad (his real name was Mr. Parmeshwar Prasad). I recall my first glimpse of him when I was around three or four years old and lived in the same village, at the time, as Mr. Prasad did.
Mr. Prasad lived in a house made of mud and bricks. He didn’t have many possessions other than a bike, a flashlight, a pair of shirts and a small plot of farmland . The village used to get totally dart after the dusk. Mr. Prasad would return to the village in the dark riding his bike holding the flashlight in one hand and balancing the bike with another. He used to do private tutoring after the school for additional income that his wife and two children depended on.
Mr. Prasad had a very pleasant mannerism and was loving to all the children of the village that included me. He was always content with what he had and didn’t ever complain about lack of money or amenities. I saw him for the last time in 2013, a few months before he died in sleep. He had retired from his school job, but still continued private tutoring. He still had the same pleasant mannerism that he permeated decades ago.
That made me think about spirituality. I am neither a scholar nor an erudite by any means but I am perceptive and inquisitive by nature.According to my thinking:
· Spirituality is having faith in something beyond the self. That ‘something’ can be God or a higher power.
· Spirituality is being aware of oneself and knowing how the self is connected with the universe and other organisms around us.
· Spirituality is taking fortune and adversities in stride as phenomena of life. In other words, it is performing one’s duties with a smile while coping with challenges in life (performing one’s karma).
· Spirituality is seeking happiness beyond material possessions or other external rewards; having compassion and empathy for others and wanting to make the world a better place.
As you can tell from my writing, my pursuit of spirituality has been sketchy at best. But I can say one thing for sure that I can sense spirituality in someone when I see one. In my opinion, Mr. Prasad was a spiritual person.