We hear the term “spirituality” a lot these days. The graph below depicts how popular this word has been over the previous two decades.
Though it makes me glad to learn that people are apparently becoming more spiritual, it is also true that the definition of this word has changed with time. For example, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘spirituality’ as “something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such.” That, to me, is a terrible definition of spirituality.
And it’s not just the definition that has suffered. It is the way this term is used nowadays that bothers me even more. Today, spirituality has almost lost its essential meaning, and religious and self-help gurus are exploiting it in a highly twisted manner to attract followers. They are grossly misusing a key term, which is something that worries me greatly.
So what really is Spirituality?
Spirituality is making a connection with one’s spirit, which is the true identity of oneself, and with the Supreme Soul — God.
THAT IS IT! It is such a simple concept that has been made into something so complicated today that it has lost all its meaning and has been turned into something entirely different. In fact, most of us have no idea what this word actually means. Everyone gives this term their own interpretation and utilizes it in whatever way they like. That is terrible.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “O Partha (Arjuna), when one completely gives up all desires of the mind, and is satisfied in the self (soul) by the (realization of being a) self (soul), then he is considered to be established in steady wisdom.” [Bhagavad Gita 2.55]
This is true spirituality: reestablishing one’s lost connection with one’s original nature — the spirit soul — and the source of all souls — God, no matter by what name one calls God.
What is not Spirituality?
Spirituality is not meditation (the way it is used today)
Meditation is an excellent practice for rewiring one’s mind, releasing stress and anxiety from daily life, relaxing oneself, and improving concentration. This is how meditation is now practiced.
On the internet, you can find a myriad of meditation techniques. There are hosts of meditation gurus who develop their own ‘flagship’ techniques that help people relax. And they call this spiritual.
But that was never the motive with which the concept of meditation was first introduced in the Vedic scriptures. Meditation is one of the four main Yogas — the methods to attain God. In Vedic scriptures, including the Bhagavad Gita, this is called Dhyana Yoga or Raja Yoga.
Dhyana Yoga has a specified methodology of practice, which I describe in Chapter 24 of 30 Days to Understanding the Bhagavad Gita. The objective of this is not relaxing the mind or improving one’s focus, but to remain connected with one’s true self and to the Supreme Self. Modern meditation techniques have no relation with this objective.
Spirituality is not Mindfulness
Like meditation, mindfulness is also an excellent technique of managing one’s stress and lifestyle, by always remaining present in the moment. But again, unless that aims at remembering one’s spiritual nature and the realization of being a fragment of the Supreme Spirit, the practice of mindfulness cannot be considered spiritual.
Spirituality is not healing
Today we have all sorts of healing techniques including music healing, crystal healing, sound healing, color healing, energy healing. aromatherapy, reiki, CBT, and so on. All of them have merits, and their proponents argue that their methods are the best. These practices are seen as spiritual by them. However, this is clearly not the case. And the reason why these cannot come under the definition of spirituality is the same. These have no relation to the realization of the self and the Supreme Self.
Spirituality is not future-telling or manifestation
Today we have all sorts of techniques that claim to foretell the future with precision — astrology, numerology, tarot, crystal ball, alchemy, divination, witchcraft, and other occult practices. We also have concepts like attraction, manifestation, and visualization that claim that one can achieve anything if one thinks about it enough. I have no idea how well they work or how long their benefits stay, and I have no intention of endorsing or condemning these tactics and practices here. My primary issue with these is that their proponents regard them as spiritual pursuits, which is nonsensical.
Spirituality is not religion
This may be a contentious issue for some people. That is, however, unsurprising. Spirituality and religion have always been, and will continue to be, controversial topics. So that is fine. Religion vs. spirituality is a complex topic that could be the subject of a separate article. But for the time being, all I want to say is that religion is nothing more than a philosophy that someone may adhere to based on their faith. Which philosophy has more merit is a different topic altogether.
Spirituality, on the other hand, is the practice of believing that one is a spirit soul rather than a physical body and staying in touch with that feeling. Though spirituality may be a central idea in various religions, religion and spirituality are not synonymous.
We have a propensity to overcomplicate things in this day and age. We enjoy being diverted. Our minds are quickly bored, which is why we are constantly on the hunt for new techniques and beliefs to adopt that will transform our lives. Our thoughts are drawn to mysticism. Anything that professes to be mystical attracts us readily. All of these things might be relaxing and entertaining, but they should not be confused with true spirituality.