This world is full of mysteries in which there are many faiths who have different masters and each with their own path of devoutness. Many of us were raised to believe in religions which we are born into. Hence, eliminating the possibility of exploring other dimensions of spirituality and continue to praise and stay within our credence’s finite area. However, this keeps us away from discovering the vastness of the ocean which is the real freedom.
Religion, in a narrow sense, is a relatively static system of dogmas of beliefs concerning “A Higher Being”, the creation, and the nature of human beings. It segregates, that is, distinguishes one group of people from another by laying claim to a “rightness” for its particular faith system. Spirituality, in its truest sense, tends to begin with a more dynamic universal premise about the unity of all things. It recognizes that there are a multitude of paths, which can lead us to further understanding of ourselves and the world. The purported goal of both religion and spirituality is to illuminate…raising consciousness is a tool to determine how religion and spirituality may differ or be alike.
Most of us can agree that life is a journey and we are all walking a hopeful path towards a higher, more knowledgeable, or more enlightened state of being. And as we travel our path, we encounter way stations – people, ideas, and situations – that impact our course. Think of the waystations as buildings containing knowledge and insights. Now, in some of these buildings, you are told that the truth lies within and you need not look further. All rightness and knowledge lie within their doctrines and practices. Essentially, their buildings become a close-ended box that can halt your journey and create stagnation. This situation tends to be a religious approach. Now if you decline to stay and continue onward, you may enter other buildings. Here, they impart what wisdom they have and send you on your way. There is no instruction manual, rather, the tools are bestowed upon you to wield and nurture yourself to a higher state of understanding.
Herein the devices, I find what seems to be the cause for decline of religion. Within Western Culture, we have seen a vast increase in the importance of individuality and freedom. More than ever, we desire to be recognized for authenticity of the self. However, within the religious context, the fundamental questions of life are answered – “A Higher Being” is the answer. There is a lack of blanks with a person’s soul to fill, which causes the individual to raise questions as opposed to accepting “A Higher Being” as the only answer. Spirituality has no guidelines; it is simply a path of self-discovery.
The notion of a universal consciousness-raising spirit helps answer the question of whether we can be religious and spiritual…everything is a state of consciousness. As a Catholic, Rome will tell you that only by adopting Catholic dogma can you be saved. Ah, but many modern Catholics are not that restrictive in their hearts and minds. Some hold their personal philosophies as their preferred orientation towards “A Higher Being”, while recognizing the validity of other traditions. And, if they are really interested and dig deep, they will realize that all major religions had a common core of spiritual principles before the corruption of “holy” power seekers divided people.
As I was reading Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus – I couldn’t help but to appreciate his simple way of putting it: ‘Religion is a deal. Spirituality is a journey – Religion gives a complete description of the world, and offers us a well-defined contract with predetermined goals’. He continues: ‘Spiritual journeys take people in mysterious ways to unknown destinations. The quest usually begins with some big question, such as who am I? What is the meaning of life? Most people just accept the ready made answers provided by the powers that be, spiritual seekers are not so easily satisfied. They are determined to follow the big question wherever it leads, and not to places they know well or wish to visit.’ That is were I think the difference lies – in the predetermined goals. Spirituality is about the journey, exploration and discovery whereas religion is about the destination.
A religion, in the end, is always the product of what people believe…the dictation of beliefs by central authorities has greatly weakened, particularly in Western Culture. This is not to say that beneficial knowledge and practices do not lie within…they most certainly do. But I believe many are now seeing it as a steppingstone to higher awareness and will slowly spiritualize their creeds with a growing conviction and respect in the unity of all things.
If there is anything in the Creator, it is within us… exists within us. It took me quite sometime to learn the true essence of spirituality, emancipation of self. It is a broad concept with loads of perspectives. For me, it is a sense of interconnectedness with us all and to understand the diversity and the celebration of transcending our ego, to take flight and elevate to higher state of consciousness… the universal human experience, connecting to the Divine through the pathway of your soul… Namaste, ‘The God in me greets the God in you. The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you’.