Spiritual or Religious ~ just labels
Many times people think I am deeply spiritual but not religious.
Most of the times, the very idea of two separate things – religion and spirituality, comes from not a deep personal experience but is shaped by use of language and actions of other people in the society.
For someone who has their own deep experience of universal consciousness, these distinctions do not exist.
So what is this concept of “Religion”. Surprisingly, here is what I found.
The root of the word by Modern scholars means; re-ligare, i.e. re (again) + ligare or “to reconnect”. There was no word or concept of “Religion” till the 17th century. It emerged as a concept in English language with beginning of Colonization when Europeans started travelling to foreign cultures around the world, with non-European languages.
None of the now termed as ancient “ religions” had any concept or word called religion in their languages or sacred texts like Vedas, Bible, Quran or Judaism. And all the -isms of the world Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and so on were coined only in the 19th century, a very recent language invention. Even, Japan had no concept of “religion” since there was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to it’s meaning.
In India in Sanskrit , the word Dharma, was used for Cosmic order or Universal law. In the Quran, the Arabic word din is often translated as “religion” actually meant “law”. So it seems that the word religion or a modern concept of religion is just a label of language which is not anyone’s experience.
All the ancient traditions at the core were a way of life, a way of living with the universal truths and laws.
But modern day usage of Religion can evoke images of Islam jihadists, covert Christian missionaries and Hindu fanatics; riots, violence and madness. We have all come across greedy pushy priests, zealots practicing stupid rituals without any understanding, and people polluting sacred waters and lands in the name of religion.
These actions of misled and misguided humans that cause only misery and suffering for everyone in the name of Religion, must be condemned by all. They are an ugly reminder of the negative tendencies of greed, manipulation, dishonesty and selfishness etc, the very things that religions teach us to get rid of . The real issue here is not distinction between religion and spirituality. The real issue are people, the false gurus and priests who act as religious/spiritual brokers , are misled and misguided by greed for money and power. The ones who do not do any real practice in words or actions.
All the ancient traditions at the core were a way of life, a way of living with the universal truths and laws. Those universal truths are as true as they were thousands of years ago. You cannot divide universal truths into labels of spirituality or religion.
Every tradition or religion Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism or Buddhism at the core has the same simple essence. They are a deeply personal path to connect with the Superconscious self. To help our human self with simple tools of praying and chanting, meditation, develop kindness and compassion, be truthful, and give up greed and selfishness in everyday life. Just the flavor in each religion changes based on the geography, language and local culture.
They all call for awareness in each action and each breath.
The idea is just to develop equanimity towards all experiences of the world, no attachment or aversion; those are the two strongest emotions that keep a human being trapped in suffering of samsara. Liberation from these two is the goal of all religious paths.
If you can control all your senses naturally and effortlessly, you can experience the universal consciousness. There are then no labels of religion or spirituality. There is just existence.
There is a huge paradox in each tradition. If we look at Hinduism, it seems complex, with many Gods and Goddesses, thousands of prayers and mantras, complex rituals and so on. But at the same time it is very simple, right in front of your eyes, at every nook and corner of the society, reminding you of your eternal self; all you need is a very few simple things to practice deeply and make them your own.
But the multiplicity is for flexibility to accommodate everyone’s unique existence. Bring your own God, your own Ishtdevta, the loved form of God, chant what vibrates to your energy, meditate on objects or senses, whatever fits your lifestyle.
These are precious ladders that have helped many realized masters. One must be careful to not throw away the very tools that can help you climb to a different level of consciousness. One must look beyond the actions of spiritual/religious brokers, and practice on their own and then only one can know the deeper truths of existence.
All the great recent saints of India; Ramana Maharishi, Baba Neem Karoli, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Tukaram and Meera; were absolute devotees of God. They experienced the Supreme everywhere, and yet they sang his glories, visited temples and bowed before the idols. It is a great love for Lord and the whole of his creation, that cannot be described, it can only be experienced.
The idea here is not to argue for or against idol worship. These are just beliefs. The point is that when you can experience universal consciousness, form or no form, idol or no idol has no significance. All ladders fall away, only Pure Awareness exists.
The importance of simple tools of Bhakti or Love on the path to self-realization, have been taught by many saints. Quoting here from Baba Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, a Mahasiddha “Without Bhakti there can be no Mukti.” He emphasized the absolute necessity for Devotion and Surrender to the Supreme and the path. It is the intensity of your feeling for God that causes Jnana (wisdom) to rise within you. Once you have Jnana, your Bhakti increases automatically. And with intense Bhakti, Jnana manifests of its own accord. The two work hand in hand. Through the cultivation of Bhakti and Jnana, limiting desire and craving for objects (people, places and things) is destroyed and perfect Peace is attained.”
The whole idea of the path is to help your own mind drop all ideas about everything, call it religion or spirituality, they are both labels of language.