Religion and Spirituality – What Differentiates Religion From Spirituality?

Religion is “absolute truth of life” of the physical manifested world. It is Religion and not Spirituality which forms the basis of the present society we live in. In the present the needs for following a Religion being at its minimum… it is easy to follow any Religion. Anyone… even a layman can follow any Religion but not Spirituality?

What vastly differentiates Religion and Spirituality? Religion… if it forms the core of the physical manifested world… it is the Spirituality (the truth of our Soul within) which upholds the values in the society. Without Spirituality the physical manifested world cannot sustain for long but in the absence of religion… the society can survive on its own.

It is Spirituality (the truth of our real self… our Soul within) which forms the core of the cosmic world. The physical manifested world is a reality in terms of the senses (which guide every human being on its earthly journey). In the cosmic world… our physical manifested world does not hold good for there is nothing solid in the Cosmos. Everything in the Cosmos is made up of the basic building block of the Cosmos which comprise of atoms and molecules alone.

Religion is meant for passing of the physical manifested life in a meaningful manner. Unable to understand the nature of God… humanity has built for itself various religious centers all over the globe. These religious centers are they a mosque, temple or a church… provide a succor to the ever ailing society. They quench the thirst of an average human being… one who does not have time or the resources to contemplate directly on God the Almighty.

Indulgence in Spirituality is not meant for the average human being. To be able to fathom the depths of the Scriptures of the various religions of the world (the core truths of Spirituality)… one needs to dive deep into the pearls of wisdom contained in the various sacred Scriptures of the world. Spirituality is totally oblivious of a religion. In the field of Spirituality one need not go to a mosque, temple or a church in search of God. It is contemplation and only contemplation which shall lead one to God the Almighty.

Spirituality (contrary to religion) is all about the spirit existing within every human being neigh every living being (Jiva as we call it in Hinduism). It is truth of every life prevailing on Mother Earth. It is the real self of us which exists within every living being since the birth of that body in the form of an individual soul. Spirituality and Religion are the two fundamentals of life which every living being is required to follow simultaneously.

One can live without Religion but not without Spirituality for Spirituality forms the core of very existence of every living being. It is the spirit within every human being that we exist as a physical form on Mother Earth. We may or may not indulge in understanding Spirituality or a Religion but inherently every living being pursues the path of Spirituality in every manifestation. Spirituality is that fundamental of life which cannot be ignored by one.

To be able to understand the basics of the Spirituality (not religion) one needs to understand the underlying meaning of the various sacred Scriptures existing on Mother Earth. Whatever our religious masters teach us on the physical plane may not be a truthful representation of whatever is contained in the sacred Scriptures. Many commentaries may exist related to a particular sacred Scripture but all may not be correct or rightly represent the facts contained therein.

To be able to interpret the sacred Scriptures correctly one needs to understand the inner meaning of the core teachings contained therein. Spirituality in other words can only be best understood from a realized master. Only those who have reached the level of Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed can deliver the humanity of its ills.

On the contrary going to a temple, mosque or a church can provide temporary succor to the ailing humanity but it is only Spirituality which can provide a permanent relief. Religion provides relief in day-to-day life but Spirituality liberates one forever from the cycle of birth and death. Religion is primarily a following of an enlightened master… it is only the correct interpretation of his teachings that one can follow spirituality to its logical end.

Buddhism Religion relates to the teachings of Gautama Buddha. The Islamic Religion is based on the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. Jainism (which can not be rightly called as a Religion but a way of life) is based on the collective teachings of the various Tirthankars (enlightened souls). Similarly Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Following the teachings of Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed… One can definitely reach the higher portals of Religion but to become one like Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed one needs to understand the core teachings of the realized masters themselves in a totally unadulterated form.

In a nutshell, if we desire to understand the fundamentals of life itself and reach the end of the cosmic journey… we need to understand Spirituality in totality. And on the contrary if we desire to live the present physical manifested life in the best manner possible then following the dictates of Religion alone would suffice.

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Spirituality – Religion

Increasing numbers of people in the developed world consider themselves spiritual without belonging to a religion. Some of the dominant world religions believe there is no spiritual life outside their confines. Let’s take some time now then to explore the differences between spirituality and religion.

Both spirituality and religion, at a core level are about our relationship with God, the Divine, the Mystery or Absolute truth, by whatever name you give it. From my point of view the similarities end here.

Spirituality as I see it is an innate dimension to our existence and our relationship with the Mystery of life. Religions are manmade structures that seek to define and control our spiritual nature. Religion used to be a cultures one size fits all spirituality and in many parts of the world still are. Spirituality is personal, fluid and evolving. Religions are constructed with rigid and moralized belief systems.

Religion is based on faith and accepted beliefs which define the parameters of what is allowed to be believed. Ideas and beliefs beyond these boundaries are often considered heresy and usually punishable one way or another, even with death. Religion has strict codes of what is right and wrong and applicable punishments in both this life and beyond. This polarized moralizing of human behavior is a system of control based on fear. Neitzsche pointedly dispelled this cannon of religious dogma when he said “there are no moral phenomena only the moral interpretation of phenomena”.

What is amazing is that despite all of this there are people who are able to find authentic spirituality within the confines of their accepted religion.

Spirituality tends to be independent of religious doctrine and belief systems, although most people who consider themselves spiritual and not religious construct a belief system that they feel comfortable with. If this personal spiritual belief system becomes inflexible and rigid it can be as limiting to spiritual development as those of religion, though less likely to fill you with fear, guilt and shame.

The human mind creates systems of belief one way or another. The majority of these beliefs are received as conditioning from the culture that we grow up in. Spiritual development can be seen as a process of freeing ourselves from the conditioned state of the mind and therefore a limited experience of self. For it is beyond the conditioned state of mind that we experience the Mystery of the Divine. In the depths of this experience of Self beyond mind the boundaries of separation dissolve and the Self is experienced as One with the Divine. This process of spiritual evolution into awakening is the very nature of life itself.

Religion being manmade, being made in the consciousness of separation, places the divine outside of ourselves. This is true even when the source of the religion taught the spiritual truth of unity with God. Christianity is a great example. Jesus in his teaching clearly said that the kingdom of heaven is within all of us. How then did it become a place where God lives and we go where we go after we’re dead if we’ve been good and lived by the prescribed rules?

One answer is that spiritual teachers like Jesus spoke from a more evolved state of consciousness, and those who came after them and formulated religion in their name, were of a less evolved level of consciousness, and interpreted the teachings from this low level of consciousness thus distorting it.

Another interpretation is that religion was identified as a means of controlling an entire population of people, and its teachings were distorted to this end. Taking Christianity is an example again it seems quite apparent to me that both these interpretations are aspects of how Christianity became what it is today. Don’t think so? Well how is it that hundreds of years of war and countless atrocities have been committed in the name of religion, when pretty much all religions hold a core tenant of Thou shalt not kill, and Do onto others as you would have them do unto you, or the like?

Spirituality in its nature requires the questioning of beliefs, which tends to set it at odds with religion. Professing being spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean that we do question our beliefs, but freed from the confines of religious dogma, life will inevitably provide the circumstances for us to more readily do so. Accepting this opportunity to keep stepping beyond the boundaries of the identity that we hold, is the means of living spirituality. Spirituality then requires forging your own unique path of awakening to our true nature.

Religion requires conformity, discourages independent thought, self inquiry, it requires followers. That anyone finds spirituality in religion is amazing to me, that they do is testament to the power of truth to shine through. So is religion all bad? No, for clearly many thousands of people are inspired to be of service to their fellows by their religious beliefs. And when religion inspires seeing beyond the appearance of difference and is a vessel from which to expand ones beliefs and seek direct experience of the Mystery that manifest and animates life, then it still serves it’s spiritual purpose and spirituality and religion unite.

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