Prabuddha BharataLatest Issue


EditorialEditorial : True Spirituality


Spirituality is the buzzword today. Or at least its talk is. It is surprising how many people can talk of things without having the least idea about them. Everything is considered spiritual today—soothing music, a refreshing trip to a hill-station, even a feel-good movie! Are we missing the point here? All this leads to the obvious question: What is spirituality?


Spirituality can be best defined as something that does not concern the material. And this definition makes the idea of spirituality all the more incomprehensible. We are constantly dabbling in duality, grappling with sense objects, objects having name and form and distinctly material. Most of us are blissfully unaware of anything even remotely spiritual. We eat, drink, laugh, play, work, read, think, and sometimes meditate. All these actions start and mostly end in the realm of the material. The farthest end of human expression is nothing but the subtlest form of the material. Our very existence is in the material world. This brings us to the same question again: What is meant by ‘spiritual’?


The phenomena that take place around us daily are those that we fail to notice properly. Human advances in knowledge have not yet unravelled the secrets of death, or for that matter, even that of sleep. How is it that the same body with all the hardware of a living person goes kaput on death? Where does the software reside? Years of ruminations have given us only different names. Fancy though such names are, they explain nothing. To make us understand the spiritual, teachers give us material examples. Knowledge eludes us with the collusion of ignorance. We end at the beginning. This happens because the very idea of understanding, or even an idea itself, is material, because mind—the place where all ideas originate—is itself material. Hence, we can never express spirituality. Such a thing could never happen and even positing such a possibility is absurd.


This being so, how does one cultivate spirituality? The best method probably would be to avoid that which is not spiritual, or that which is material. This practice has been there for ages in almost all religions. This method has worked well for humanity and has produced spiritual giants. However, denial of what is seen could also lead to turning a blind eye to suffering. And that is why it is necessary to understand that what is seen is an illusory reflection of the principle behind the sight. I exist because of the spirit, and the material existence is illusory. Of course, ‘spirit’ would mean here Atman in the Vedantic sense and nothing else. Rooted in the knowledge of my innermost spirit, I may appreciate the colours of the illusory material exterior, but an ignorant assertion of the external colours alone would take me away from my nature, the spirit, and would make me non-spiritual.


This means that we should not assert our material existence, because there is none. We are not bodies, we are not minds: we are the free spirit. Our beauty does not lie in the amount of cosmetics we apply to our skins, but in the depth of conviction we have in the fact that births and deaths are just passing phases in our efforts to free ourselves from the cycles of transmigration. Spirituality is our true nature, and truth itself is true spirituality. Why do we get upset when we lose material things like a car, a mobile phone, or a computer? Because we identify ourselves with the material. This identification is at the root of all ignorant actions. Our identification with actions and possessions is what keeps us away from Self-knowledge.


How will a spiritual person behave? Committed but unperturbed. Such a person will do everything with the utmost concentration and yet remain unperturbed at anything that happens because of the understanding that the material is not one’s true nature or true spirituality. The illusoriness of the apparent and the permanence of the real are the only concerns of a spiritual person. But then, how will that person respond to human suffering? Human suffering too is undoubtedly illusory, but if one can perceive suffering, one becomes part of that illusion and has to respond with empathy to suffering. If there is no empathetic response, that person resorts to the untruth of not having perceived the suffering and goes away from one’s true nature, truth itself. Only when a person is inseparably merged with the absolute Consciousness does suffering become imperceptible. In other words, if I can be a spiritual person and appreciate or enjoy the picturesque beauty of the Himalayas, I should also be able to humanely respond to the suffering of my fellow-beings. If I cannot do that, I am not spiritual but a hypocrite.


Look around yourself, at your family, at your society, and at your country. What do you see? Everyone is constantly going away from their true spiritual nature. Blame it on whatever agency you may, people are being told everyday that they are bodies, bodies, and only bodies. Partly engineered out of desire, partly the outcome of foolishness, this tendency of asserting only the physical dimension of the human personality has turned us into mere reflectors of the material, while in truth, the bodies are the exact opposite—mere illusory reflections of the spirit. What we need to do now is not to post self-portraits on social networking sites and debase ourselves, but to constantly focus on our real nature: pure, luminous, and conscious. Why should we do that? Not just because it has been told by our ancestors, though that is a good reason in itself, but also because such thought gives strength, courage, and self-confidence to face the problems of life and beyond, and that is what we were meant to do in the first place. We came to this world to find out what went wrong that made us fall into this den of duality. What went wrong in the undifferentiated infinite ocean of Consciousness that there arose differentiations and quarrels about them? We need to look at ourselves not in a mirror of glass but in the mirror of our self, the mirror of the spirit, the mirror of the Atman. How does darkness envelop light? How does ignorance cover knowledge? These, and not the petty doings of politicians, should be the subject of our ruminations.


We need to wake up from the deep slumber of ignorance and duality. Such living becomes more miserable as we are completely oblivious to our true identity. True spirituality is not about affirmation of the seen but the realization of the conscious spirit behind the scene. What you eat or wear is not more important than maintaining truthfulness. The universe is illusory only as it appears, but it is quite real in its essence— Consciousness. We need to be constantly aware of this Consciousness, we need to be constantly blissful and be beyond all material dualities of pain and pleasure. Cultivating this equanimity is true spirituality. And that attitude comes after a lot of effort, practice of years, or even several lifetimes, but it is possible. Let us all make an effort to be truly spiritual!


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