SPIRITUALITY VS RELIGION: THE FUTURE OF TRUTH AND MEANING

 

This is a Reblog of a post by Giovanni Dienstmann (See the original post here)

This Reblog is a precise but comprehensive assessment, a clear recognition of the essence of humanity’s evolution.

 

As a child and teenager, I never had any interest in religion—yet later on I discovered that I had in me the inclination to become a deeply spiritual man. That inclination was not being triggered by the religious dogmas and practices that I was exposed to, so I felt it simply wasn’t for me. At that time I was not aware of the distinctions of spirituality vs religion.

I grew up in a regular, mildly religious middle-class family. My parents identified themselves as Christians, but they didn’t really go to church. My dad wanted me to go through catechism classes, but he never forced me to—I just attended one, because he insisted, but felt no pull to continue. For me, religion was something boring and lifeless, something that old people did.

On the other hand, once I discovered spirituality, it fired me up in life. It gave me meaning, direction and purpose. It helped me to grow as a person. It gave me tools to overcome the worst in myself, to develop myself, and to explore the transcendental aspects of our existence.

The fire for spirituality—for deeper meaning, direction and truth—is inherent in all people. For some of us, it is drowned by cynicism, skepticism, and scientific materialism; for others, it is expressed in limiting ways through a blind religious faith. Happy are those who recognize and own this drive, keeping it pure and letting it guide their lives in a constructive way.

There can be spirituality without religion, religion without spirituality, and religion and spirituality together—it depends on what you want, and how you approach it.

In this article I will compare and contrast religion and spirituality, exploring the differences and similarities between them. The goal is not to put anyone down, but to bring clarity as to the differences, so you can follow your spirituality in the most empowering way possible for you—linked to a specific religion or not.

Spirituality vs Religion

Spirituality vs Religion: The Future of Truth and MeaningWhat is religion, and what is spirituality? They have a common subject-matter, but their approaches are very different.

Both religion and spirituality teach that there is more to the universe than what meets the eye, and more to our life than the physical body. Both agree that there are non-physical elements to the universe, and to our existence, and that unless we consciously connect with them, we will never be truly fulfilled in life.

The core difference between religion and spirituality is that religion presents you a set of beliefs, dogmas and “holy men” as intermediaries between you and Spirit (however you may name it); while spirituality promotes your individual autonomy in defining and connecting to Spirit as it fits your heart and mind.

As I mentioned above, religion and spirituality can be together. Many people find spirituality inside their religion, and for them these differences may not be so relevant or true, since the two things are mixed. But for those interested in pure spirituality, regardless of religious affiliation, let me expand on the difference between religion and spirituality in a quote:

Religion asks you to believe. Spirituality asks you to look.

Religion has dogmas. Spirituality has wisdom teachings.

Religion wants obedience. Spirituality wants experimentation.

Religion speaks of sin and hell. Spirituality speaks of karma.

Religion wants to comfort you. Spirituality wants to liberate you.

Religion is external. Spirituality is internal.

Religion is the form. Spirituality is the essence.

Religion wants to convert you. Spirituality wants to inspire you.

Religion is an institution. Spirituality is a journey.

Religion promotes shame and guilt. Spirituality promotes self-honesty and awareness.

Religion asks you to sacrifice your present attachments for a promised future. Spirituality asks you to let go of your present attachments for a better present.

Spirituality is the true essence, and the true origin, of every religious movement. So how is it that eventually spirituality gets the back seat, and what we are mostly left with are dogmas and empty rituals?

Buddha was not Buddhist; Jesus was not Christian. They were highly realized spiritual men; they were spiritual but not religious! They had a group of disciples who were also, in great part, moved by a spiritual search. But as centuries pass, as the groups start increasing and social acceptance grows, people who are not really burning with that spiritual drive start joining in and redefining the movement.

They join because it feels noble to do so, or because their parents expect, or because they were born poor and at least in the church/monastery there are meals every day. Or maybe they just needed the consolation and comfort that religion can give, to find shelter from the suffering of life, and a respectable position in society.

This is not a criticism nor a judgment of character, but just a description of how, by becoming more popular and accepted by society, the spiritual element of each religious movement gets watered down or distorted, and what is left is a social institution. Teachings become dogmas, principles become moral rules, spiritual practice becomes ritual, experiences become stories—in short, spirituality becomes religion. What was once private and intimate becomes a social institution.

The difference between religion and spirituality is not so much about what you believe—but about how you live, and what is your attitude. In any of the spiritual/religious traditions on Earth, you will find a majority of people who follow it as a religion, and a minority who follows it as a spiritual path.

Both religion and spirituality have their function in the world; but they are usually different things for different people. Understanding their differences helps to define what you are practicing, and if it is serving you well.

Spirituality in the Age of Science

Since the time of the European Enlightenment in the 17th century, the role and dominion of religion seem to be steadily diminishing (at least in the western world). Since we entered the so-called “age of reason”, with the ability of science to explain and transform reality around us constantly increasing, and the general level of education also rising for everyone, people feel less drawn to seek organized religion as a tool for explaining the world and creating well-being.

And yet we humans have this inherent thirst for meaning in life, for a higher purpose, and for strong principles to lead our living—whether individually or socially. Here is the role of spirituality in the third millennium.

We live in an age of overindulgence, of instant gratification. We have more physical comforts, entertainment and knowledge than ever before in history. This is certainly a result of the advances in science and technology in the past century.

But why then…

  • are mental health problems on the rise as never before?
  • do many of us feel an emptiness inside, a lack of real fulfillment and contentment, even if we have financial security, stable income, a good family, plenty of comfort and an established career?
  • no matter how much we acquire in our material life, and how much we understand about the physical universe around us, there is still a deeper itch that is never scratched?

Here is the role of spirituality in the third millennium. Spirituality fills the gaps left behind both by organized religion and by scientific materialism.

Nowadays we cannot believe the dogmas of religion anymore—not like before. But when living life from the point of view that science is the only valid way of determining truth, we find ourselves in a cold, mechanistic, and indifferent universe. This leads to nihilism, cynicism, and lack of meaning in life.

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” — Albert Einstein

I believe that spirituality—in its myriad expressions—is the best means to give meaning to human life. It is also the strongest basis for human goodness and ethical conduct in society. Without spirituality, often all the morality we are left with is the law, and there is really no reason why one should not “do anything one can get away with.”

[I’m not alone in this point of view at all. Professor Jordan Petersen eloquently defends the point of view that religious values are what keeps our morality and social order together. Also, historians Will Durant and Ariel Durant, analyzing the patterns throughout 10,000 years of human history, conclude that no real morality is possible without the “supernatural basis of spirituality”.]

  • Religion says that truth is what the scriptures say, and you must believe it.
  • Science says that truth is only the facts that can be experimentally proven through measuring devices, equations, and reason.
  • Spirituality says that reason is not the only means of knowing, but that this doesn’t mean one needs to have blind faith in religious doctrines either. We accept how little we know about the universe and about ourselves, and explore a deeper meaning in life through tools such as meditation, contemplation, self-exploration—and also reason, scriptures, altered states of consciousness, and anything we can get hold of.

Therefore, the final difference between religion and spirituality is that spirituality can dialogue with science, while religion can’t. Indeed, the whole meditation and mindfulness movement in the past couple of decades is a result of this dialogue—science investigating spiritual practices.

This is just the beginning of a new era, when science and spirituality work together.

Look at the consciousness as a function of matter and you have science; look at matter as the product of consciousness and you have spirituality. — Nisargadatta Maharaj

Science and spirituality each have their own domains of knowledge, their own unique methods and purposes. They both are good at different things, and they both need each other.

  • Spirituality is concerned with finding subjective truths, meaning, connection and fulfillment. Its subject matter is human growth, happiness, and transcendence.
  • Science is concerned with finding objective truths about the external world. Its subject matter is knowledge, information, invention.

Much of the knowledge that science has, at any given time, may be proved wrong—or at least flawed and incomplete—a hundred years later; but it’s what we have to work with. Likewise, the meanings created by spirituality may evolve, but we must work with what we have at this moment, so long that it is functional. (I digress)

This seems to be the direction we are moving towards: a spirituality informed by science, and a science informed by spirituality. Science will clean up spirituality of superstitions; and spirituality will elevate science, making it review some of its materialistic assumptions. The eastern concepts of meditation, karma, reincarnation, and enlightenment will play an important role in this development—a trend that we have seen since the early days of the New Age movement.

As for the institutionalized religions, if they still want a place in the next chapters of human history, they better become more like spirituality, and less like dogma.

So that is why I consider myself, as cliché as it may sound, spiritual but not religious.


Giovanni Dienstmann is the creator and the writer of liveanddare.com. He has be been actively seeking personal growth and a deeper meaning in life since he was a teenager.

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THE EARTH: Genesis—A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass

This essay is a thoughtful expression of a long time Seeker’s arrival at a crossroads in her development.

Its particularly interesting because its by someone with a background in the academic study of religion, who has long time personal experience of church going, with an interest in the statistical evidence of the decline of religion on the one hand and growing statistical evidence of the growth of personal spirituality instead.

The writer also expresses a growing personal aversion to the hymns, formulas and affirmations of the churches she attends, though she attends them less and less now, despite being asked to give sermons at them …

I see her essay as further anecdotal and statistical evidence of the spiritual revolution that the mystic experience suggests is guiding human development.

Enjoy!

Mysticexperiences.net

“WHY DOES SPIRITUAL AWAKENING REQUIRE A SHIFT IN OUR SPIRITUAL PRIORITIES?” – RAM DASS

 

It doesn’t. Humans have no say in the matter in my experience.

Humans don’t have any choice. Reality doles out individual  spiritual awakening, not humans.

Nor does Reality pay attention to human “spiritual priorities”. From my perspective, the notion of uncalled humans having “spiritual priorities” is an oxymoronic egoism.

Until Reality awakens individuals to the possibility of spirituality, humans aren’t aware of real spirituality. They become aware only when they’re made to …

If you’re having persistently recurring urgings to know who and what you are and what it’s all about, take comfort. That which you seek seeks you with such promptings.

Even after awakening, humans still have no spiritual choices, nor would that notion even occur to those awakened.

Reality has its own ways. Its ways are not human ways.

There is a lot to come, from before history to long after …

All is well.

Mysticexperiences.net

GURU OR NO GURU?

 

An excerpt from a memoir of Dom John Chapman, Order of Saint Benedictine, Abbot of Downside Abbey, by Dom Roger Hudleston, O.S.B., in the paperback, “Spiritual Letters”, first published 1934, current pubs., 2003 and 2004 by Burns & Oates, London, New York:

“A good Director, he held, must be a nurse, no more. He should confine himself to the task of teaching his penitent how to walk alone and unaided. That done, he should be ready to retire into the background; only emerging on rare occasions when unusual circumstances or some particular crisis called for his attention. Directors of this kind would be of no danger to simplicity or humility, while an over dogmatic or too eager Director, giving unsuitable or unnecessary advice with relish and impressiveness, would harm both his penitent and himself.”

First published in 1935, the timeless spirituality of these letters are straightforward expressions of a committed truth seeker impatient of religious cant and “stupidity”, steeped in “omnivorous” scholastic reading and analysis.

As a notable Church establishment figure, Dom Chapman’s knowledge of and acceptance of mysticism is a surprising discovery.

Mysticexperiences.net

A HUMBLE HEADS-UP FOR SEEKERS (In My Experience)

 

If you are involved as a spiritual Seeker in a religion, in science or other human inconsequentia, you are not a mystic, not yet.

If you are still in the morass of politics or other demanding human mythomanias you haven’t even got far with real evolvement, not even to Seeker stage.

But, if some Sufi tradition is right, then evolution will ensure you will move away from human distractions and such self identifications.

There is not much you can do about it when Reality calls to complete you. There are no failures in Ultimate Reality, however long it takes.

You probably think you are seeking Reality but you will come to realise that Reality is reaching out for its own, for you.

(Sufis ‘discovered’ this evolutionary process before Darwin. They recognised it went further than the physical limitations of his time).

Ironically, by the time you get to being a mystic it wont matter anyway – there are no names in Reality …

So, there are two things you can do to assuage your hunger and thirst for the truth of your being:

Let go. Be still. Keep letting go. Listen. You are being helped. Keep listening. Remain still.

Lust, anger, greed, your myriad human attachments, even your ego, will be lifted like invisible veils, almost without you noticing because you will be experiencing revelation

Or you can wait for religions, science, human stuff, to eventually release you as they wither away anyway. This could take time!

All Is Well.

Mysticexperiences.net

SPIRITUAL METAMORPHOSIS?

 

By David Robertson

I was an atheist for most of my life until about five or six years ago. And I was very anxiety ridden, filled with constant concerns for what I wanted to do in the future. I worked endlessly to try and fulfill these goals that I thought I wanted, and was terrified of the prospect of not being able to achieve them. This stopped me from realising the beauty of just simply living life in a more present way. It didn’t make me happy, it didn’t make me a better person, I was just too busy working towards some non-existent future. This is a story for another time, but I slowly became more interested in spirituality and gradually developed a strong belief in a loving God and that the universe was divine (including myself). As a result, a concern for death and the future became less of a factor.

I started to trust in the divine more and more, and countless opportunities started appearing for me. I also realised my early goals weren’t what I wanted in life. A trust in God gave me the courage to simply jump into the unknown, and I just knew in my heart that things would work out for the best. And in the end, it has. I traveled around India and Nepal without planning much; ended up doing jobs that I quite loved; discovered and pursued a passion for writing that was always hidden a little bit below the surface; found myself teaching English in China; and of course, I found the love of my life. For me, the results of trusting in God and the universe speaks for itself.

I wrote this piece today because my partner is going through quite a stressful time, most of it to do with our future plans over the next year and whether she can achieve them. She asked me at one point, “how can you not be so worried about all of this?” So I guess this post is in part an answer to her question, and I hope she finds something of value in it that can ease her suffering, even if it’s just a little bit.

Read David Robertson’s Trust: Surrendering Yourself to God and the Universe in full.

Mysticexperiences.net

THE QUESTION OF SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY

By Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant is a sannyasi, an ascetic Hindu monk. He has a vision to bring the wisdom of ancient scriptures, words of saints and the rigour of modern science to the help of mankind. Email: requests@prashantadvait.com

Question: Acharya Ji, how is the knowledge of the scriptures different from the knowledge of science?

Acharya Prashant: No scripture ever offers you knowledge. There is a great difference between knowing Science, and Spirituality. Science is knowledge. Science is incremental. A certain fellow does something, and the next fellow takes it forward from there. It’s like a relay race.

Spirituality – everyone has to start afresh. It doesn’t matter, how much your father, your ancestors, your predecessors knew. You will still have to start from where you are. Einstein didn’t have to start from zero. Newton said, “He could see so far, because he was standing on the shoulders of giants.” In Spirituality, you cannot stand on somebody else’s shoulders. You have to stand on your own. So, knowledge cannot help.

In Science, the more knowledge, the better.

In Spirituality, the more your freedom from knowledge, the better.

It has become a trend over the last few decades, to conflate these two – science and spirituality. In fact, certain authors think that it is a mark of their scholarship, if they use scientific terms in the spiritual domain. They would try to bring in quantum physics in Spirituality. There can be nothing more foolish than this. It only shows that you know no Spirituality and you are also revealing that you know no Science. If you know Science, then you would not conflate it with Spirituality. And had you been spiritual, why would you bring in Science?

Science is such a small petty subset of Spirituality. Science is about trying to look at objects, objectively. That’s what Science is – Look at the objects, without prejudice, objectively. That is Science.

Spirituality is about looking at the subject and object together. And hence, a third kicks in, that which you know by the name of witness. When the subject and the object are together, then that togetherness, is a very special thing. Science would never look at these two together. You may have fever, you are still observing a physical phenomenon. You might be in love, you are still observing a physical phenomenon. Your observation, will remain the same. If you are in a laboratory, the reading will not change, if you have fallen in love, or would it?

You are observing a physical phenomenon outside of you. You might be the greediest man ever born. Still, your readings would be the same. In spirituality, that does not happen. In Spirituality, everything depends on “Who you are?”

Science is oblivious to who you are. Science cares only about wening outside of you, in the physical objective world. You might be about to commit suicide, you might be totally depressed, yet the time period of that pendulum won’t change for you. The efficiency of the engine does not depend on your mental refinement, or does it? You may keep blood in your refrigerator, or you may keep liquor, or you may keep some water or some juice. The machine operates the same way.

In life it is not so.

Spirituality looks at the totality of life, which includes that (Object), this (Subject), the observation, and the witness.

Mysticexperiences.net

EMERGENT SPIRITUAL PROPERTIES “Not Invented by Human Beings”?

Some scientists wrong?

Dr Deepak Chopra has identified what it is like to be spiritual in his new book The Book of Secrets as follows:

Clarity of awareness
Knowingness
Reverence for life
Absence of violence
Fearlessness
Nonattachment
Wholeness

Dr Chopra says, “True transformation, in my view, depends on the emergence of these properties as your personal experience. They are primal qualities embedded in awareness; they weren’t invented by human beings …”

Dr Chopra is expressing one of the profoundest spiritual discoveries of MER (Mystic Experiences of Reality), that the experiences are from OUTSIDE all human experience – are beyond anything humans can invent.

MER is from Ultimate Reality, of which humans are as yet just an insignificant part, despite some scientists who insist all mystical experiences are human creations.

See also Maslow’s famous Characteristics of Self Actualized People.

 

Mysticexperiences.net

TIBETAN MASTER PATRUL RINPOCHE OUTLINES THREE UNIQUE PATHS TO ENLIGHTENMENT

By: Lama Lhakpa Yeshe, Tricycle.org

The great Tibetan lama Patrul Rinpoche was a widely revered and much-respected teacher, and people gathered around him to receive his wisdom and insight. His teachings were simple, direct, and profound, and in one way or another the essence of his discourse always led to the practice of compassion.

One day he said to a small group of his students: “The purpose of life is to help all sentient beings to be free from suffering. In order to do this, you need to cultivate unconditional, unlimited, and pure compassion toward all, without any exception.”

Patrul Rinpoche always encouraged discussion, debate, and dialogue, so after making this all-encompassing statement, he asked, “Do you understand?”

READ MORE

“So follow whichever way comes naturally to you. It is not the external form of practice that matters, it is the inner spirit, the pure mind, that we need to pay attention to.”

HOW SPIRITUALITY FOUND ME

By: Dr. Tara Cuskley

I’ve contemplated writing about my spiritual awakening experience for a while now, but it has never quite felt like the right time. Words aren’t always adequate to capture an experience that’s both deeply personal and is best understood as a felt, embodied sense rather than something that can be described and analyzed. But I am going to try my best because it feels important to begin sharing how my own path has included twists and turns for those who may have had their own interesting, unexplainable experiences…

READ MORE


62ba03a3cbbc5b5426d2c3b3dc058bf0Tara Cuskley is a psychologist and blogger passionate about all topics related to personal growth, healing, and spirituality.

TWO SPIRITUALLY WRONG ASSUMPTIONS?

Some books on MER are predicated on humans having to make spiritual efforts. That is not my experience. All my spiritual experiences were given. I did not know such things existed. I did not, could not, cannot ask for them. They dominate my life without my effort.

Another assumption of such works is that MER exists solely for human improvement. This is not my experience.

While it is axiomatic that humans who have the Mystical Experience of Reality will automatically conform to Reality so becoming “better” in human terms, the value in becoming better humans is only of value to the human condition, not to Reality.

In my Experiences, Reality has its own agenda without dependence on human goodwill or “help”.

All is well.

BEWARE OF WELL-MEANING SPIRITUAL SELF IMPROVEMENT ADVICE

Well-meaning advice of a seemingly spiritual nature is not available to ordinary humans in practice. It does not succeed because by its nature Reality is caught, not taught. Spirituality is an experience of Reality. Anything else is mere religion or speculation, not spiritual.

The ones who catch Reality are probably born already prepared to experience Reality, to succeed spiritually. They are the ones noted for their “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. This hunger and thirst is a lifelong gift, a passion.

Spiritual awakening, as opposed to the mere human improvement sought by well-meaning “spiritual” advice, is believed to be seminal, an intrinsic part of our evolution.

The experience of Reality comes to everyone eventually though not, apparently, necessarily in one lifetime.

Though spirituality is not for everyone yet, finally there are no failures.

Mysticexperiences.net