Where does spirituality lead us?

— Aju Mukhopadhyay

Contrast with Materialism and Religion
Spiritualism is a faith on existence beyond what we see before our nose and humility that I and my knowledge are not the end of the world, that there are vast things which I have yet to grasp and know. This is based on intuition verified by experience. Thirst for beyond and glimpse of it and awareness of the unknown with faith on God gave birth to religion. It was later distorted with all rules and narrow separatism, each claiming his religion superior to the other. Some people belonging to the corrupt part of religion aim at eliminating all others who do not adhere to their faith. Ruinous bestiality is being perpetrated by them jeopardizing the whole global life. Mother of Pondicherry always condemned religions and spoke in favour of spiritualism. Sri Aurobindo asserted that, “Spirituality is much wider than any particular religion, and in the larger ideas of it that are now coming on us even the greatest religion becomes no more than a broad sect or branch of the one universal religion”. (Culture 427) Materialists are mostly atheists; non-religious. The Gulf of difference and divisions exist between theism and atheism.

Religion gets rusted through superstition so great people have advised to go beyond religion to embrace spiritualism which is finer and wider. This is not to deny the age old spiritual practices through religions. The truth of pure religions remains. If spirituality is a Godward journey, here is an example of a practitioner, Swami Vivekananda, to whom God revealed himself.

He who is in you and outside you,
Who works through all hands,
Who walks on all feet,
Whose body are all ye,
Him worship, and break all other idols!
Vivekananda The Living God

Poet Rabindranath Tagore too felt it the same way:
“Whom does thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee! He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path-maker is breaking stones.”
Tagore Gitanjali 11/46

India has given birth to large numbers of great Rishis and Munis who uttered the highest words of wisdom through Vedas and Upanishads. “Indian culture has been from the beginning and has remained a spiritual, an inward-looking religio-philosophical culture,” Sri Aurobindo said. (Culture 52) Sufis and Bauls are spiritual entities. Yogi Sri Aurobindo realised that “Spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It.” (Divine 857)

For the progression from mundane to the spiritual, to establish divine life on earth he depended entirely on spiritualism, “To discover the spiritual being in himself is the main business of the spiritual man and to help others towards the same evolution is his real service to the race.” (Divine 884-85)

In his ‘The Ideal of Human Unity’ Sri Aurobindo stressed that the ultimate union between the nations would be possible through spiritual means and that would be in a spiritual age but, “The spiritual age will be ready to set in when the common mind of man begins to be alive to these truths and to be moved or desire to be moved by this triple or triune Spirit.” (Unity 244)

In the 1960s Existentialism came to possess the intellect of some people. It was a complete negative idea about human life. In Albert Camus’s “The Outsider” Meursault, when condemned to death, behaves worst than when he was free as he had nothing to hold on to for consolation, an atheist as he was. Even in prison his thought world was filthy with lust. Waiting for death, he thought it was his inevitable fate, in whatever way he might have lived his life. And the more famous atheist Existentialist Jean Paul Sartre thought that consciousness is a decomposition of being. Bereft of all hope his ideas were hollow. He was forgotten even during his life time.

Modern trend of Spiritualism
Spiritualism has been in practice in India and elsewhere by the exponents of it from the ancient time. Meditation, Yoga asana and other disciplines as a sadhak has to undergo to achieve spiritual goal, give immense benefit but the ultimate goal is reaching the God. As in everything modern, clever people have come to acquire some knowledge of this discipline and use them to reap the benefit as high-tech Gurus in this digital age. They have made spiritualism a vehicle of commerce. Some of them are caught for their misdeeds. Many escape through corrupt means.

A newspaper reports, “If we go by ancient lore, enlightenment waits only at the end of a long and arduous path. It is obviously not available in spiritual supermarkets at the flash of a credit card . . . . “However, New Age in India is still largely an urban westernised phenomenon. Curiously enough, the urban elite has discovered Indian spirituality through the distilled versions available from the west. . . .” A Number of Doordarshan channels are used for the purpose.

There is no wrong if snippets of ancient wisdom are used to benefit some but it is not integral spiritualism proper. A spiritual man on the other hand is usually free from lust, greed, envy, anger, illusion and hatred, at least to a great extent. Their attitude frees the world from many ills.

Spiritual attitude to life
Ms. Sng Mui Hong, owning 12,248 square metre of land in Singapore costing approximately 50 million dollars with 28 tenants who pay her minimum rent; some living luxuriously. The needy tenant gets her help. Singapore is one of the costliest places on earth. She, the master of the village owning largest chunk of land, is seen sometimes to dig up drains or sweeping dusty lanes of her village. Whereas she can change everything in her surrounding and live like a real land baron she lives most simply eating rice, vegetables and soup, riding a seven year old cycle. She never raises rent. She gets most happiness in serving others and likes to see her village clean and beautiful. Not so apt to speak in English, she answers smilingly, “I no care money. I no need so much money. I happy here. I saying my kampong.”

Let us think of the attitude of emptiness and gratefulness; all our happiness and existence depend on the help of all sentient beings, helping us. This brings a kind of detachment from anything selfish, as Dalai Lama has taught as part of Tibetan Buddhism. There is something spiritual about this thought process and all actions emanating from it give us freedom from the ill effects of selfish ideas and actions, enough to instill peace in us, an essential ingredient for spiritual realisation.

There are people who breathe spirituality without professing it like late Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam who never consumed anything beyond his need, what is not his, and paid for all the expenses incurred for his guests in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. All the gifts he received personally from other countries were given to the Government. He was always ready to amend his views if those of the others were more reasonable. Beloved to the students, he always thought and acted for the well being of the country.

Sri Aurobindo tells us of the charm of this life: “The delight of the Spirit is ever new, the forms of beauty it takes innumerable, its godhead ever young and the taste of delight, rasa, of the Infinite eternal and inexhaustible.” (Divine 1069)

About the Author
Aju Mukhopadhyay, a bilingual award winning poet, author and critic, writes fictions and essays too. He has authored 32 books and received several poetry awards from India and USA besides other honours. Recently he has received Albert Camus Centenary Writing Award, 2013 from Canada / Cyprus.

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