1. The Theme: We all identify ourselves as bodies. Spirituality may be understood as the awareness that essentially we are the ‘Spirit’ and then acting out of this awareness.
Spirituality in daily life implies being and doing good, striving for excellence in work and interactions; commitment to kartavya-palan; working in a spirit of service for good of others, etc. We grow in Spirituality when we practice time-tested self-development processes of our respective religious traditions. Spirituality leads to experiencing our inherent nature of love, peace, bliss, perfection, meaningful fulfilment; and the understanding that as spirit we are all one with each other. The more we act out of spiritual awareness the more we are fulfilled and the more we develop feelings of love, care and concern for all, till we realize our oneness with the whole creation.
2. Understanding Spirituality: Spirituality is really the profound essence of all religions and can promote the spirit of peace and harmony. On the other hand mythology, rituals, founders and scriptural contents tend to divide people and promote ‘separateness’. Spiritual awareness can inspire our struggle to work together to ‘know’ and to ‘develop the ability’ to walk-the-talk towards our common ‘north’ of happiness, in and through our daily activities of ‘earning’ and ‘desire-fulfillment’. This may be far, far removed from our present interests; yet this is the direction for envisioning our growth and development, which can unite the whole humanity towards the highest and best.
We are not just ‘body+mind’ complex, which is but matter. We are enlivened by ‘Spirit, Life, Consciousness, Atman, Kingdom of God, Noor, Rooha, Divinity’, and become a living-being, a jivatman. As matter we are separate but as Spirit we are one. Not matter but Life within the individual must be the source of power, knowledge and happiness. Spirituality is the awareness of our inherent spiritual potential divinity and acting out of it. The basic question is: Where exactly is the ‘residence’ of our potential? Is it the ‘Body’ or is it ‘Life’ which enlivens the body? It can’t be the body because as soon as a person dies we quickly get rid of the body from our house! The potential must be in ‘Life’ not ‘body’ but the body-brain-mind complex is the means through which we have to realize this potential.
‘Spirit’ or ‘Atman’ is pure Consciousness; it is the ‘Life’ that enlivens a body. Spirit is indescribably vast, all pervasive, boundless and immeasurable. It is so subtle that it pervades supports and contains the entire universe. It is the singular, conscious principle; the one witness in whose presence awareness happens. It is infinite. Being infinite, it cannot be defined. However, it can be appreciated as that which always exists as infinite consciousness and bliss.
Spirituality implies awareness of the unique Indian worldview of oneness, ‘that the whole world is our family’, as written on the gates of our Parliament (though democracy divides!), i.e. identified with spirit we are all one, inter-connected and inter-dependent. Therefore, when taught and understood, spirituality leads to good, virtuous, holy, moral and ethical actions. The very concept of spirituality implies continuously increasing awareness of our intrinsic spiritual nature of Ananda; and so, it leads to the ultimate goal of life; Salvation, Perfection, Heaven, Paradise, Moksha, Nirvana, Ananda, Bliss, etc. are some ways to describe it.
In and through all our motives, choices, goals and actions, good or bad, we are really seeking happiness. Ignorant of Spirituality, we remain identified with just the body-brain and its qualities and qualifications. Without spirituality all our interactions emanate from the limited ‘self’; not from the unlimited ‘Spirit’. Such actions based on a worldview of ‘separateness’ divide people and when our interests clash, we are bound to be narrow, petty-minded, self-centered because we are acting out of a limited concept of ‘self’, ‘I’ or ‘ego’-sense.
2. Our Failure: All of us, and especially the young, have the curiosity and the intrinsic knack of quickly grasping the profound spiritual essence of religions. Unfortunately, our academicians, Religious preachers, politicians and administrators have been busy in non-essentials and materialistic affairs, which tend to divide people. They have together failed to bring spirituality in the mainstream educational processes; they have failed to recognize that spirituality alone can show us how to be, and help others be good; they have failed to create systems, leaders, and the youth with spirituality.
3. The Way Forward: For many years we have been noticing the deterioration in ethical conduct and increasing selfishness and corruption amongst the educated leaders of society and we have been talking of value and peace education to curb this growing menace. Through Self-development workshops and short-term certificate courses we can give the young the lofty vision of Spirituality that each soul is potentially divine; and how to manifest it in daily actions.
3.1 Our Duty: It is our duty to establish ourselves and the young, in the habit of daily practice of self-development processes, according to our respective religions and traditions, to continuously develop purity and powers of mind so that all actions emanate from the awareness of the one common Consciousness within us and in others. Thus, besides teaching the 3R’s our educational processes should also help bring spirituality in practice.
3.2 Reflection: We need to continuously introspect, consult our scriptures, question, ask ourselves: Am I just inert matter? We cannot imagine ourselves as matter; it seems more logical that I must be ‘life’, consciousness. That is why we somehow posit that even after death there is some form of continuation, either as rebirth or a day of judgment. The paradox remains that somehow, for some reasons, I am bound with matter, but am constantly struggling to expand our consciousness towards more and more happiness, perfection, fulfilment.
Commonsense and science both tell us that ‘matter’ cannot move about by itself; nor can matter be the source or experiencer of happiness! We may therefore infer that the source of peace, knowledge, bliss must be ‘life’ within, which we can experience through our minds, provided the mind has been purified and made calm, through righteous conduct and practice of self-development processes, in accordance with our respective religious traditions.
4. Conclusion: The essential purpose of education today must be to make people aware of the unlimited potential for perfection, peace and happiness – ananda, already within, and establish them, from a young age, in the habit of daily practice of self-development processes, according to their respective religions, to continuously develop purity and powers of mind.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where school education, science and democracy are replacing religions as the channels of ideals and even religions have forgotten to preach the spiritual essence. The mind has to be established and trained from a very young age, and during the entire schooling, in the daily practice of self-development processes so that the young can awaken and develop – vivek or discrimination, will-power, self-control, etc. to choose the long-term good, reject the short-term gratifications and walk towards manifesting the ananda, already within, in and through daily work and living. Those who strive for the higher are the Srestha, the good, fit to be our Acharyas and Leaders. Spirituality alone can create the good.
‘Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy. By one, or more, or all of these - and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details’ - Vivekananda