The Vedic Philosophy (ऋषिचिंतन)

What is spirituality?


People use the word “spirituality” without understanding its true import. Only those who have developed a calm and clear-sighted intellect and are leading a life of self-discipline understand its true meaning. The Sanskrit word for “spirituality” is “adhyatmam”, which means, “centered and established in the atma “. Lord Krishna says in Srimad Bhagvad Gita(2/55): ” A person who voluntarily gives up all his desires, lusts and ambitions and whose individual soul remains poised in the omnipresent Spirit is called sthitapragya (a person of steadfast wisdom)”. Here the meaning of soul is ones own real self, which is eternal, pure and indestructible. The essence of spirituality is atmagyana- to realize that our true self is the spark of the Cosmic Self-Spirit. To remain unshakably poised in this awareness means spiritual living. It is the ultimate aim of human life. Scriptures and philosophical treatises explain this truth by giving the example of an empty pot and the ether. An empty pot has nothing in it. The ether is also limitless empty space. 

Therefore the empty space within the pot can be considered as limited ether. If the pot is broken, the space contained in it merges back into the limitless space. Reality becomes apparent when the pot is broken. Similarly all apparently separate entities are mere bubbles over the limitless ocean of Being. We do not experience this truth because of our false sense of ego. In the example discussed, the pot represents our ego and the ether the universal Being. When the separative illusory ego vanishes, the individual soul unites with God- the universal Being. This realization has been referred to in the Bhagvad Gita (13/11), “The universe has no existence apart from the one Cosmic Conscious Reality”. A shift in the perception reveals that we are all the same consciousness, manifesting in different bodies, the way leaves are part of the same tree. Conventional knowledge tells us that we are separate; higher wisdom informs us that we are One. 
The following extract from Evelyn Underhills book titled ” What is spiritual life?” gives wonderfully inspiring description in poetic prose of  What spirituality is all about?. Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as part of one whole. If our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions, wants and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this. 

The souls house is not built on such a convenient plan; there are a few soundproof partitions in it. Only when the conviction- not merely the idea- that the demand of the Spirit, however inconvenient, comes first and IS first, rules the whole of it, will those objectionable noises die down which have a way of penetrating into the nicely furnished little oratory, and drowning all the quieter voices by their din. Yet there is no real occasion for the tumult, strain, conflict, anxiety, once we have reached the living conviction that God is ALL. All takes place with Him, He alone matters, He alone is. Our spiritual life is His affair; because whatever we may think to the contrary is really produced by his steady attractions, and our humble and self-forgetful response to it. It consists in being drawn, at His pace and in His way, to the place where He wants us to be; and not the place we fancied for ourselves.

Pt. Shree Ram Sharma “Acharya”. [from Akhand Jyoti Sept-Oct 2003]


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