• Poonam Dutta (Satyamshakti)

The Religion & Spirituality debate

Updated: Nov 19

What's the link between Religion & Spirituality? People have been looking for answers to this question for an eternity it seems and confusion prevails. Large-scale, massive confusion.

So, I did a little dipstick recently and asked the following questions:

  • What's the link between Religion & Spirituality?

  • One leads to another

  • Two sides of the same coin

The results of this dipstick confirmed what I have already known and mentioned above: Confusion and more confusion.

28.6% said that there was "No link" between Religion & Spirituality.

38.1% said that "One leads to another."

And 33.3% said that they were "Two sides of the same coin."

While the sample was very small, it did point out the fact that not just confusion, but ignorance prevails as well, mostly blinding people as they go about their day-to-day lives. Giving rise to further questions that must be asked. For example, " Is Religion equal to Spirituality?" What comes or came first - Religion or Spirituality?

Well, it's time to get some clarity; and to do so let's begin at the beginning.

What's religion?

It's often defined as a belief in a god or gods and the activities connected with such a belief. Or a system of beliefs that is based on a belief in a god or gods.

Expanded further, it could be seen as a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that generally relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements.

Ask around and you will find many such definitions, some expanding upon the above some limiting the scope even further.

Do you find a hint of spirituality in these & several other definitions that people may put forward?

Religions often claim to have elements like divine, sacred objects, rituals, sermons, festivals, faith, supernatural beings, and much more. They may even claim to offer some sort of transcendence that may empower the practitioner for either some time or for entire life. Yet the question remains: Are these spiritual? Do they elevate a person to a higher level, be it of consciousness or otherwise?

It's time to thus define what spirituality truly is.

To do so, one must first look at the very nature of religion.

By itself, religion seeks to bind people, even straight-jacket them oftentimes. Mostly prescriptive, it directs followers to "practice" it in a certain way, making conformity paramount. Religions may even seek to bind people in a set of rules that could resemble some sort of a code, even a penal code. At the end of the day, it might resemble a diktat or an order that if not followed may have consequences. Does it thus thrive on fear, this religion thing?

On the other hand, spirituality is about the innate human spirit which is forever seeking answers, new routes, and paths to discover, to evolve from lesser to higher. It's not about following a prescribed format; you may liken it to the fact that while your phone may have google maps on it to guide you to a destination, it essentially is a diktat of a route others have taken earlier. Thus, you may be living an experience others have "created", in a sense.

The other way is to seek. You do not just seek a path you even seek a destination. Very often, you may not even know the destination and hence may have to call upon every ounce of your being to define the path and determine a destination.

You could thus be traversing roads that do not exist, be it in reality or imagination. And as you find your way, you journey within, deep within. Should somebody be taping you on a video camera while you do so, chances are that he or she would be mighty confused as to what is happening. Because it's you and you alone who has any inkling of whatever is happening or not happening.

Ever watched a researcher at work? He is constantly tinkering with things, creating stuff, bringing it down, building again, and demolishing it; the process goes on till he reaches somewhere he believes is it.

He may have someone guide him or he may go alone on this path of discovery and only he will know when he reaches whatever that destination might be. This journey is deeply internal, it is a journey for the seeker, not the follower.

And that is where the difference essentially is.

Religion is about following. Spirituality is about seeking.

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