When I was small, I used to think that religions and spirituality are the same thing. As I grew up, I realized that a religious person is not necessary a spiritual person. Neither is a spiritual person necessary religious.
A person may religiously go to temple (or church or mosque) regularly but that does not necessary make him more spiritual. Nor does taking part in many religious activities make him more spiritual. Spirituality is not about all these outward things. It is about life itself.
A spiritual person may not even go to any temple or church or mosque because he understands that spirituality is a personal thing. It is about living life in a certain way, which is in accordance with universal laws.
A spiritual person knows that simply observing rites and rituals does not make one more spiritual, unless that leads to more understanding about how the universe works. Likewise, simply attending services in the temples or churches cannot make you spiritual, unless these come with deeper understanding about life.
What do you know about spirituality?
1. This universe is made up of Spirit and Matter
The universe we live in is made up of two very distinct entities. One is matter, which we can perceive with all our physical senses. We can experience its hardness or softness, its fluidity and cohesiveness, its temperature (hot or cold) and its mobility. Matter includes not just inorganic things like buildings and structures but also organic things like cells, which come together to make up living beings.
But there is something else apart from matter that exists in this universe – something that is not really a thing and cannot be perceived by our physical senses or any instrumentation. Yet this something is creative and due to its creative power is alive and intelligent. This something gives life to all things and is life itself.
It does not have a name simply because it cannot be described or appreciated by our limited awareness. Therefore, it is called many names. In some cultures, it is called Spirit. Sometimes, it is called the Holy Ghost. In the East, it has often been called the Tao. Buddhists tend to think of it as a Universal Mind. Still others may understand it as the impersonal and impartial God.
I personally prefer to use the word “Mind” instead of “Spirit” when referring to it. To me, the word “spirit” implies something that is out there – outside of us. But to my understanding, this something is not just out there. It is also within us and is the source of life for us living beings. Also, we are able, through our own mind, interact with it and understand it, although we may never truly perceive its nature completely. This puts us in the driver’s seat and in control of our own lives and destinies. The word “mind” implies this intimate and subtle connection that also make us responsible for the consequences of our thoughts. Yet I must admit that even this word is not perfect in fully describing its nature.
2. Man is a spiritual being manifesting in a physical world.
Man is a spiritual being experiencing this physical world through his six senses, five of which are physical and the other mental. The mind is the intermediary that enables the being to experience this material world through all these senses. Through my mind, I experience my world through my senses. Through your mind, you experience your world. My mind and your mind is but from the same mind – the Universal Mind. The difference is that your mind and my mind are personal minds but the Universal Mind is impersonal. It simply experiences.
3. What I experience in the material world is a reflection of the content of my inner mind
To each his own, and thus each of us experience his own unique life – his own unique experiences. At this personal level, what we experience in our life is simply what is in our mind… deep down in our unconscious. Just as this universe is a reflection of the sum total of all individual minds, so my life is a reflection of the totality of my own mind. Thus the saying “As Above, so below; As within, so without”. This is called the law of correspondence.
How does it work? Perhaps it is easiest to explain it in terms of resonance.
As the Universal Mind resonates, it forms the material universe. As our own personal mind resonates, it attracts or triggers or brings together minds of similar resonance or frequency. The other way is equally true. Someone with a particular resonance or frequency may actually trigger an old experience within us and helps bring it up to our conscious awareness and experience. In karmic terms, it is often called ripening of the karma.
This concept of resonance can also be used to explain the working of karma. Our past karma is nothing more than a collection of our past thoughts, emotions and intentions, buried deep within our subconscious mind. A karma is said to be ripen when certain conditions are met but no one thus far has explained what exactly these conditions are. I would like to suggest that these conditions are met when someone or something we encounter resonate with some of our past thoughts, emotions and intentions. In the same way, when our present thoughts, emotions and intentions resonate with some of our past memories or experiences, it becomes conducive for those memories to resurface.
This understanding is actually quite important. Why? Because understanding how our karma can be ripened or triggered means we have certain level of influence over our life. It means that if I keep my mind in a positive mental state, such as unconditional love, compassion, joy, tranquility or hope, I will tend to attract similar mind into my life. My experience becomes more joyful, loving and peaceful. On the other hand, a prolonged negative mental state may bring on similarly negative experience.
We are thus personally responsible for creating our own experiences in life.