First things first

In the understanding of spirituality or of religion (which I consider as spirituality practiced as discipline), it is important to have the priorities set straight.

While we can start off with accounts of God and heavens, experience and common-sense point to the fact that this may not be a good starting place for learning to live a spiritual life.

Texts like the Gītā also advocate this point of view and prescribe several preliminary steps before introducing one to views on God or liberation.

The first requirement appears to be learning to see the real self beneath the separate person-hood imposed by the mind-body-senses. Without a clear vision of the self that stands beyond the false ego and remains beyond conceptual grasp, it is hard to see one’s way in one’s discipline. The inner light needs to shine in order to brighten one’s way.

A life with inner radiance, often called enlightenment, is a sure way of dispelling the dark agencies of our conditioned responses.

This also makes sense since it is futile to reach out for tall concepts without knowing oneself. Let us ask ourselves the question: Why do we need to know God? If the answer is simply, I was raised that way, Everyone else in my community is like that or I feel my life would be better with God, we are probably dealing with the reasons at the level of the false ego which can fall apart at a later point. It is very easy to see that there are those who do not share our similar faith and yet live excellent lives. We notice that there are those within and outside our community who have different religious persuasions or even none. So, these are not good reasons at all which explains why some people develop a sense of trauma after some time, when encountering popular religions.

No religious system can be useful without letting its followers discover their own inner light. Imposition of religion for the sake of promoting organizational strength is the laziest way to destroy spirituality. Selling religion with dubious reasons, magic or false promises erodes credibility in the long run. Such attempts promote institution at the price of the individual.

True strength of religion lies in its ability to frankly acknowledge the real purpose of its customs instead of appealing to some archaic divine authority. True strength lies in its ability to let individuals discover the motivation for a religious life within themselves, from knowing their true essence.

The maxim Know Thyself (γνῶθι σεαυτόν) is of foremost importance in spiritual life.

Living in Presence

There are a hundred problems that can come up in one’s life and at each instant, we might find ourselves searching for answers – from our own life and from the lives of others.

We might find several answers: we should have done this, we should not have done that, etc. An appreciation of the human condition at its most basic reveals that to search for a way out of problems is natural. In fact, it appears to be natural to all life. Usually the best of books to find answers are the books of life itself. Life in all its forms and manifestations carries within it unspoken messages that speak to those who can listen.

While listening is one part of the story, the crucial part comes in the form of living the truth, living in presence. Beautiful ideals get corrupted when they come in contact of non-presence, in contact of conditioned responses.

Living in presence is the life that is lived in the context of the universe, not this tiny me who is separate from everything else, and in perpetual conflict and competition.

A life in presence is a life of love, patience and service.

Rainer Maria Rilke: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”