Friday, June 18, 2010

What is Spirituality........???

In a leadership course I teach to MBA students at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S., there is a section entitled “spirituality in the workplace.” The first exercise the students are asked to do is define the term “spirituality”. The responses are many and varied. Some say spirituality is a sense of a higher power, some say it is a feeling of peace, others describe it as something greater than oneself and outside oneself, yet others say it is the true inner self.

So what exactly is a useful working definition of spirituality? First of all, it may be useful to note what spirituality is not . Spirituality is not the same as “religion” and not the same as “morality”. Religion focuses on the beliefs, rituals, myths, and practices that attempt to answer fundamental questions about the nature of “man” and the “universe” and “God”. Morality is concerned with the correct or agreed upon social behavior necessary for a functioning civil society. Spirituality, by contrast, is concerned with the relationship between the aspirant and Atman, God, or the Ultimate Truth. Ultimately, genuine spirituality is the non-separate identification with the Divine State.

My own master, Avatar Adi Da Samraj, has said that two conditions must be present before someone can genuinely begin the spiritual path. First, one must come to the conclusion that the world we perceive with the senses is limited and mortal. Try as we might, ultimately things do not work out-people suffer, our loved ones die, we die. To feel this deeply, but without despair, is what Adi Da calls “positive disillusionment.” Second, is the insight that-in spite of the limited world before our eyes-here is a deeper reality that is untouched by suffering and death. This deeper reality-the spiritual reality-is eternal, unchanging, and a source of great bliss.

We live in a time that values personal development, self-fulfillment, and independence. As a result there are many “do-it-yourself” approaches to spirituality that many find convenient amidst their busy lifestyles. These may include various techniques, exercises, and methods, and the end result may very well be a greater sense of well being. However, such techniques have nothing to do with the deeper reaches of spirituality.

To live an authentic spiritual life requires a genuine Master or Guru. Why? For two reasons. First, the true Guru knows the territory, so to speak. The Guru can guide or instruct the student while taking into account individual needs and karmas. The Great Masters or Sat-Gurus actually embody the enlightened state that the aspirant seeks. Second, the relationship to the Guru generally involves devotional practices of one form or another. Devotion opens the heart and thus allows conscious light or grace to fill the being. It is then that we can live and serve with great energy and compassion. Marvelous!

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