I first heard a similar line when I watched a movie on television some years ago. The details are fuzzy, but I remember the protagonist asking a mysterious character, who was meditating, whether he was religious. The latter replied that he was not. Rather, he said was spiritual and went on to elaborate how the two were different.
I never knew then that the same idea about the two being separate and distinct would return to haunt my future. I thought this concept belonged to the beatnik and hippie generations in the United States. Never did I expect it to show up here!
Thankfully, those of my age group (I’d say 13-23) are free of this erroneous thought. Most are attached to a religion, though I’d hesitate to describe some of them as ‘organised’. This concept afflicts the mindsets of the previous generation – young adults in their late 20s to early 30s.
My experience has shown me that whenever a popular (usually handsome) young teacher is asked which faith he belongs to, he’d (almost always) give one of two possible answers 1) that he’s not religious, but spiritual or 2) that he doesn’t believe in any religion because they’re all corrupted, hypocritical, etc. I heard option 2 spouted as recently as some months ago.
Curious to know what this “spirituality” so many spoke of, I delved into various (unhealthy) web sites in the name of research. The general consensus between the diverse web sites of the term is that many “spiritual paths” exist in this universe and that there is no objective truth about which is the best one to follow. Many emphasise on the importance of finding one’s own path rather than following one that people say works. It is not a religion – it is the vital connection to one’s soul, sense of the deep self, etc.
I would beg to differ. Spirituality is not reason-oriented as many adherents so nicely describe it. Spirituality is self-oriented – “I want to seek the truth on my terms; I don’t want to listen to anybody else”. Spiritual practitioners (if I may term them as such) are hardly connected to the world. They reject organised religion because of the rampant corruption and oppression that the hierarchy rains down upon the faithful. Some think that believers of organised religions are either brainwashed minions of the hierarchy, coerced to remain, or simply lack the level of experience/education to understand better.
Taking the cue, many religions either have been invented or have been re-invented to cater to the burgeoning demand for a “spiritual” faith – e.g. Christian Science, Charismatic Christianity, Neo-Confucianism, Pentecostalism, Kabala, Hare Krishna, Neo-Paganism, etc.
At the end of the day, the corrupt understanding of “spirituality” is not about seeking one’s purpose in the universe – it’s about feeling good. One can eschew all the commitments (i.e. obedience, charity, time for worship, etc) that religions would customarily demand and yet claim to have a connection with the supernatural at the same time. Now, if one had surrendered all worldly possessions and lived for some years in the desert/mountains/caves as a hermit, I could take their word for it – but those who have made such claims to me happen to be the very same folk who are terrified of commitment and yet desire to feel secure about the afterlife – they’re either heading to heaven, there is no hell, there is no afterlife, etc. Reminds me of someone who’s in a relationship for sex/money and not love.
It’s more than a belief, I hear some call out:
Spirituality is living life at a depth of newness and gratitude, courage and creativity, trust and letting go, compassion and justice!
Gosh, what innovative ideas! Why didn't we hear this kind of brilliance before? Why haven't we been hearing about it for forty... long... tedious... years?
More on spirituality and religion soon - comments/questions are welcome