Spiritualism is a broad concept which deals with the inner spirit of life, as opposed to the material and sensual aspects. It includes a sense of connection to a bigger purpose, and typically involves a search for the meaning and reasons of our very existence. It believes in the philosophy that the entire universe, along with each of the living being, are connected to each other. If you cultivate your body, mind, emotions, and energies to a certain level of maturity, a state of enlightenment blossoms within you, this is Spiritualism.
Every human is composed of three integral realms- physical, intellectual, and spiritual. The physical realm is defined by the physiological units of the body whereas the intellectual realm is the culmination of intelligence obtained from the brain. The spiritual realm acts as a binding force between the two realms for the effective functioning of mind and body. The three realms functioning together establish the true meaning of life. Spirituality does not refer to following any chosen belief or religion, but it admonishes the virtue of creating awareness within self and aiming for self-betterment. It channelizes inner self to question humans what they truly want from life.
Spirituality also teaches to express the emotional attributes of sacredness, awareness, vision, wisdom, purpose of life, and self-love. Often people are a prey to anxiety and isolation. This is mostly due to a lack of spiritual wellness in their life. There are many ways to embrace the positivity that spiritual wellness imparts; like experiencing the calmness and discipline of Yoga, which nurtures mind and body. There are also some activities like volunteerism, social responsibility, optimism, contribution of the society that has positive effect on spiritual wellness at personal level as well as on social terms.
The path of spirituality is closely interlinked to religion as both aim in realizing the meaning and purpose of life. But it is religion that is created by mankind to designate certain guidelines or code of conduct to reach oneness towards God. Santana Dharma, the oldest practicing religion in the world, preserves a range of spiritual practices for encouraging self-development and cleansing of the mind and body. In Sanatana Dharma, even small gestures like ‘Namaste’ alludes spiritual meaning ‘I salute the God within You’.
Sadhana (i.e., practice of discipline to attain desired wisdom) is synonymous to the practice of spirituality. Followers practice Japa or the silent recital of prayer or mantra to remind themselves of their duties. The tantric practices reveal the mundaneness to elevate oneself from the superficial world. Indian religion teaches many aspects of spirituality with ‘Yoga’ being the most popular one. Bhavana resonates the spiritual personnel of the Buddhists while Awgatha or formulaic prayer results in acts of devotion. The basic principles of Sikhism aims to discipline mind and body. To commence their spirituality, Sikhs waken up early in the morning and meditate by reciting the Gurbani and singing kirtans. They also perform selfless community work or Sewa. The spiritual practices of Jains have proved to be extremely good for health; like eating the last meal of the day before darkness creeps in. Jains are known to practice the art of self-control through meditation for 48 minutes (one muhurta) every day.
Spirituality through Inner Engineering – Meditation and Yoga
While spirituality teaches a person to lead a happier life and living at the moment, yoga and meditation might seem as the pathway to amplify the feelings of complete well-being. Yoga is not characterized as any religious practice or cult but known as a route towards spiritual awakening in a person, by guiding them to trace inner peace and calmness through love and compassion for fellow humans and self-love for oneself. At the beginning, all Yoga practitioners are taught seven spiritual laws to tame their mind and body. Among them one is known to be Karma or the act which suggests that one receives the outcome of what he does. For example, if one is attached to animals and love them, they are bound to receive their love back. Yoga proves to be even more effective if combined with meditation.
Spiritual meditation speculates path of ‘honest self-reflection’. It enables people to develop a positive mind-set and boost confidence. Further, on daily practice one can subside the negative thoughts and replace them with heavy reinforced breathing. Speaking a mantra loud will allow to focus on a particular verse or keyword and would prevent the mind from going astray. Since a practitioner can control the physiological aspect of breathing and phycological aspect of subsiding negativity, he has the power to control self, irrespective of the surroundings. This entitles the person to enhance his performance skills and allow him to even perform the activities which he had feared due to the negativities of life.
Besides improving spiritual aspects of life, Yoga has direct effects on physical health too. With slow repetitive inhalation and exhalation, there is rapid increase in the blood flow and warms up body muscles. Yoga further improves flexibility and balance. People with arthritis symptoms must practice yoga regularly to ease the symptoms. Since yoga reduces stress level, it has direct implications on the health of heart. Sleep-deprived patients also seek the guidance from yoga to relax. Patients suffering from chronic pain relieve themselves from their ailments by practicing yoga daily. These day migraine patients are seeking Yoga-therapy rather than taking allopathic treatment. It channelizes the aspects of inner engineering and introspects on the inner transformation that ensures the development of inner perception and brings about a dynamic shift on the way in which the world is looked upon. The practice of inner engineering awakens the self-realizing of the highest potential.
Bhakti and Baha’i Movements
The greatest example of the omnipotence of spirituality in India was the Bhakti movement, which started in the 9th century in South India and spread across India by 16th century. The word, Bhakti means ‘to adore’ and in general term voices the meaning ‘love to God’. Bhakti movement is a silent revolution against the rising Abrahamic and Islamic cult dominating conversion in India, and against the evils that surfaced with rigid orthodox practices. What Bhakti movement sought was equality among all or universal brotherhood, which was a voice against caste hierarchy and social discrimination. It denounced idol worship and focussed on Monotheism, stressed upon the ‘passionate feeling of love for God’. Since a direct relationship of God is established, one must have a pure soul. Bhakti practitioners propagated that purification of one’s soul could be attained by having a high degree of moral values, truthfulness, harmony, and non-violence. Followers attained spirituality by self-surrendering to the will of God.
Much like the Bhakti movement, in the 19th century, the Baha’i faith was established in Persia and parts of the Middle East with main ideology to secure world peace, racial unity, gender equality, universal education and harmony of science and religion. The faith aims at attaining spiritual level for all individuals and focus on self-development.
Spiritualism Across Ancient Civilizations
The Ancient Civilizations across the world dealt their society on the realization of their faith and spirituality. The mighty Mayans, spanning across Central America and modern-day Mexico and being the only Mesoamerican Civilisation boasted of advancements in science, astronomy, mathematics and politics. But what makes the Mayan civilisation captivating for the historians is its spiritual practices interlinked with religion. The Mayans worshipped Gods who were the representations of the forms of nature. They believed that everything that the Earth possessed had life infused in it. Most of their thoughts proved that they used to rely on sacrificial practices to appease God for attaining spirituality. They buried the dead with a corncob in their mouth to represent spiritual rebirth. Like the Mayans, the ancient Greeks were too interlinked with religion to seek spirituality. They relied on the appeasement of their Gods and Goddesses to seek spirituality.
Myths suggest that the Greek society was extremely advanced with no enforcement of orthodoxy. The Gods and Goddesses represented an allusion to human vices, hence they relied on their guidance at all levels. There was not much of ideological differences of ancient Rome with that of ancient Greeks. The Romans followed the guidelines set by the Greeks and moulded them according to their ease. Highly ritualised sacrificial procedures were seen as the sole path to making the Gods happy. Spiritualty laid in practicing religion strictly. Festivals were dawned to please respective Gods and Goddesses.
Spiritualism played a dominating role in the lives of the Egyptians as they focused on the life after their death. Besides religion to be thought as synonymous to spiritualism, medicine, astronomy, and scientific practices too played a great role. The life on Earth was to be led with harmony and compassion for others. People of the society were dependent upon one another to maintain the balance of the universe and appease the Gods. Much like Indian Civilization, the Egyptians believed that appeasement of the Gods laid in helping fellow humans, and sharing pleasure and happiness. The Egyptians thought Gods more like their ‘familiar friends’, who would help and guide them in all adversities.