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The Essence of Spirituality

--by Vimala Thakar (Dec 24, 2012)


To be spiritual is to be related to the visible, invisible and the infinite aspects of life simultaneously. True spirituality never provides any escapes for fear-obsessed people. We may find other escapes in the world, but they are not the essence of spirituality. Please realize this very clearly.

It's an adventure to be truly religious, to be a totally spiritual person. When we are committed to the totality of life and not to any walls created by man in the name of nationality, denominations, creeds, and dogmas, then we do not belong to a particular race, to a color, but to the whole global family.

In spirituality none of us escape the challenges. They will pursue us wherever we go. We carry within us the inheritance of the human race; the knowledge, the experience, the conditionings of the total human race are contained in each of our minds.

Please see that spiritual inquiry is not withdrawing from life and living, but bringing a qualitatively new approach to the act of living. It is not escape and it is not an ego-centered activity of collecting occult and transcendental experiences. We often talk about religious inquiry, spiritual inquiry, meditation in a very petty sense.

If we want to achieve something personal in spiritual inquiry, we are transferring ambitions from the physical and psychological to the religious field. Spiritual inquiry is not a self-centered, ego-centered activity. It is responding to the challenge confronted by the human race.

We can have fascinating experiences in the realm of the occult; this kind of spirituality is a good commercial proposition. People trade in it, make money by offering to stimulate certain psychic powers in others.

But religion and spirituality are precious, scared things, not things for trading, or for establishing sects and gathering disciples.

If we play games in the name of spirituality, we are trying to protect the ego from the flame of revolution, the piercing force of truth. We are free to defend ourselves if we like, but it's no use pretending we are undertaking an inner revolution when we try to collect psychic experiences, play with the occult. The spiritual journey is to set ourselves free of the prisonhouse of the ego; it is not to make the prisonhouse more interesting by the addition of psychic experiences, occult practices.

Many of us work very hard to give a spiritual appearance to our lives, to delve into the mysteries of the invisible, occult, to take up healing practices, to become emeshed in extra-sensory experiences, but unless that being is set free of the tyranny of conditionings, there is no spiritual inquiry worth the name.

The desperate need of the human race is not the cultivation of psychic powers and extra-sensory experiences; the urgent requirement is for mature, whole human beings who are free of ego attachments, emotional imbalances and who are aware, attentive, sensitive, creative and fully alive.


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On Dec 26, 2012 aj wrote:
Amen, Narendra!
Any one/thing that says "I am right and you are wrong", in matters Spiritual, limit God.  Since we are all God's "originals" (unlike any other "creation") the way we come to Him will, too, be unique.  WHO ARE WE to "package" God?  I have enough sin, by my own human nature, I care not "box" the One Who came to save me.  
Spirituality unites.
Religion divides.
Freedom "to just be" . . . to forgive . . . to be compassionate . . . to love . . . holds us together, in/thru Him.
  

On Dec 26, 2012 Narendra wrote:

 Corrected copy..... What is the essence of spirituality for you?   Spirituality for me is an adventure in finding the limits of my own consciousness. On this adventurous path, I hope to go though the limiting boundaries set by the body genetics, culture, my own emotions and the physical world of sense perception and even rationality, to experience the unifying consciousness that holds this universe together as universal love or god. How do you set yourself free of the tyranny of conditionings?  The tyranny of conditioning is based on the fear of god and in the absence of love of god and nature. The internal tyranny of conflicting thoughts and emotions can be replaced by love, through unselfish effort as an expression of love. The same unselfish love and courage or karmayoga, can also be used as a kshatriya dharma to fight the external tyranny of disrespectful, intolerant religious, financial and political organizations that have destroyed and continue to destroy  See full.

 Corrected copy.....

What is the essence of spirituality for you?   Spirituality for me is an adventure in finding the limits of my own consciousness. On this adventurous path, I hope to go though the limiting boundaries set by the body genetics, culture, my own emotions and the physical world of sense perception and even rationality, to experience the unifying consciousness that holds this universe together as universal love or god. How do you set yourself free of the tyranny of conditionings?  The tyranny of conditioning is based on the fear of god and in the absence of love of god and nature. The internal tyranny of conflicting thoughts and emotions can be replaced by love, through unselfish effort as an expression of love. The same unselfish love and courage or karmayoga, can also be used as a kshatriya dharma to fight the external tyranny of disrespectful, intolerant religious, financial and political organizations that have destroyed and continue to destroy nature, other peaceful religions, nations and cultures. Can you share a personal story that illustrates the essence of spirituality? When I was comfortably set in the luxury of the west, I ignored my responsibility as a world citizen. I focused on the pretensions of spirituality and ignored the reality of organized violence and poverty, caused by greed and competition for limited resources, control and power, by political and religious institutions. When I woke up from my pretensions of ‘sameness in religions’ to reality of ‘sameness in spirituality’, my first job was to support mutual respect (and not just tolerance) among religions and also, freedom, and democracy in spirituality, where multiple paths and gods provide fundamental human spiritual rights and freedom, by fighting dictatorial religions that limit freedom of thought through fear, intimidation and other corrupt practices in the name of their exclusive, egoistic, violent god and religion. We now live in a world that is partly democratic in politics and mostly dictatorial in religion.  

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On Dec 26, 2012 a wrote:

One's Spirituality is poured out in/thru one's every word, breath, action, expression . . . in anything and everything that comes out of us!  Whether sleeping or awake, our spirit is revealed by who ever our audience may be (most often, God alone).  Anything that is not physical, falls into the "spiritual", for any living being. This is why my spirit is very much attracted to God's Spirit.  His Word, Breath, Expression, Action . . . all boil down to Love and Life.   He is ALL GOOD!  Spirits affixed to His, not only survive but flourish.  Dependent on any other . . . I do not really care to go there! Personal story:  As a child, I was drawn to my best friend Mary's family and home . . . God centered/Spirit filled.  Not perfect, but incredibly Love filled . . . incredibly Peace filled . . . incredibly different from my own home and family.  I decided I would invite Jesus' Spirit, Heart, Life and Love into my Spiri  See full.

One's Spirituality is poured out in/thru one's every word, breath, action, expression . . . in anything and everything that comes out of us!  Whether sleeping or awake, our spirit is revealed by who ever our audience may be (most often, God alone).  Anything that is not physical, falls into the "spiritual", for any living being.
This is why my spirit is very much attracted to God's Spirit.  His Word, Breath, Expression, Action . . . all boil down to Love and Life.  
He is ALL GOOD!  Spirits affixed to His, not only survive but flourish.  Dependent on any other . . . I do not really care to go there!
Personal story:  As a child, I was drawn to my best friend Mary's family and home . . . God centered/Spirit filled.  Not perfect, but incredibly Love filled . . . incredibly Peace filled . . . incredibly different from my own home and family.  I decided I would invite Jesus' Spirit, Heart, Life and Love into my Spiritual home (myself) . . . so that He could live in me.  He works!  Bless you!         

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On Dec 23, 2012 Manisha wrote:

 To me, the essence of spirituality is truth. It is to see the totality and inherent beauty of things with complete clarity. This requires the arduous task of chipping away the ego, so that the clarity of vision is not clouded by ignorance, attachments, desires, and fears. Truth gives way to wisdom, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. For Gandhi, truth was synonymous with love, and Khalil Gibran's beautiful words come to mind: "Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself."    The essence of spirituality remains elusive to me as I have taken one or two very small steps on the path of truth. What moves me on this path is meditation. It has been so helpful in freeing me from the tyranny of conditionings, and in illuminating what I need to do to move forward on this very long path as there is still so much work ahead.   A few weeks ago I took part in a 10-day silent meditation course. It was the second course of this type that I have received  See full.

 To me, the essence of spirituality is truth. It is to see the totality and inherent beauty of things with complete clarity. This requires the arduous task of chipping away the ego, so that the clarity of vision is not clouded by ignorance, attachments, desires, and fears. Truth gives way to wisdom, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. For Gandhi, truth was synonymous with love, and Khalil Gibran's beautiful words come to mind: "Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself." 

 
The essence of spirituality remains elusive to me as I have taken one or two very small steps on the path of truth. What moves me on this path is meditation. It has been so helpful in freeing me from the tyranny of conditionings, and in illuminating what I need to do to move forward on this very long path as there is still so much work ahead.
 
A few weeks ago I took part in a 10-day silent meditation course. It was the second course of this type that I have received in my life; an annual pilgrimage of sorts, to the truth within. Many things arose during this simple, elegant practice of awareness and equanimity. I would like to share this personal story that illustrates my attempts towards the essence of spirituality.
  • The first time that I took this course, in 2011, my mind was very noisy and I did not fully give in to learning the practice of meditation as I kept myself occupied with thoughts. This second time around I went in with the intention of complete surrender. This meant keeping an open mind, soft heart, and relaxed and gentle body as I took refuge in the practice.
  • For the first four days of the course I was very anxious because of my dad's health. I found it difficult to stay balanced. As the days went on, I realized that my anxiety is self-imposed, egotistical, and that it is even physically harmful to myself. For example, I often think that I am the only one capable of helping my dad with his health issues since I have a background in health sciences, a university degree, and the ability to drive him to the hospital and medical appointments. Even though my mom did not go to university, did not study science, and does not know how to drive, she has been married to my dad for nearly 40-years and has consistently been a selfless caregiver and partner to him. I learned that I need to have faith in my dad and mom to take care of each other and let go of the false notion that only I know how to do things right. On the eight day of the meditation course, the anxiety that had been building up over the past few months had manifested in severe stomach cramps and a full afternoon in the bathroom. It was a difficult day physically and it really challenged my equanimity. But, I felt like a brand new person the next day, as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders simply from seeing this mind-body interaction.
  • I have a very bad habit of comparing myself to others, and this course allowed me to observe jealousy. From watching the ever-changing sensations in my body, I recognized that all things are transient, including the things that I am often jealous of in other people's lives. It suddenly made no sense for me to be attached and to be jealous of things that are continuously arising and passing. I think that I engaged in this more intellectually than experientially, as jealousy reared its head a few days after the course was over. But the intensity of the jealousy was less, and the negative feeling passed quicker than it did before I took the course. So, this jealousy is still present in me, but I am more aware of it than I was earlier and I have made a small dent in the hard wall of this negativity.
  • For the first time I saw the suffering of my best friend, a beautiful woman that I have shared a close friendship with since I was 14 years old. I had always idealized her life and thought that she "had it all." In failing to see her hardships, I failed to see her as a complete person. There was a moment during the course when this all changed, when I acknowledged that she does not have it all, and that she is hurting inside. I really felt for her, and tears of compassion flowed. When I shared this with her yesterday and asked her what I can do to help her, our friendship instantly strengthened and we gifted each other with so much love. It felt like such a pure offering/receiving, I cannot tell the difference.
  • As much as I tried to keep to myself (as part of the practice), occasionally I observed the group of women that we meditating alongside me. They were diverse, representing all different age groups, ethic backgrounds, and physical abilities. One common thread, though, was the fact that we are suffering. It was apparent in the way that my dorm-mates would slam the bathroom doors in the residence, push and shove their way through the dining hall when the food was served, and sigh and move their body positions heavily while meditating together in the hall. One of the evening discourses during those 10 days mentioned that all of us have the qualities of compassion, peace, and goodness. I took a mental look around at the women in the course, and instead of seeing them as people who are suffering, I saw them as people who are, at their essence, full of these positive qualities and who are taking steps towards realizing these traits. From then on I treated them as my sisters in service, and I was filled with love for them.
  • The importance of equanimity came up repeatedly. For example, one day I was eating lunch in the dining hall when I started to shed a few tears. I thought about all of the unexpected things that have arisen in my life. I realized that I was a surprise to my parents, since they did not know that they were having twins when my mom was giving birth. I was born 13 minutes after my twin sister and my parents were completely shocked. Yet, they raised both of us as best as they could and with such grace. Likewise, the ups and downs that I have experienced with them have been a surprise to me. I could have never expected our family to take the trajectory that we have. All of these moments, even the most difficult ones, now appeared to me as gifts. I was overcome with gratitude for all that my parents have given to me as I made stronger efforts to remain balanced during the course, as practice for equanimity beyond the course.
  • In a silent meditation course, it is easy to not lie and speak slander when you're not allowed to speak, read, write, and make bodily gestures and eye contact. In the "real" world, however, this "noble silence" is much more difficult to practice. In the course I took note of how much I had spoken lies, gossip, and slander over the past year, and why I did this (usually, to fit in with people who were speaking lies, gossip, and slander, for fear of being left out). From this point forward, I resolved to myself to speak truth and to speak good things as a way to practice "noble speech" in the "real" world, be authentic, courageous, and to share the company of like-hearted individuals.
  • I have always found it difficult to give a meditation of loving-kindness since my ego often gets in the way. This time around, it was a little bit easier than it was last year. I found myself giving loving-kindness to those who I previously associated with hurt and negativity, as I gave them sincere wishes for well-being and happiness. That felt so good! :)
  • I left the course feeling energized, calm, composed, and more aware than when I began those 10 days of meditation. I had expected back and leg pain from sitting so many hours each day for 10 days straight, but instead, I felt like I received a deep massage as there was no pain in my body. Most importantly, though, I was overflowing with gratitude for this wonderful practice, the 10 precious days to dedicate myself to learning it, and the awe-inspiring group of servers that made the practice possible for me and the many, many others who are also walking the path of truth. I emerged with a stronger conviction for meditation as perhaps the single-most important way to serve myself and others.

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On Dec 22, 2012 david doane wrote:

 The essence of spirituality for me is an abiding awareness that we are spiritual beings having a human experience; to live with an abiding awareness that all is Being/Spirit/Sacred, and each of us is an expression of that that Source; to live with an abiding awareness that I am in this world but not of it in the sense that I am not consumed by any form including ego; to live with an abiding awareness that each expression of Being is different but not separate, all is one and all is sacred, and to live with compassion for all.  I set myself free of the tyranny of conditionings by becoming more aware of those conditionings which happens unpredictably through living and I help it along by activities like paying attention, reflection, input from others.  I meet with a small group of men, our "spirituality group," and we share reflections, insights, and readings which has very much nurtured my spirituality over the past 6 years and for me has often been spiritualit  See full.

 The essence of spirituality for me is an abiding awareness that we are spiritual beings having a human experience; to live with an abiding awareness that all is Being/Spirit/Sacred, and each of us is an expression of that that Source; to live with an abiding awareness that I am in this world but not of it in the sense that I am not consumed by any form including ego; to live with an abiding awareness that each expression of Being is different but not separate, all is one and all is sacred, and to live with compassion for all.  I set myself free of the tyranny of conditionings by becoming more aware of those conditionings which happens unpredictably through living and I help it along by activities like paying attention, reflection, input from others.  I meet with a small group of men, our "spirituality group," and we share reflections, insights, and readings which has very much nurtured my spirituality over the past 6 years and for me has often been spirituality, communion, and liturgy.  I am grateful. 

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On Dec 21, 2012 Rajesh wrote:
 What a wonderful passage. The last paragraph captures the essence of the passage "the urgent requirement is for mature, whole human beings who are free of ego attachments, emotional imbalances....". Whole-ness seems to be completely disregarded in these times. Instead, we seem to put on a pedestal a fragmented approach where we achieve competency and specialization in a particular field or sphere of life. Many thanks to Service Space for reminding of our whole-ness! Moving towards whole-ness is a journey I participate in with many others and am thankful for encountering the path.

On Dec 21, 2012 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 I experienced the essence of spirituality when I noticed what I thought was a hungry man looking in a garbage can for food.  I gave him a couple of dollars.  He was deeply appreciative and had great gratitude.  I experienced gratitude for having the opportunity to feed someone hungry. Being kind to others  and yourself is the essence of spirituality.  I've not yet found any sure way to set myself free from the tyranny of conditioning.  I am still  somewhat conditioned to have a "me first " attitude. Reading iJourney pieces and comments about those short articles has helped me reduce my "me first" attitude.  I have been very heavily influenced by ServiceSpace.org and iJourney to be more spiritual in the sense of seeing myself as Stardust at times helping other pieces of Stardust, and noticing other pieces of Stardust helping my piece of Stardust. A s was recently mentioned  in I journey comments,we are not drops  See full.

 I experienced the essence of spirituality when I noticed what I thought was a hungry man looking in a garbage can for food.  I gave him a couple of dollars.  He was deeply appreciative and had great gratitude.  I experienced gratitude for having the opportunity to feed someone hungry. Being kind to others  and yourself is the essence of spirituality.  I've not yet found any sure way to set myself free from the tyranny of conditioning.  I am still  somewhat conditioned to have a "me first " attitude. Reading iJourney pieces and comments about those short articles has helped me reduce my "me first" attitude.  I have been very heavily influenced by ServiceSpace.org and iJourney to be more spiritual in the sense of seeing myself as Stardust at times helping other pieces of Stardust, and noticing other pieces of Stardust helping my piece of Stardust. A s was recently mentioned  in I journey comments,we are not drops in an ocean.  We are the ocean made of drops. Each of us is the universe made of pieces of Stardust. (my voice recognition program capitalized Stardust,  The voice recognition program has not yet learned to distinguish between self and Self.) Happy holidays to everyone.  Warm and kind regards to everyone and thanks for giving me the opportunity to respond.

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