Are you spiritual or religious?
I hear people talking about religion and I hear people talking about spirituality. I am not comfortable with religion as it can often be sectarian and dogmatic. I like the idea of spirituality, but what is it? Well, I am not what you call religious though I did have a religious upbringing. As a child I began to realise that of the hundreds of people who attended ‘The Holy Trinity Church’ each Sunday many were religious though only a few were spiritual. I could feel it but it took me a while to understand it.
I began to experience the spiritual people as those who lived the religious dogma in their everyday lives rather than just reciting it each Sunday in Church. Rather like ‘walking the walk and not just talking the talk’. The spiritual people I saw as the good ones. They had compassion and empathy, they were genuinely concerned and where doing their best to get it right with and for other people.
As I travelled and met people from different faiths I discovered that the concept of living the right way, being righteous, doing the right thing, and what I have come to understand as Dharma, is the act of living spiritually in everyday life. The spiritual people are those that are seeking to make the world a better place. We each have the ability to do this every minute of everyday by simply thinking, feeling and acting positively.
I have met people who are practitioners, teachers, gurus and so on who are self obsessed and are doing what they are doing for their own personal aggrandisement and enjoyment of power. They see themselves as more important than their message and are seeking glory, status and position.
I have learned to define spirituality as the attempt to get ‘it’ right through compassion, empathy, forethought and sensitivity, through giving rather than taking, loving rather than hating and doing rather than watching. Spiritual people do it rather than talk about it.
So, for me if you attempt to live by doing the right thing without hurting others, if your interactions with people leave them better than when you arrived, if you do what you can to help others get it right, if you act with compassion, love and empathy to all the beings that you meet, including yourself, and if you do all this without personal gain and without expecting anything in return you are living spiritually in everyday life. In my Ayurvedic training this was known as Bhakti.
To be Bhakti and live spiritually you do not need to be poor, you do not need to be chaste, and you do not need to be abstemious. All it requires is that you live with awareness, and take into account the results of your actions and do your best to be the best version of you that you could possibly be.
My definition of a good person, be it teacher, doctor, shop worker, labourer, actor. Whatever, is simply someone who is getting better at it. If we are always getting better at who we are, even it is only a little bit at a time we will, in the end, be pretty good at it. So I would put it both ways, those that are living spiritually in their everyday live are those who are getting better at being who they are, and those who are getting better at who the are, are living spiritually in their everyday lives.
The point being that if we did all look after each other with compassion and empathy, we could have heaven on Earth right now, end wars, famine and strife with the blink of an eye.
Todays task might just be to get up from wherever you are right now and live your day with compassion and empathy and see how you feel at the end of the day, I suspect you might feel pretty good.
Take care and be happy,