What is Spirituality?



What is Spirituality? Is it something concerning ‘the intellect’ or what is often thought of as ‘the better or higher part of mind’? Is it the moral aspect of life? Perhaps it may even mean a state of ‘being incorporeal’. Whatever way one may define, it may be termed as an ideal that reckons all reality in essence as spiritual. When simply stated, spirituality is one’s character or quality that makes one transcend the barriers of worldliness, caste, creed and sensuality; and realize one’s connection with the Truth.


The etymology of the word ‘Spirituality’ itself is “spiritus,” derived from the Hebrew word for breath. Spirituality thus came to mean “the energy or force or breath of God.” No one likes the word religion anymore as the word ‘spiritual’ doesn’t have the baggage religion does. But it’s impossible to separate spirituality from organized religion. To define oneself as spiritual without being a part of a religion might simply be “justification” for not wanting to participate in organised religion and its practices. In many ways it doesn’t go beyond one’s own personal belief for it is like saying, ‘I’m going to find myself.’ It is an individual exploration of the inner world of the self, out of which ought to arise compassion and wisdom. Even an atheist could be spiritual. I define a spiritual person as one “who works to develop his full human potential and helps others to develop theirs, recognizing that we are all one.


Spirituality has been defined in numerous ways –

: A belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself.

: A sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures.

: An awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values.


Although spirituality is often associated with religious life, many believe that personal spirituality can be developed outside of religion. Acts of compassion and selflessness, altruism, and the experience of inner peace are all characteristics of spirituality. Spirituality is the recognition and realization of the Being, the reality in oneself and all others. The integration of the body, mind and spirit in a human being, which results in facilitating the realization of a goal in life, makes him a spiritual being. In order to realize oneself, it becomes necessary to be aware of oneself. This awareness comes to us in various ways and forms and through various means, the significant ones being the scriptures and religious texts ofIndiaand the world. As an innate capacity that exists in every human being, psychologically healthy spirituality is not limited to any one set of doctrines or practices. From a psychological perspective, spirituality is a universal experience, not a universal theology.


Spirituality is understood by many as the act of involvement or state of awareness or devotion to a higher being or life philosophy.  It is not always related to conventional religious beliefs. A religion is a dogma or creed, a set of beliefs about the spiritual and a set of practices, which arise out of those beliefs. There are many religions, which arise out of those beliefs and they tend to be mutually exclusive. Religion is different from spirituality where the former is normally accepted as an institution with the organized doctrines, ethics, tenets and beliefs that relate everything to what is deemed as sacred. Religion is expressed with the help of socially approved and accepted rituals, practices, myths and social structures. Spirituality is, however, an expression of what is sacred bringing with it an alignment with everything that is sacred. It is the experience of a reality that transforms every individual and inculcates in an individual, qualities such as love, compassion and ethical integrity, along with a sense of harmony and justice.


A spiritual individual necessarily feels less bound and constrained, in a sense, more free than others, in a personal and social sense. It leads the individual to wisdom and a deep understanding of the essence of human condition. Spirituality is something that characterizes the relationship of an individual to all beings in the universe and does not necessarily require a formal structure, ritual, or mediation by an intercessor.


Spirituality implies the inner human urge to seek and unite with a Reality beyond the fleeting, sensory world, fulfilling the need for a meaning. It is a search for whatever is generally beautiful and awe-inspiring in nature; not always good by human standards; but generally kind and loving in human nature. Much of what people strive for, after satisfying the basic needs of life, has to do with enriching their higher spiritual nature, through music, art and poetry. Little acts of kindness, the attitude of forgiving, and the readiness to understand others is possible only by a spiritual being. The spiritual is all – inclusive. It is the deepest sense of belonging and participation. We all participate in the spiritual at all times, whether we know it or not…perhaps one might say that the ‘spiritual’ is that realm of human experience which religion attempts to connect us to through rituals and dogma. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it fails. Religion may act as a bridge to the spiritual-but the spiritual lies beyond religion.


Spirituality is subjectively experiencing life both inside and outside of oneself. Finally, spirituality is a conviction. Even atheists, who do not believe in a creator, have a belief in the spirit that needs to be tended to. They cannot prove their belief any more than a “true believer” can prove his or hers. This leads to the need to realise the intrinsic value of oneself (one’s spirit) and equally that of others. I would like to define ‘Spirituality’, in very simplistic terms, as ‘a connection, in some profound and elemental way, with something, which is both outside and within oneself, which gives one a sense of one’s essential nature’. Spirituality leads one to a feeling of having transcended time and gives one a feeling of oneness with the entire universe. One begins to accept oneself as a part of everything and everything a part of oneself. The spiritual individual speaks more from the heart, operating on a level that is higher and totally different from the normal, rational, linear plane of human interaction. The world seems so fundamentally inseparable. The spiritual person transcends boundaries – boundaries of time and space, class and colour, race and species. The realisation that one is a part of the same natural world brings a shift in the conscious functioning and prepares one at a deeper level to recognise the temporariness and transparency of boundaries in all other aspects on one’s living. The spiritual dimension is that part of the person concerned with meaning, truth, purpose, or reality–the ultimate significance of things. It manifests itself as a sense that there is an ultimate reality, as a search for that reality, and in the prepotency of adherence to certain values which are held by the person to be absolutes. The spiritual dimension is fundamentally experiential and intuitive rather than conceptual. It comprises direct experiences of being and direct mental apprehensions rather than abstraction and reasoning, and is thus not an aspect of thought. This attribute is responsible for the ineffable and subjective qualities that have previously discouraged scientific inquiry.


In philosophies and religions of Indian origin, the term ‘spirituality’ is used in a specific sense, distinct from its many meanings in western dictionaries. In Indian tradition, the word ‘spirit’ is used to refer to ‘atman’. Now the word ‘atman’ is used to refer to ‘jivatman’ and ‘paramatma’, i.e. Individual and Supreme Self. Divinity is thus, perceived in both Cosmic Reality and the individual self. Moreover, the Paramatma or Supreme Self  is conceived as both transcendent and immanent in the phenomenal world. Hence, all creation is perceived as a manifestation of the Spirit.


In addition to this, the Supreme self is conceived as Sat –Cit – Ananda, i.e. Being – Consciousness – Bliss and also as Satyam – Jnanam – Anantam – Shaantam – Poornam Brahman i.e. Brahman as Truth, Knowledge, Infinitude, Peace and Perfection. Thus, spiritualism in Indian parlance implies the endeavour of the individual self to realize and approximate the Supreme Spirit. The concept of Sat – Cit – Ananda is unique in Indian philosophy as it is symbolic of a complete, holistic approach to Reality. Sat is Existence, the Being of an entity, which signifies metaphysics, Cit is Consciousness relating to cognition and knowledge (epistemology), and Ananda is Bliss that is determined by ethical living. Thus, Sat – Cit – Ananda represents the holism of Indian thought. It is the consciousness of the Conscious Spirit in the right perspective.


Spirituality is that which comes from within, beyond the survival instincts of the mind. Each of us has a spiritual centre or core, which makes us conscious, purposive beings, in connection with the cosmic purpose. Every spiritual being lives with a divine purpose. Every being has the spiritual energy, beyond programmed beliefs and values, which is actually the fountainhead of all wisdom. The spirit in man makes him live life passionately with a purpose, with the right understanding of himself and his environment. He lives with humility, compassion, empathy and love, along with the others in the same environment, working towards common goals.


Indian Management is primarily based on spiritual values and the inherent spirituality of the human is manifested in all his activities of life, whether it is a social, cultural, economic or religious activity.


Hence the need to understand and accept Indian Management as holistic, complete and pragmatic and the need to learn the management styles of Indian industry to reiterate the spiritual essence of Indian Management.

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