February 22, 2011

Has Spirituality Become Like Religion?

Has spirituality lost its way?

A few weeks before I began kindergarten, my father sat me down and proceeded to tell me about how he and my mother came to America.

He went on to explain that they came from two very different religions and that one of the reasons why they came here was because of religious freedom.

He then told me that due to their religious differences, they decided that I should have the freedom to pick whichever religion I wanted to follow. He also told me that all people are equal and that no one faith is superior to another.

Being that my parents gave me a lot of freedom to choose what I wanted to believe, I became fascinated with the concept of religion.

Although my mother was not a devout Catholic, whenever someone that we knew was in trouble, she took me to church and we would light a candle in prayer for whomever was in need of help. I used to love these outings. Entering the church felt like entering a house where you knew you were loved without a doubt. The smell of incense and the whole décor filled my heart with joy.

When one of my friends invited me to go to a synagogue, I jumped at the chance. The joy that I felt in church was the same as when I was sitting in the synagogue. It occurred to me that in both places I had the same feeling; unconditional love was a constant and freely given.

By the time I was in college, my fascination with the Divine had morphed into a sincere love of God. I had no clue what to call myself because every time I read about a different religion, I saw the beauty in it.

This lead to a sense of feeling lost because I never could buy into the belief that one faith was superior to another. Then spirituality entered my life and I thought this was the answer I was looking for.

During most of my twenties and thirties, spirituality reigned supreme in my consciousness. I was a devout follower. I read every spiritual book that I could find. I traveled to India in search of meaning. Eventually, I was initiated into one of the highest Vedanta orders in India and almost took final vows as a nun.

While on the monastic path, we studied every major religion that exists and we studied with the intention of realizing that each faith, although different in some ways, ultimately teaches the same concepts. I loved what I learned and eventually, the time came for me to leave that path because I couldn’t give up on not experiencing marriage.

So I re-entered the world and delved back into spirituality. However, something had changed but I couldn’t put my finger on it. That feeling lasted for nine years. I continued to read spiritual books and talk to people on the path but something just felt off. It was not until last October when I realized what was happening.

Many people condemn religion because it is very rigid and judgmental of those who disagree. Spirituality, initially, was to offer a kinder and gentler alternative to religion. However, that kindness has morphed into a dogma that is becoming very similar to that of its predecessor.

I have seen spirituality focus so much on crystals, chakras, channeling of archangels, and such to the point that the field seems to have totally disregarded the fact that there is some greater force at work here. Some call this force God and others call it The Universe.

In my mind, call it whatever you wish, just recognize that every single thing you do, creates a ripple and that ripple will eventually find its way back to you. Every single faith in the world agrees on that point. Every single faith agrees on the importance of being good and kind.

The similarities between religions are staggering but people focus on the minute differences. Spirituality is doing the same exact thing. Spirituality was initially designed to help people realize that there is more to life than what you see. It was not designed to negate the existence of God or The Universe or whatever term you want to use.

So when did God become a bad word? I have no clue but what I do know is that the Divine is being pushed out of spirituality and that is just sad. It is like pushing Buddha out of Buddhism.

When the focus becomes crystals or when people start to talk about themselves in the third person, it kind of takes away from the beauty of spirituality.

Because of my spiritual experiences and my past, so many people contact me with questions about crystals and channeling and all that stuff. I cringe every single time I receive such a question.

I cringe because that is not spirituality. You can have all the best crystals in the world but if your heart is not rooted in the belief of really being compassionate, no amount of crystals is going to help you find joy or inner peace. If it were that simple, the world would be filled with so many more happier people.

Forgive me if this sounds harsh but please know that I write this all out of love. Do I love God/The Universe? Yes, I do and with every ounce of my being. My love for Buddha is equal to my love for Jesus, Moses, Shiva and every single prophet and true messenger of God that existed. Every single one of those beings was wise and worthy of respect.

Do I think spiritual people are superior to others? No. Some of the most spiritual people I know are atheists. Do I think religious people are superior to others? No.

Religious and spiritual labels mean nothing in my eyes. You can go to church every Sunday or meditate twice a day but if you treat your fellow human being like dirt, then your religious/spiritual actions mean nothing.

What matters more is how you live. Ultimately, every single act and entity on this planet is spiritual at its core. There is no need to give it a special label. It just simply exists.

Live with compassion and try your best to add beauty to the world. That is much more important than what you choose to call yourself.

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