Spirituality has always been a very important part of human progress, but these days when we talk about spirituality we feel the need to prefix ‘sincere’, an indicator of how much hypocrisy has been practiced in the name of spirituality in recent times. Hence it is better to state at the outset that here we are discussing sincere spirituality only.
At the risk of some oversimplification my definition of simplicity is– Spirituality is the sustained quest for inner peace which is in conformity with the welfare of the entire world.
This small definition can in turn be broken into three parts.
Firstly, spirituality is a quest for peace. There are many factors such as excessive desire of sensual pleasures, various addictions, urge for greed and domination and the violence inherent in this, arrogance, falsehood and dishonesty which lead to disturbed and unstable life, sometimes culminating in very serious problems. Spirituality is a conscious decision to avoid all this and live a life of honesty, limited needs, avoidance of addictions, discipline over pursuit of sensual pleasures, non-violence, humility and a strong sense of ethical thinking. This brings inner peace. Anyone is free to try this path, and of course there will be varying degrees of success. A conscious decision to try to walk the path of sincere spirituality is noble in itself, regardless of the level of success achieved. Absolutely no ritual, or specialized skill, or great learning and scholarship, is needed for this. Only sincerity is needed.
The second part of the definition states that this quest should be sustained. A passing fad is not spirituality, this must be a very sustained effort.
Thirdly, this sustained quest for peace should be in harmony with the welfare of the entire world. The inner peace by itself is not adequate as long as care is not taken to ensure that the person’s activities are not in conflict with welfare needs of the external world, instead these are integrated with the requirements of a world of justice and peace, equality and environment protection, compassion and care. Hence all those who don holy garbs to spread hatred against others or to justify practices and systems of exploitation are firmly ruled out of our definition of spirituality.
Defined in this way, the quest for spirituality of individuals inevitably contributes to at least some extent to the creation of a better world. The more the number of people who try to walk the path of such sincere spirituality the better this is for world.
This can also make a bigger and sustained contribution to the wider efforts to create a world based on justice, equality, peace, protection of environment and all forms of life. When such efforts are made the challenge is to ensure a rapid spread and durability. The chances for this will be greater in societies where the spread of spirituality is wider and deeper. Hence spirituality can help to create a strong base or a foundation of a better world.
A society in which spirituality is spread more widely, as defined above, is likely to be more amenable to the voice and efforts of those social movements which are trying to create a better and more just world. Where spirituality exists widely, there is likely to be much better response to movements for protection of environment and bio-diversity.
Spirituality creates a very good base for spreading inter-faith harmony and for creating consensus on several important issues for people of various faiths and for atheists as well.
Spirituality should progress on the basis of democratic norms, with various persons who walk this path contributing to each other’s progress, instead of a few persons trying to dominate the discourse as gurus and leaders.
In these critical times of survival crisis, spirituality helps to create a base for strengthening efforts to protect our planet in a framework of peace, justice and democracy.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children. Web-site—bharatdogra.in