Why is man interested in Spirituality?


1. Origin and meaning of Spirituality

  • A. The word ‘adhyatma (अध्‍यात्‍म)’ meaning Spirituality is derived from two words, adhi (अधि) and atman (आत्‍मन्‌) [atmanaha adhi (आत्‍मन: अधि)]. Adhi means pertaining to the topic and atma means the soul. Therefore Spirituality (adhyatma) means pertaining to the soul (atma). Spirituality thus deals with the nature of the soul and information related to questions such as who am I, from where have I come, where will I go after death, etc. Out of the three qualities of the soul that is Absolute Truth (Sat), Absolute Consciousness (Chit) and Bliss (Anand), only Bliss is discussed here.
  • B. The word adhyatma (आध्‍यात्‍म) is derived from a (आ) + dhihi (धि:) + atman (आत्‍मन्‌). A means upto and dhi means the total energy in the body and atman refers to the soul. Spirituality (adhyatma) is thus the process of leading the total energy in the body to the soul.Only the soul is the absolute, ultimate truth. Everything else being from the Great Illusion (Maya) is the untruth. Humorously we can define Spirituality as speaking the untruth or lying about the truth. On the other hand speaking about other subjects is speaking the untruth about the untruth. ‘Speaking the untruth about the truth’ implies that Spirituality is about the Absolute Truth which is beyond description in words and has to be experienced. As a result, talking on this subject becomes the untruth. ‘Speaking the untruth about the untruth’ is with reference to all other subjects from the Great Illusion which itself is the untruth. Consequently, speaking in this regard is the untruth. After all how can one speak the truth about the untruth!

    It is inappropriate to bring Spirituality on par with subjects such as communism, socialism, etc. by referring to it as Spiritualism; as any concept has an opposite concept. That is precisely why the term Spirituality has been used in the text.

2. Synonyms

A. Paravidya: Para means supreme. Paravidya means supreme knowledge.

B. Parmartha: This word (परमार्थ) is derived from the words, param (परम) and artha (अर्थ). It thus means acquiring knowledge about the supreme meaning or the Supreme Principle.

3. Authority in Spirituality

Only the one who first qualifies as a seeker and later as a disciple can become an authority in Spirituality, that is only he can get spiritual experiences about the soul principle.

4. Importance of Spirituality

4.1 Limitations of worldly matter

“So long as the culmination of all human capability is death, it is inevitable that wise people shall look beyond worldly duties and turn away from the material world. Firstly, his remedies to obtain happiness do not impart him with happiness. Secondly all his endeavours, including worldly knowledge prove inefficient, as the origin as well as the end of the manifest world is unknown to him. ‘One thing is certain and the rest is lies. The flower that has bloomed once forever dies.’ This quote by Umar Khayyam, a great Urdu poet illustrates the futility of all worldly knowledge. Hence, quotes such as, ‘Path of glory leads but to the grave’ suggest the helplessness of worldly capability.” Spirituality is exactly contrary to this.

4.2 Subject which bestows eternal and supreme quality of Bliss (Anand)

Every living being from the smallest insect or ant to the more evolved human being wishes to acquire the supreme quality of happiness continuously and constantly makes attempts to acquire it. Happiness which is continual and of supreme quality is called Bliss. The science which teaches how to acquire it is the science of Spirituality.

‘A priest : Do You have any special message for the
American citizens ?
Baba : I have only one message for all the people  in the world. Man should
surrender his search for happiness, Serenity and contentment in the
external world and realise that they lie within himself rather than
anywhere else. No matter how much one enjoys worldly pleasures
during the day, at the end of it, it is only natural that one feels exhausted.
Certainly, one does not feel contented with the day’s activities. Then
to overcome that exhaustion one takes solace in sleep sacrificing
whatever one has acquired during that day. The very need of man for
sleep proves that instead of striving to seek external objects, if man
becomes introverted he will acquire Serenity (Shanti) and contentment
in greater amounts. It is only after becoming introverted through
meditation (spiritual practice), that man realises the divine consciousness
of the soul, that is the energy of The Lord residing within him.’

The following quotes are well known in this context.

  • 1. अनेक संशयोच्‍छेदि परोक्षार्थस्‍यदर्शनम्‌ ।
    सर्वस्‍य लोचनं शास्‍त्रं नास्‍त्‍यंध एक तत्‌ ।    Meaning: The science (of Spirituality) is akin to the eyes which eliminate all doubts and endow direct knowledge. Those who are ignorant of this science are indeed blind.
  • 2. अध्‍यात्‍मविद्या विद्यानाम्‌ । – श्रीमद्‌भगवद्‌गीता १०:३२Meaning: The science of Spirituality is supreme among all sciences (vidya). – Shrîmadbhagvadgîta 10:32
  • 3. यत्‌ ज्ञात्‍वा ज्ञेय भूय: नान्‍यत्‌ ज्ञातयम्‌ अवशिष्‍यते ।Meaning: Upon realising that, one becomes that itself which one desired to realise, there remains nothing more worth knowing.

4.3 Subject bestowing omniscience

There being innumerable subjects in the universe, studying even for several births shall prove insufficient to become proficient in all of them. To merge into the omniscient Lord one has to become omniscient. The Lord has however made this easy by providing us with the subject of Spirituality. This is the only subject in which if one acquires omniscience, one knows everything about other subjects. This is because finally all subjects have originated from it.

4.4 Actual fulfillment of acquiring a birth as a human being repeatedly

Man is born again and again for two reasons. The first, that is 65%, to complete his destiny by enduring it and the second, that is 35%, to make spiritual progress so as to acquire Bliss (Anand). Both these causes are related to Spirituality.

4.5 Useful both for spiritual practice with and without expectation

Many people experience the truth of what Saint Tukaram has described when He said, “Happiness seems as minute as a grain of barley while unhappiness seems as huge as a mountain”. In an average person’s life happiness is 25% and unhappiness is 75%. Since most people do not know how to attain Bliss, each one tries to acquire at least temporary happiness through the five senses, mind and intellect, by way of such things as eating one’s favourite dish, listening to music one likes and so on. Similarly, one makes efforts to overcome unhappiness by taking medicines during an illness, getting the television set repaired when it breaks down, etc. In the case of patients, if one is to explain briefly so as to convince one intellectually, then spiritual remedies are extremely important in the following two types of illnesses.

  • A. Man can do nothing about old age, incurable illnesses and death. In such cases, if a patient is depressed, then to overcome the despair, this may be used as a therapy to cultivate in him, a philosophical attitude towards it.
  • B. In cases of obsessive compulsive neurosis, a mental illness, it is useful to keep the patient’s mind preoccupied. There is no certainty in worldly life, as there are obstacles at every step. As against this, in Spirituality, there is a certainty of finding Bliss. Hence, H.H. Brahmachaitanya Gondavlekar Maharaj says, ‘If one practises Spirituality for the body to remain content or so that the body remains healthy, etc. it is like exchanging one’s divine wish-fulfilling cow (kamadhenu) for a donkey’.This subject is useful for both, those who have worldly pursuits as well as those with an inclination for Spirituality. In other words, Spirituality is useful to each and everyone of us.

    1. Those desirous of worldly pleasure: Practising Spirituality with expectation (sakam sadhana) gives happiness and reduces unhappiness as well.

    2. Those in search of Bliss: They experience the Blissful state by practising Spirituality without expectation (nishkam sadhana)

4.6 Realising the importance only when the need arises

One considers the thing that one needs to be of importance whereas, we do not give importance to others. The same holds good with Spirituality. One realises its importance only when one requires it! One who does not require it says, “I am content with my family and worldly life. What will I achieve by repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name, meditating and undergoing suffering? Besides I cannot find the time to spare for it too.”

5. Why is man interested in Spirituality?

5.1 Desire to find out the Creator

Each one feels like finding out the one from whom he has been created and feels like returning to Him. For instance when one comes of age, if one comes to know that one’s mother is foster and that the real one is elsewhere, then one goes in search of her. If one goes on a vacation to a beautiful foreign land, at some point one feels like returning home. Similarly, each one feels at least subtly like going in search of the Creator and desires to return to Him.

5.2 Desire to go from the impermanent to the permanent

One feels like giving this impermanent life a support of the permanent (Spirituality). That is, one feels like going from incompleteness to Absoluteness at some time or the other as there is a certainty of finding everlasting Bliss on this path.

Reference: ‘Spirituality’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.

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