“You are spiritual, aren’t you?”

Perhaps one of the most sought after experiential paradigm, as well as a mocked word, for the 21st century is “spirituality”.

While many disciplines such as philosophy, psychology and religious studies academically approach the subject with professionalism, at least some of the so called academic social critiques, use the word as if it means nothing to them personally, and therefore a piece of joke.

Everyone defines his or her own spiritual seeking, and ways of actualising the spiritual goals, we could say from a broad understanding of what is spirituality. This means one could have a set of values that goes beyond ones immediate interests, as well as the recognition of a space which is deeply personal that connects to a sense of the beyond, which in turn gives mental maturity and quietude.

It is ironic that the modern world in daily life sees huge amount of psychological break down, weak family relations, interpersonal strife, disrespect for the other, violence, and in general reduced physical and mental health and well being. At the same time, there is an increased affinity towards ones moving to discover a space which is deeper personally, and more meaningful.

Perhaps owing to the hugely successful spiritual “companies” that also serve as business models, the mainstream view, at least of the fence-sitting-academic critiques, is that to be spiritual is a mockery of sorts.

Have these critiques, who almost have a prophetic and know-all, care-least attitude, thought about the philosophical underpinnings of “spirituality”, and the English word, which do not have an exact translation in the Indian languages that do not invoke the word “spirit”, but the first-person “atma”? The “spirit” in spirituality is almost a misnomer when seen in the context of “aadhyaatmikata”, or “aatmavidya”.

In fact if we check any of the Indian philosophical texts, there is no prescription for “spirituality”. The purushartha model of nature of actions talks about primary duties according to personality types, life stage, and profession. More significantly, there is enough discussion on values that are not just ethical, but also community building and mind-deepening pointing to better inclusivity and identification of connectedness in existence. The deeper enquiry is about the self and the person.

I have also heard people saying that they are spiritual and hence they run away from their responsibilities and decisions already committed too. The fence-sitting critiques of “spirituality” largely consider running away from the active world or commitments as the definition of being spiritual, and hence also use the same trend as an act of mockery. But who has qualified such an act to be of spiritual quality?

If a Buddha and Adi Sankara “ran away” from homes in search of the beyond, we have to also keep in mind that their calling was different, and commitments were different. They didn’t ran away from fulfilment of actions that were expected of them, but re-defined the nature of choice and freedom in its truest sense.

To be “spiritual” is perhaps the most private thing for an individual, and one need to respect that privacy. At the same if the actions that spring out of the private perceptions and actions inspired thereby, do not have a place for self-respect, self-dignity, and respect for the other, then we are just playing with words, and do not engage with the possibility transformative experiences. In brief, it is all about, putting oneself into the shoe of “spirituality” and asking am I spiritual?

But it is more important to know that by invoking the word “spiritual” we are essentially talking about the person – the you and me  – and in that process – none of us get to escape the test of having to ask oneself  – “am I spiritual?” 

Or in other words – am I ready for self-reflection?
Can I ask “am I spiritual?” instead of “aren’t you spiritual?
Because the crux of spiritual experience is the I-question than the You-question.

And if you are missing that “I”, and seeing only the “other”, you miss the Point all together !!!

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