On the face of it, both appear to be the same but there are some very subtle differences.What we commonly understand about Religion is that it is all about worshipping a particular God or Gods.What most of us do not understand is that at the core of each accepted religion in the world,the basic truth and essence is to attain God/the Supreme Being/the Creator,who dwells actually within us!Many methods have been described to do so,and most have been modified by the so called “guardians”(priests,religious leaders etc)who have done so largely based on their interpretations.Their interpretations were very often coloured by their paucity of understanding the truth as it actually is and resulted in misconceptions being passed down the ages.The “original” saints who understood God and realized Him had formulated sets of teachings which got twisted around to suit the ‘guardians” and disciples they left behind.We,therefore,came to believe that God could be found only by such and such a person or in such and such a place,meaning a temple/church/mosque or any place of worship and that He could only be achieved by resorting to practices laid down by that particular religion.Some religious teachers also tought that if you did not believe in their religion then you had,perhaps sinned and that you would never be able to achieve salvation,that if you did not do what God wanted you to,He would punish you(what you should and should not do was and is often decided by these religious teachers/priests etc.) They even went to the extent of saying that all other religions should not be tolerated as it was wrong to do so.Some waged wars to convert others to their faith.So many unrealized religious leaders have deviated so much as to instill hate in their followers and egg them on to commit acts of terrorism leading to the killing of so many innocent people,even of their own faith.They label it as ‘Jihad”….which ultimately leads to the death of the person committing the act himself.This is the danger of ill understood religion.
Religions,as we can now perceive have deviated from their original purpose of teaching us that God resides inside us,that we are part of Him and that our aim is to go back to Him!This is the essence of spirituality.Religion can lead us to Him by invoking spirituality in us but only if we take the trouble to understand its true essence.
Spirituality teaches us that to know and to achieve God we must learn to know ourselves first,(as we have been made in the image of God) and to look within(and not search for Him outside in temples/mosques/churches or other places of worship only).He is omnipresent and resides everywhere,in each and every being since every being is a part of Him,having originated from HIm.Since He is present inside the breast of every human being,where is the difference between one human being and another?Is it so difficult to fathom that we are all interconnected?we truly are interconnected,as we all originate from the same source and each and every one of us is basically the same,(though we may look different).At the core we are all one.
Spirituality makes us realize that God is very compassionate and whatever He does is for our good.He keeps giving us choices at every step,the type of seeds we sow depend on the type of choices we make.If we choose to be jealous,envious,hateful,wicked,unkind,angry... ultimately the same will come back and haunt us and lead to suffering,hurt,misery,feelings of sadness etc.On the contrary,by sowing seeds of love,affection,help,kindness,compassion…we ultimately experience the same. We,therefore, must learn to be compassionate to our fellow beings,for by hurting them we are actually hurting Him and us in the process.We need to be patient and kind to others.There is so much truth in the saying”this world is like an echo…it all comes back,the good,the evil and the generosity….so give the world the best that you have and the best shall be returned to you”(author unknown)
In a nutshell,by attaining the “spirit”dwelling inside us we attain God as the spirit or soul is a part and parcel of Him.At the present time no religion teaches us the correct method of attaining Him but insists on rituals and dogmas.We,have,therefore,been made to believe that worshipping God only means chanting/singing/preaching to appease Him,then ask God to grant us a favour! Are we not being selfish?
By looking within we can realize God and can become ONE with Him.A spiritual person,once successful in seeking Him within (by the opening of his third eye,at the centre of the forhead) gradually transcends all the so called rituals and ‘sees”the beauty of His creation everywhere,in the beauty of flowers,chirping of birds,the gently flowing water in a river,the myriads of colours in the sky,the beauty of the sun rising or setting.He appreciates the sound of silence by hearing the soothing music,always playing inside his breast!Slowly but surely he progresses to become part of Him when “bliss”at all times becomes a reality in the form of that all pervading light,the light of enlightenment.He learns just “to Be’,when feelings of hate/anger/jealousy/fear cease to have any meaning because for him only love and Bliss matter….love for all in the true sense of the word,since that is all that matters.
Jesus Christ has said “That which is born of the flesh is flesh;that which is born as Spirit is Spirit”.Swami Yoganand Paramhans has so beautifully interpreted it to mean that unless we can transcend the body and realize ourselves as Spirit,we cannot enter the kingdom or state of the Universal Spirit.He further quotes a Sanskrit couplet of the Hindu scriptures:”If thou canst transcend the body and perceive as spirit,thou shalt be eternally blissful,free from all pain”.
All this is certainly possible but with the help of a god realized “guru’/teacher/Swami who has actually traversed this entire path himself and is part of Him.There have been such teachers in so many faiths namely Jesus Christ/Prophet Mohammed/Gautam Budha/Kabir/Guru Nanak….but have we listened to their core teachings? We revere all of them since they knew and felt God,which is what we should strive to do….but only by following their true teachings and by alighning ourselves with our spirit/soul by looking within where He resides.