Prevailing notions on “What is Spirituality”?

Before settling down to blog an essay on “What is Spirituality?”,  I wanted to clarify in my mind the prevailing view or notions on this question. Following is not an exhaustive or scientific study. But it is a random sample of what is readily available as the answers to our above question.

The synonyms you find for “Spiritual” in the Microsoft prompt are: religious, holy, saintly, pious, sacred, devout, divine. You find a similar close connection with religion for the meaning of the word “spirituality” in the Merriam’s Dictionary as well. Hence at the outset, we are confronted with a need to clarify in our mind the non-denominational nature of spirituaity and its cousins associated with religion and religious practices. The notion that spirituality is linked to theology or mysticism arises from the generally perceived close connection between religious practices and spiritual practices.

A quick Google search resulted in the following excerpts on spirituality:

Spirituality: predominantly spiritual character as shown in thought, life, etc.; spiritual tendency or tone. Something needs to be added to that: what this “spiritual” character is, however. …..

That is, it is almost like faith to believe in yourself like that, so it is like religion. The relationship between faith/religion and spirituality then is that both are “higher” methods of understanding the world. Spirituality is just focused on the self, while religion is focused on god. So there is an inner peace that spirituality brings because spirituality is about yourself. You can also say it is about your soul, ……. Also use of the word soul, like that is using energy from your soul, appeals more to your higher morals which you would consider to be more consistent with who you are at the core.

You can see the difficulty of this writer in finding a clear meaning for “Spirituality”. One can see such diffuse descriptions repeated often in many blogs.

We also see a more broader and less ecclesiastical description of Spirituality, such as the one below:

The definition of spirituality is that which relates to or affects the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. Spirituality touches that part of you that is not dependent on material things or physical comforts.  Whatever makes you feel peaceful, joyful and content is spirituality.

• Notice all the acts of kindness and good you encounter throughout your day, that’s spirituality.

• Devote just a few minutes a day to quietly meditate on all the good things in your life, that’s spirituality.

• Read books that inspire you and touch your heart. That will help determine your personal definition of spirituality. Listen to spiritually focused teachers . There are many that inspire and teach an everyday approach to spirituality.

From the above one can infer that spirituality has some abstract or intangible aspect associated with it. It is like knowledge inside of you vs. the information in the book! It appears that aspects of spirituality reflect in our inner comfort, a sense of contentment and an indescribable joy that arises out of it. There is a lot written on this aspect of spirituality.

Following is another blog with some what exhaustive exchange on “Spirituality” that started with a basic purpose: to answer a question that came up across the kitchen table between a dad and his son! A small segment of this blog exchange is copied as noted below:

My dad posed this question to me in a rather defensive matter. We were debating about those hard questions, I brought up spirituality, and he asked “What is that?” in order to stump me. And it kind of did.
I said that no one knows what gravity is, but the effects are present. No one may know what spirituality is, but we know it controls our well-being, purpose, drive, relationships, and other areas of our life, arguably ALL areas.
So what is yours?
  Mine so far:
Spirituality is the attraction of our thoughts, feelings, etc. to the self. Not just the ego self, but all areas of the self, including work, health, and every area of life, especially an interconnection between everyone and everything. I am still tweaking it. Also, I want some Ideas, so I can tell my dad!

Following were a few responses found in the same blog (link as noted above):

Only when people are ready to accept the jump,  will they start to subjectively experience spirituality. Otherwise, it’s like trying to explain love as a series of electro-chemical signals in your brain.
My definition of spirituality is to reconnect with the nature of Divinity/God in all of its forms — Truth, Love, Beauty, Bliss, Joy, Peace etc.

Spirituality is more like continuously deferring to intuition and your heart to decide on things, not just as random flashes of insight, but as a continuous way of life. Logic/intellect/mind cannot tell truth from falsehood; given a few wrong assumptions, you can prove anything you want. But usually that “gut feeling” you get always tells you what you need to know, even though you sometimes can’t logically find a reason for it.
Spirituality and truth is self-evident, you can’t — and don’t need to — prove it. Peace is better than war, Love is better than hate, Wisdom is better than ignorance; pretty basic stuff, right? But the society of the 400s is still plagued with crime and suffering and injustice, because using logic based on flawed premises leads to wrong conclusions, and the mind innately cannot tell what is true or false. But if you stuck with just simple spiritual truths like, be kind and loving to every living thing… life would be a lot better

Spirituality – the process, methods, act, and experience of connecting to the infinite vastness of deep truth. connecting to the core self. It’s experiential, subjective, and inevitable. By existing, we are practicing spirituality.  Of course, not everyone is doing so with intention. but I think, to exist at all, in any form, is to be spiritual. the process of being spirit(ual) is spirituality.

 As the reader can see. There are many views and definitions. One is reminded of the statement from Bhagawath Geetha: “The truth is one. The wise and learned describe them in many ways”!

Finally, I checked the word “Spirit” and found synonyms like: strength, courage, character, guts, will, strength of mind, force, fortitude, etc. Then it appears to me that: Spirituality is our conscious or will full ability as individuals and collectively to observe and exercise the capabilities of our human spirit in a manner that binds us (our inner self) with everything external to it. We shall discuss this definition further, in our future blogs.

The common notion that spirituality is something “good” arises with the implicit assumption that traits such as strength, courage, character, fortitude, etc. are rooted in positive thoughts and positive intents. To the extent that religion is generally the means for developing our positive human tendencies, one can see the perceived or implied connection between spirituality and religion. But, religion, religious beliefs and practices are not the necessary conditions or pre-requisites for spirituality. But, we also see that the spiritual journey of every master – like Buddha – and their pronouncements on their experiences of spirituality becomes codified into a religion!

BG suggests that any and all aspect of our existence is a constant mixture of three traits: Ignorance, Turbulence (or emotional biases) and Tranquility (objectivity, knowledge and understanding). Recall our quote from BG, which suggests that features of the human like fortitude (stamina, determination, consistency) – normally taken as a positive quality – could be rooted in these three tendencies.

It is conceivable that spirituality – exercise of the attributes of the human spirit – could also be rooted in ignorance, turbulence and tranquility! Hence it is worthwhile to reflect on what we mean by being “spiritual”? Such reflection on what we do in any and all aspects of life and living is also the beginning of “Self Realization”. In that regard, evolution in spirituality and evolution in self-realization grow together. We shall also discuss this synergy in spirituality and self-realization in our future blogs.

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5 Responses to Prevailing notions on “What is Spirituality”?

  1. sipractce says:

    This is so awesome! loved it ! Thanks . — Malini
    Thanks for the blog on Spirituality! A good one. —- Madhavan


  2. jayanthi says:

    You get an “E” for EXCELLENT. Well researched and well thought of idea. Thanks!


  3. Kumar says:

    You’ve taken on a tough one! and started sorting it out in a very logical and practical fashion!

    Your definition (in sutrified form): Spirituality is the use of our conscious ability to exercise the capabilities of our human spirit to bind our inner self with everything external to it. I feel we have to go beyond binding as a first step to using that experience and the knowledge it brings to evolve ourselves further consiously. In that spirit, I propose the following broader definition, from my book The Age of Ananda: Spirituality is the knowledge and practice of conscious evolution. Conscious evolution is the deliberate process of realizing our Self and then using that knowledge to drive our further evolution physically, mentally, and spiritually, but all of it always consciously.

    Thanks for taking the time to compile such useful web notes and then framing your own thoughtful definition. I look forward to your further postings here soon, and your response to my take!



  4. Nisha says:

    “I possess implicit faith in the universe. I believe there is meaning behind all events in life, and that all events are connected. I trust there to be a reason for whatever I am going through, no matter how challenging. I believe the universe only deals me the cards it knows I can handle; therefore I rest assured that I will always come out on the other side – alive, well, and wise.

    The ability to maintain unyielding faith in the universe as a friend, as a mentor, as a loyal guide through life – this is my personal definition of spirituality. ”

    (And I might as well quote Paulo Coelho while I’m at it: ““The boy was beginning to understand that intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist)


    • sipractce says:

      Just a feed back comment:
      Universe exists and we are part of it. While that is the reality, it takes a special
      effort to acknowledge that simple truth. The degree to which we imbibe that reality, determines the degree
      of progress in us as individuals. Such understanding – acknowldegement – helps us to move away from being mere individuals to becoming part of the larger, the universe.
      Along with this expanded view of “who I am?” comes a change in our outlook, our behavior, our choices, our being
      good to each other, our living in harmony with the universe, etc.
      This evolution is generally described under various terms including “spirituality”.


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