Who is a spiritual person? To find an answer I googled the images for Spiritual persons! Try and do your own search. You might be surprised as I was! Almost all of the images that came up were all people meditating, sitting in silence in some remote place. The persons you could identify were the Pope, Dalai Lama, and Mahathma Gandhi. While we all respect these people, would anyone have to become a Pope or Dalai Lama in order to be spiritual?
I wonder if Mahathma Gandhi would have been included in the spiritual camp if he stuck to his efforts in politics and freedom movement without venturing into his explorations in truth at all cost, caring for the poor and the elimination of the caste system and other social issues? Martin Luther King, a close follower of Gandhi and also a pastor is not readily recognized as a spiritual leader. It requires a research article titled: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as Spiritual Leader” to affirm that. His Spiritual leadership is one of vision, hope/faith and altruistic love considered as essential qualities of a spiritual person.
Then there are also notions of a spiritual person as a recluse, seeking loneliness and silence. Would anyone want to be asked: “Are you a spiritual introvert?”
To be spiritual is often taken to be associated with being religious – like bread and butter – unless you make this separation explicit. Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice states, ““I am a very spiritual person. Maybe not traditionally religious in terms of Sunday mass every week, that sort of thing”.
Dr. Margaret Paul, in her blog writes: A spiritual person cares about people, animals and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all One, and consciously attempts to honor this Oneness. A spiritual person is a kind person. So, you can go to church or temple or other places of worship regularly and say your prayers every day, without caring about loving yourself, others and the planet. You can practice yoga and meditate every day without being conscious of what is loving and what is not loving in your thoughts and actions. You can belong to a spiritual group and devotedly follow the teachings, yet still be judgmental toward yourself and others in your daily life.
To be a spiritual person you need to take the time to understand what is “Spirituality”? One cannot be a truthful person without knowing the difference between a lie and a truth! You cannot be rooted in reality without an understanding of what is real and what is fantasy?
First we need to state clearly what spirituality is not?
Spirituality is not being religious, reclusive or a life of a monastic. They could be practices or way of life for some spiritual persons. But they are not the primary requirements.
Spirituality is not Yoga or meditation. You can be a spiritual person without ever contorting your body or forcefully constraining your mind to think of nothing! They could be means to the end of spirituality. But these pathways are not exclusive.
Finally “Spirituality” may not be an end state. One may be spiritual for a moment or for periods of time. In fact your spirituality is like your health. You are in good health in most metrics and most of the time! No one is ideal and hence 100% spiritual all the time just as there are no persons who are 100% healthy all the time or truthful 100% in all his thoughts and words. You can lend yourself to be absorbed in the fantasy of a movie, play or story in a book, without being called delusional! The same goes for being a spiritual person as well. Occasional transgressions are part of life.
Now that we have stated what spirituality is not, let us look at what spirituality is?
We can think of spirituality as “rooted in the spirit or consciousness”. (Analogs: reality = rooted in what is real; totality = in total or as a summation, etc.).
Nothing exists other than our ignorance, bias and knowledge at any time on any subject or in any event or activity. Our perceptions, feelings and thoughts – the subjective you – are impressions on your consciousness through these three lenses or connectors. One who understands this basic principle is well on his/her way to spirituality.
One who relates to the world through reflection and hence observation of the role of these connectors is a spiritual person. He/she observes the consciousness or the spirit within and how it is reflected in his/her subjective world (of body, mind and intellect). This reflection can be for a moment, in a given activity, for a period of time or over a life time. One can be spiritual for any of these time periods.
A spiritual person is objective (based on reflection and reasoning) and not subjective (rush to judgement). A spiritual person is decisive, but open to change his mind based on further observations or evidences. A spiritual person reflects and then acts and not shoot from the hip (judgmental).
Self-control and calm state of mind – hence yoga and meditation – are the building blocks of a spiritual person. But they are merely tools and not the end by themselves. Reflective nature of a spiritual person should not be mistaken for a recluse. Objective nature of a spiritual person makes him/her speak the truth or express views which may not be crowd pleasing (after all a spiritual person sees truth/lie as outcome of evidences and not based on any preconceived notions). The objectivity enables the spiritual person to be at ease with a wide circle of people, situations and activities. A spiritual person seeks out situation where a need exists. This makes him/her service oriented and caring. Reflection and addressing a real need are the motive and not a false sense of “savior of the world” mindset.
Spirituality by its nature dispels deep and unbridled desire or passion for anything or anyone. This is non-attachment and not detachment. Spiritual person is fully engaged in any activity due to his/her mindfulness (as the mind is not distracted by momentary perturbations, likes, unbridled desire, built up emotions, etc.)
Spiritual person is aware that some ignorance is an inherent part of oneself at all times. This awareness of self-ignorance permits the spiritual person to be kind to the self. Awareness of potential for ignorance anywhere permits the spiritual person to be kind to others and accommodate their preferences and bias. To the extent any religion teaches methods to promote tolerance and inclusiveness, the spiritual person can also be seen as religious.
Now you might quietly say to yourself “Yes. I am a spiritual person”! May be you will also look for spirituality in every one of us, rather than grouping some as spiritual and distinct from others?
Scriptures tell us that everyone and everything is spiritual at its core. We need to remove the outer layers of ignorance and bias to see the spirituality everywhere. Spirituality is like the sun shine, wind or space that exists all around. While these are ideals expressed , each of us need to find ways to reduce them to practice in our own ways. That is Spirituality in Practice?
A spiritual person recognizes that the subjective world around him/her are the result of the three connectors: Ignorance, bias and knowledge/understanding Thus he/she can focus on the consciousness within oneself and remain steady or unshaken. A spiritual person relies on his/her own self. He/she has an objective and balanced frame of mind, where opposites such as happiness and sorrow, dear and not so dear, praise and blame are equal in effect. He/she has a value system, where a piece of clay, a stone and a piece of gold are of equal significance. A spiritual person perceives honor and dishonor, friendship and enmity as equal. Such a person does not initiate any actions based solely on personal or self-driven needs. A spiritual person (of Self-control through internal reflection) reflects divinity through his thoughts, words, and action. B.G. 14. – 23 to 27.