The Spiritual Dimension of Your Religion

Spiritual Dimension

by Jayaram V

Question: I think religions have done a lot of damage to the world and obstructed its progress. I sometimes feel that the world would have been a better place without religions and the violence and conflicts that are caused by them. Frankly, do we need religions and religious labels at all?

On the surface, religions seem to cause a lot of discord, but in truth it is the people who create the division and disharmony. Every religion has a ritual and a spiritual dimension. It also has a worldly aspect, which is chiefly responsible for the negativity associated with it.

Fortunately, the worldly dimension has a limited appeal and influence, although at times it can be the source of a major social or political upheaval. What sustains the religions are their spiritual and ethical dimensions. Since they are based upon eternal values that are timeless, they ensure their continuity and survival.

As the world progresses and people become increasingly educated and self-aware, they will turn to spirituality and rediscover the hidden value of faith in their lives. For the time being, it appears that religions are losing ground to scientific realism and materialistic ideologies.

However, at some point the spiritual nature of human beings will reemerge from the shadows and assert itself as human nature will not be able to reconcile itself to the dreadful, empty existentialism or the philosophies of self-interest or group interest.

Religions become a problem when they are used for material ends rather than practiced for spiritual ends. Religions have a long history. They have proven their worth in the past by ensuring the continuity of our civilization and consolidating the humanity’s moral and spiritual values. Even today, for most people religions form the core of their worldviews, values and beliefs and help them navigate through life.

Each religion has a social dimension and a personal dimension. It has aspects that collectively appeal to a whole group of people and aspects that are purely personal, spiritual and inspirational and appeal to each follower.

When they represent groups and classes, religions come under the dark and heavy influence of human passions and aggression, whereas at the individual level, they play a significant role in transforming and improving their character and conduct and helping them find meaning and purpose in life.

Unfortunately, the social dimension takes precedence in public affairs and attracts wider attention as it creates more noise and conflicts. Religions lose their shine and sanctity when they are dragged into human conflicts and used by power players to further their aims. When people are drawn into the medley of group loyalties and resultant confusion and conflicts, it degrades them and leads to crises of faith.

In the conflicts of human egos, religions are mute witnesses, whose authority is frequently invoked by morally corrupt minds to justify their acts of violence, passion and incitement. Amidst the chaos, which it creates, even the quiet ones cannot remain silent as they are obliged to defend their faith and stand their ground.

In the hands of evil people, religions can incite the worst of the human passions and draw even the sane ones into the middle of conflicts. Unfortunately, there is no immediate solution to this problem because it is difficult to reason with those whose minds are clouded by the darkness of ignorance and prejudice. It is even more difficult when it helps a few to invoke religious authority and control people for selfish ends.

Your faith has the potential to transform your life and elevate your consciousness. Your affinity with your religion is a part of your destiny. You can use it to become a better human being and forge a deeply personal connection with the God you worship. Problems arise only when you do not practice your religion or do not live its ideals but use it to express your anger or incite passions for egoistic reasons.

Everything in the world can be used for constructive or destructive purposes. Religions are not an exception. Whatever may be your religion, focus on those teachings and aspects of your faith which elevate you and make you a better person. Pay attention to the personal dimension or the spiritual dimension rather than the social dimension or the worldly dimension.

Every religion has a spiritual core, which teaches the importance of cultivating virtues such as love, compassion, charity, truthfulness, obedience to God, etc., and transcend the baser nature. All religions emphasize the moral imperative for people to live responsibly with deeper awareness, discretion, caution and intelligence. They teach you how to overcome your own negativity and the impurities of your mind and body to establish peace and happiness deep in you and work for your spiritual transformation.

Focus on these spiritual aspects of your faith and put them to effective use. If you cannot accept any known religion, develop your own personal, spiritual philosophy according to your experience, observation and awareness and make that your essential faith.

It is not necessary that you should follow an organized religion or an established religion. You can follow your own philosophy, integrating the best of the principles, moral and teachings and making it more personal and relevant to your spiritual needs.

In Hinduism and Buddhism you have that freedom. The purpose of any religion is to inculcate faith in your own spiritual possibilities and your destiny as a spiritual person who radiates the highest wisdom and the best moral and spiritual values. In that aim, these two ancient Dharmas fulfill their promise.

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