The term ‘Spirituality’ is hard to define. The scope and extent of the subject is so vast and varied in its many aspects that it can hardly be put into so many words. Suffice it to say that it deals with the immutable and eternal facts of life- the active principles that are enlivening the entire creation.
The quest for the ‘Spirit’ and for the ‘Laws of Spirituality’ has ever been in the human breast from the dawn of consciousness in man; yet with all its hoary antiquity, the subject retains its freshness as ever before and shall continue to do so. The Spirit or Soul is the vital flame in man, in the light and life of which he lives and has his being, and no wonder that in every clime and in every age, the leaders of spiritual thought- the sages and seers, the saints and sadhs- have attempted to solve the mystery of life.
The subject of Spirituality is concerned purely with the problems connected with the Spirit or Soul – to wit, its origin or source, what it is, its seat in the body and its relation thereto, how it functions in the physical world, whether it is possible to separate it at will from the body and bodily adjuncts, the mind and the senses, and if so, the various processes connected therewith. It deals with the spiritual journey through different spiritual planes and the spirit’s capability of traversing the same, the ultimate goal or destination to which this journey leads, and other allied topics, such as the welfare of the spirit, how to feed it and with what, for on its health depends the health of the mind and the body. These are some of the vital questions that fall within the purview of the inquiry.
Spirituality is more a practical science than a mere theoretical dissertation. The various scriptures of the different religions of the world provide us with the theoretical aspect only and cannot give us a demonstrative experience of the Reality in the laboratory of the human body. Writings like the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Avesta of the Zoroastrians, the Tripatakas of the Buddhists, the Gospels, the Quran, the Adi Granth, Triratanas of the Jains, and other canonical literature and extra-canonical works, with their commentaries, etc., medieval and modern (the Mahabhasyas, the Angas and Upangas, etc.), all might point the Way but have no power to take us there. Their chief merit lies in the spade-work they do in creating an interest in the aspirants for Paravidya or the Knowledge of the Beyond. But the Transcendental Experience can be gained only from a Living Master, a Murshid-i-Kamil, well versed and competent in the practical aspects of Spirituality. Life and Light can come only from the Living-impulse of a Master Saint, whose glance of grace is more than enough to quicken higher life in the disciple.
The greatest teachers of humanity make use according to the individual needs of the disciple, of all the three methods: (i) Anva or Gross, that is, imparting spiritual instructions by word of mouth; (ii) Shakta or subtle, that is, instilling higher spiritual consciousness in the disciple without his having to go through the external sadhan or discipline; and (iii) Shambhava or Transcendental, that is, raising the disciple, in infinite mercy, to the highest stage of Realisation without his having to do anything at all. As an unerring guide on the inner spiritual path, he appears in his Radiant Form (Guru-Dev) and accompanies the spirit when it transcends the body consciousness while living or at the time of death, and as a veritable Master of Truth (Satguru) he works out the Divine Plan. The need for such a Master-soul who can at once work on the various planes, as Guru, Guru- Dev and Satguru, cannot be over-emphasized.
In a nut-shell ‘Spirituality’ contents itself only with “Self-Realisation” and “God- Realisation.” It has, therefore, nothing to do with institutionalised religions or religiosity, the externalized show of religion, new age fad, and the sales of that which we mostly see nowadays.
Spirituality may be distinguished from sectarianism. While most of the great religions of the world tend to become more and more sectarian in their outlook, Spirituality ever remains universal, with its appeal to people of all the religions who can come to and join this Studium Generale or Universal Mystery School for practical training. As opposed to the sealed or codified religions, Spirituality is an open book of God, with the living touch of the Masters who present it from age to age in the spirit of the age. In this scientific age, it is presented as any other science, with mathematical precision and results verifiable on scientific lines.
The term ‘Spirituality’ is not to be confused with (i) Spiritism, or belief in the existence of guides, spirits, or what not apart from matter, which, when disembodied, haunt the nether regions as ghosts, or the lower planes of the astral regions as angels. (ii) Spiritualism, or belief in the survival of human personality and in communication between the living and those who have ‘passed on,’ in the form of spirit rapping, planchette writing, etc. etc. etc. (iii) Mesmerism, or producing a state of trance by the consciously exerted ‘animal magnetism’ of the operator so as to subordinate the will-power of his subject. (iv) Hypnotism, which produces a kind of deep sleep in which the conscious-ness is suspended and the patient is made susceptible to the suggestions of the hypnotist. Spirituality, on the contrary, is the science of developing Higher Consciousness in Man on the level of the soul, and making one transcend from mere body consciousness into Cosmic Consciousness and further on into Super Consciousness, so as to enable one to understand the working of the Divine Plan.