Religion is defined as a set of beliefs centered around spirituality that concern the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
Spirituality is defined as practice and principles pertaining to the incorporeal or immaterial aspect of nature, the principle of conscious life, which acknowledges that a supernatural, incorporeal being is animating the body.
In short what these definitions point out is that religion, at its best, may be able to make a practice out of spirituality. But spirituality, which is the heart of religion, does not need religion to exist. What's more, religion may even get in the way of spirituality. We must acknowledge that for some, religion has been a much enjoyed system of security, faith and hope. But for many others, the inherent flaws of religion have caused them to turn their backs on spirituality entirely. You could say that their negative experiences with religion have caused them to "throw the baby out with the bathwater".
Though religion does not have to get in the way of spirituality, it often does. Spirituality, which is present within every religion, gets lost in the human imposed details. It is an essence, which is obscured by human rules, doctrine, penance and righteousness. The denominational nature of religion often serves to divide people when the very principal that is supposed to be at the heart of most religions is love.
In our world today it is easy to see that religion has often become more of a culture war between people than a means to find personal meaning, happiness and morality. Religion has also been used throughout history to justify all manner of atrocities, violence and oppression. Religion can be what brings us into contact with the spiritual nature of our universe. It can also be what causes many of us to look for that spiritual essence beyond the material in the first place. But it can also be what prevents us from finding it. Like a blind fold, the details involved with religious observance can prevent a person from asking questions and what's worse, prevent a person from the understanding that all spiritual answers come from within.
Sadly, when people commit to one religion, they tend to become devoted to the institution and lose the essence of what attracted them in the first place. When you look at each major religion in the world today, you find peace, love and compassion at the core of its doctrines. It is common logic therefore to say that to see as much fighting in the name of God as we do, something within religious practice has gone drastically wrong.
Spirituality and religion are the two fundamentals that one is required to follow simultaneously. However, spirituality can exist without religion but religion can not exist without spirituality. Spiritual practice focuses on the acknowledgement of spirit and higher knowing in every living thing. It is then easy to see how a person who is closed and confined to the righteousness of only one religion (adhering to the idea that there is only one true God and one true religion) cannot be truly spiritual. Spirituality is individual. It is beyond human imposed worldview.
Religion however is an institutional practice of spirituality. It is composed of human beings, invented by human beings. It is influenced by cultural views, and at the mercy of the limited and even flawed perception of the human mind. It is at the mercy of human fear, human error and human prejudice. When permeated by human worldview, religion often becomes a tool to protect one's own self interest and way of life against others. It becomes a tool of exclusion instead of inclusion.
It has been said that spirituality can be compared to a succulent fruit. And religion can be compared to the peel of that fruit. While both spirituality and religion are parts of the fruit, many people get stuck in the peel of the fruit (religion) and never move on to the deeper truths and experiences inherent in the fruit (spirituality).
If we are conscious enough, religion does not have to restrict or get in the way of spirituality, because a truly spiritual person will seek out the spiritual nectar inherent in all religious philosophies. He or she can be seen as a collector of the nectar present in every religion. Like a bee who flies from one flower to the next in search of the nectar within, a truly spiritual person can entertain all religions long enough to extract the "divine" from the "less than divine" that is present therein.
The Quran states that all humans are born with the knowledge of God within themselves. The Bible states that the kingdom of heaven lies within you. The Bhagwat states that we can find salvation within, and the Buddha taught that enlightenment was found within. What these divine truths clearly demonstrate is that the spirituality that is at the heart of nearly every religion need not be found through the venue of religion. Instead, it is an inseparable part of us that is available to us however and whenever we choose to seek it.
Religion can be a map that sets us on course towards an inner quest to find the answers we seek. But it is important to acknowledge that if misinterpreted or incorrectly written, that map can lead us in the opposite direction from where we want to go. Conversely, if we are aware that the answers to our questions have resided deep inside us all along, (whether we begin our journey hand in hand with a specific religion or not) we can delve deep into our own individual faith, and spirituality. We can let our individual spirituality (rather than anything external of us) guide us like a north star towards all that we seek.
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