Like most other aspects of life, spirituality has always remained a matter of subjective interpretation. Questions pertaining to morality, religion and spiritual wisdom have been an arcana to human mind since the genesis of humankind. An extremely intriguing and confounding question regarding spirituality is that whether the path of spiritual enlightenment can be treaded upon individually or with help of our interconnections with other people. For certain people, spirituality can be achieved by inculcating inner disciple and strength. For them being spiritual is about taking a journey within themselves. Perfecting the art of meditation becomes integral to such a spiritual quest. It naturally also involves a disciplinary seclusion from various material and social pursuits of life. Throughout history, various philosophical schools have emphasized the importance of exclusive meditation as a means of realising one’s spiritual abilities. Several saints and distinguished religious leaders are known to have renounced their temporal existence and isolated themselves from social connections for attaining spiritual knowledge. In this perspective religion and spirituality are highly individual and personalized experiences.
However on the flip side of the coin is an another perspective which views spirituality as a collective experience which humans together create through their interconnections with one another. Early societies and contemporary tribal cultures are a perfect example of such collaborative spiritual quest. Aboriginal village communities would be highly dominated by the personal relations which the members shared between themselves. Religion always had an influential role in the life of such communities and each individual was an ardent participant in the religious affairs of the community. Totemism was the most prominent religious practice for early villagers and the tribals around the globe. It was a belief system which had more to do with spirituality rather than religion. The belief in spirits behind every natural phenomenon governed the life of people. There would be elaborate customs and celebrations in order to please those spirits. Community dances and music would be performed with all community people dressing and masking themselves up. The energy which exuded from this collective union of people would almost intoxicate each one of them and they would psychologically experience a state of trance. For them, this itself was spirituality which would transcend the barriers of the body, place and time. It resembled a collective meditative practice. Like what is said by the Buddha “Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else“.
Even in contemporary times there are sporadic tribal and miscellaneous groups in hinterland of India, which believe in invoking spirits by performing elaborate rituals. The distinctive element of these rituals is that the individuals involved go through extreme forms of physical experiments in the process. The physical ordeal experienced by such people feels trivial to them as psychologically they feel transported to an almost oblivious state. In such a social milieu, the spiritual reality emanates from togetherness which people jointly create rather than an individual’s independent quest. Worshipping in groups is in fact still a prominent practice in several Indian religions. Various religious rituals manifest themselves in communal festivities. Bhajans and satsangs are just another instance where individuals try to attain a state of spiritual bliss.
Thus paths to spirituality are myriad, with each one as starkly different from each other, as human perspective itself. While for some, spirituality is a deep dive within one’s soul to find the real meaning of existence, for others it can be achieved through transcending one’s own being and joining others. Sometimes the spirit of cohesion and group- bonding create an entity which is much larger and stronger than any individual in isolation. Whatever be the path to spiritual wisdom, it is only the realization of ultimate truth which liberates an individual from the grind of the mundane. Each one of us has been destined to achieve a unique purpose in the world. The sooner we decipher they purpose the closer we get to eternal truth of life. Ultimately as put in the Buddhist philosophy “just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life”.
(The writer is a former officer of Government of Uttarakhand)
Friday, 15 March 2019 | Neeraj Kumar Pande| in Devbhoomi Spiritual
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