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Spirituality, Religion, Beliefs, and Devotion


There is a great tendency for certain niceties in the area of religious debate.  One, it is fashionable to say that “All religions (and believers, by default) are equal in how they approach God.  Two, that ONLY religions have given valid paths to God.  By corollary, if we collate the “ways” of all the religions, we will have all the paths to God.

In my humble opinion, these two arguments are nonsensical and useless to a Spiritual seeker.  First, let’s talk of faith.

Faith or Belief has nothing to do with God or Spiritual journey.  If you want to find something (say a diamond ring you misplaced in your house) – you are either looking for it (seeker) or have found it (realized).  Belief or faithfulness is useless if one is looking. What good is sitting down on your sofa and declaring – I am a complete believer that the ring will be found and give a wide smile of confidence.  Such a person is either a joker or an idiot!

Now, about the Spiritual work done in India and how that was lowered in stature by outsiders and forced to adopt a religious garb.

The fact also remains that India has seen work in Spiritual area not seen ANYWHERE in the world.  SImply because experimentation, dissent, and innovative ideas/ways were not quashed but encouraged.  Jesus didn’t speak a whole lot, but for whatever little he said, he was unbearable in that region and was killed.  Mansoor was the only one in Islamic world to have said “I am God”.  Something that was said by countless Sages and Masters in India.  He was tortured for 11 years and finally hanged on town square.

Krishna, Buddha, Nanak, Osho, Krishnamurti etc were all rebels of their times and said things that the clergy probably found hard to swallow… but no one killed them here… instead they were worshipped!

So, just because of the openness.. this country saw a level of work that could not happen anywhere else.  Spiritual processes were explored to their very end… in every dimension… for every path.  If Spiritual work in India is superior, it is not because God is biased against the world and favors us .. but because we strived for it and let others do stuff their way.. however different they thought of it.

Its like you go to one MBA school, where one Case Study is the basis of entire 2 years study… while another MBA school has not just one but multiple case studies for every section of every chapter of every subject!!  It doesn’t matter what the content of the chapter is.. but the fact that there is enough body of work to fall back upon.. the student naturally has a better chance of more success when he comes out of such a school!

Now, all that spiritual work was “tagged” as Hinduism by someone who had a mindset from an area where tagging and categorizing Gods was necessary.

Hinduism as a word is not important.. the work that was done in India by countless Sages and Masters that came under the umbrella called “Hinduism” (by default) is important and critical to the future of mankind.  In fact, I would go even further to say that probably even content is not important.. Framework is the key.  Content, in any case, has to be lived by the individual himself.  However, in many ways, the Framework and the Content that it inspired were mutually responsible for each other.  That, there was a society which encouraged Open Source experimentation of Spiritual subject, we saw a content that was never restricted and accepted every strain of work!

This spiritual work was therefore not a belief.  It was a living experience.  People were either Seekers or Realized.  The common man, who was simply a believer, was told clearly by the Sages to look for the true meaning of life.  Devotion was encouraged, which is different from Belief.

Faith and belief is for the weak, insecure, and fanatical minds… who keep looking for a God or a Savior to come save/help them… no matter what the name of that God or Savior is.  Everyone is responsible for his or her own spiritual end… God or Guru are irrelevant.. one’s own effort is the only thing that counts!  For example, there were many who thought nothing of jailing Nanak and even torturing him.  But there were others who could explode in complete ecstasy and attain enlightenment, just by being in his presence.  Its not that Nanak gave himself differently to different people.  Its that different people received him differently.  So, for those who tortured him, Nanak being Nanak was irrelevant.  He could have been anyone.  But for those who were receptive and had done the necessary effort on themselves (spiritually), He was everything!  So, unless you have done your bit, Guru or even God is irrelevant!

Now about belief – If I believe in something that I have never come across or experienced then something is wrong.  And if I approach that something just to ask for goodies and emotional strength, then at best this thing is a Butler and at worst a fool!  For a moment’s worth of attention I want this idiot, called God, to give me all the goodies of the world.

Most of us either treat God as an entertainment or as Butler.  Nothing more.  We don’t approach God with devotion in our heart or with an intellect that wants to find the “Truth” of who we are.  We are limited in our minds and so our approach is hypocritical.

Very rarely were Spiritual people hurt in the Spiritual traditions of India.

If we have to understand the spiritual aspect better, let’s take the “hood of religion” off.. and look at the Spiritual Masters directly.  Then it will be a better way to look at them.

Because we belittle Krishna or Nanak or Guru Gobind Singh or Jesus or Buddha when we confine them to a religion or a belief system.  After all their ENTIRE LIFE’s WORK was to rubbish every belief system around them.  I am sure you know many stories of Nanak where he ridiculed those who followed rituals out of belief as opposed to complete awareness of their act.  He was attacking belief system and blind faith, and very rightly so just as the others did in their time and in their own ways.

Yes, everyone is entitled to the beliefs one can garner but let’s please not give it any halo of piety by holding it worth respect even if it is oriented to hurt others.  Beliefs are beliefs.  They have nothing to do with God or Spirituality.

Devotion, however, is a different matter.  Its one thing to assert your love for Krishna just for show off to others and as a show of one’s belief, and quite another to be a Meera.

The trouble is that we confuse between the both.  Belief system is like a marriage – a compromise, while Devotion is like the love of Heer for Ranjha – mad, uncompromising and without retreat or fear of consequences.  Devotion doesn’t need belief, just as Heer’s love needs no marriage!

Finally, remember, that it is only the believers who “believe” in Japji Sahib.  Nanak never “believed” in Japji, he simply EXPERIENCED it.  And that is a BIG difference.  It is actually THE WHOLE difference!