You may have heard or even used the terms religion and spirituality before. But while they are not diametrically opposed, they are not the same either. Learn to distinguish religion from spirituality.
For thousands of years, humanity has passionately searched for the truth with a capital letter: the definitive answers to life and the universe. This timeless knowledge forms the answers to what we often call the questions of the soul:
- Who I am?
- What I want?
- which is my goal
- What is the meaning of life?
Historically, from the perspective of the soul, there have been two main ways to discover these truths: religion and spirituality. Although they share many similarities and there is a relationship between the two, there are differences between religion and spirituality.
Religion: by definition,Religionit is a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices; the service and worship of God or the supernatural.
spirituality:spirituality, on the other hand, means an experience of connection with something bigger than oneself; live daily life with reverence and holiness.Or as Christina Puchalski, MD (a leading force in trying to incorporate spirituality into health care) puts it: “Spirituality is that aspect of humanity that relates to how people seek and express meaning and purpose and how they connect to experience the moment, self, others, nature, and the meaningful or sacred.
Origins of religions and spirituality
Religion: Religions are primarily based on the life, teachings, and beliefs of a historical or archetypal figure (eg, Christ, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Muhammad). Details of their lives as highly evolved or sacred beings have come down to us through oral tradition and scriptures over time. These figures are objects of worship and devotion and form the basis of religious practices and rituals in a community.
spirituality: Unlike,spiritualityit is based mainly on the practical application of the Founder's teachings. Seekers follow the advice of the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho: “Do not try to follow in the footsteps of the sages. Look for what they looked for”.
the blurred lines
If you feel like these definitions are getting confusing and drifting off each other, you're not alone. For example, you might meet people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. On the other hand, there may be people who are very religious but who are not what most would consider deeply spiritual.
Let's try to clear things up by taking a closer look at the most notable differences between the religious and spiritual paths. Remember that there are no absolutes in these distinctions. They are just general markers intended to further explore the qualities between two equally valid approaches to the search for truth.
Objective vs Subjective Experience
Religion: In general, a formal religion is usually an objective experience. In other words, there is usually a greater focus on the outside:
- places of worship (for example, a church)
- write books
- eternal rituals
this matchesobject referencein which your attention is focused on the objects of your experience.
spirituality: Spirituality, on the other hand, tends toself referenceor the internalization of your soul consciousness. Spirituality is an inner journey that involves a change of consciousness rather than a form of outer activity. As such, spirituality has much more to do with internal understanding than external worship. This is not to say that worship is not part of spirituality; it is about where devotion and adoration are directed:
- For an outdoor exercise, decorative object or figure
- For youAlma, higher self or inner divinity
Organized vs Informal
Religion: One of the hallmarks of religion is its organization. It is a structured construct, often based on rules, that to some extent governs the behavior of its members. Moral rules, laws, and doctrines, as well as specific codes and criteria, create the organized structure that contains the specific belief system of religion. That's not necessarily a bad thing. In earlier, more uncertain times, the rules and principles of organized religion helped bring a sense of certainty to society and helped guide and comfort those without faith.
spirituality:spiritualityhowever, it is freed from the constraints and rigid structures sometimes associated with traditional religion. The spiritual aspirant realizes that he is on a "pathless path" of self-discovery. They do not follow any external set of rules, but their own internal call to Spirit. In this way, spirituality can sometimes feel like a rebellious act of acting alone and abandoning the tribe, much in the spirit of the American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said: "In a world that is constantly trying to be something" . something more of yourself is the greatest achievement.”
Traditional vs evolutionary approach
Religion: Because of their history, which spans centuries to thousands of years, religions are naturally often deeply rooted in tradition, ritual, belief, and teaching. Religious institutions conservatively guard their practices and values, and strictly adhere to the past and original interpretations of the Founder's teachings. This is understandable because all religions want to preserve the essence of their teachings so that they can be accurately transmitted throughout history.
spirituality: By comparison, spirituality in general is less aligned with the strictly traditional approach and generally favors an evolutionary mindset. This refers to a more flexible and adaptable mindset towards the foundational teachings of the great wisdom traditions, but also reflects an understanding that spiritual growth, as the name suggests, is an evolutionary process. Spirituality implies change and evolution of consciousness. With spiritual practice, ideas and interpretations change as individuals, societies, and the world evolve.
Exclusive x Inclusive
Religion: Traditional religious beliefs, sometimes based on rigid interpretations of important teachings, can create an exclusive worldview that isolates those who do not share your views or interpretations. Unfortunately, this religious "group" mentality can be used to justify the exclusion of minorities or those deemed unworthy of God's favor.
spirituality: Spirituality makes no such distinctions. Instead, she favors an inclusive approach. Realizing that pure spirit is a unifying force, no one is left out. You are part of the universal hologram, all the gods and goddesses in disguise. As Krishna explains inBhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, Verse 11: “As people approach me, so I receive them. All roads, Arjuna, lead to me."
In other words, from a spiritual point of view, no one has a monopoly on the truth. All are welcome in the eyes of God.
Faith versus spiritual experience
Religion: At its core, religion is aboutconfidence. That is, to believe in something based on the unconditional acceptance of the teachings of the religion. Contrary to the scientific worldview, religions do not need evidence to validate their claims. Through religion you are taught to believe in God or scripture as the infallible and ultimate truth of reality. Acceptance and surrender to the Divine are taught as the path that leads to final salvation.
spirituality: Spirituality does not renounce faith; however, it is often based more on the direct experience of the soul or deity. Spiritual practices like meditation, yoga, stillness, and contemplation allow you to consciously come into contact with expanded states of consciousness, helping to validate the teachings through experience rather than simply taking them on faith. You know something because you lived through the experience yourself and allowed it to resonate rather than take someone else's word for it.
Fear vs Love
Religion: Despite the best intentions, religions can sometimes contain a subtle (or not-so-subtle) undercurrent of fear woven into their teachings. Concepts of original sin, divine judgment, God's wrath, or eternal punishment can create a mental environment filled with worry and anxiety about your worth and whether your actions will result in divine retribution or karmic punishment. Your destiny in the afterlife can appear as a specter in the back of your mind, affecting your thoughts and behavior in subtle ways.
spirituality: On the other hand, spirituality often discards traces of fear and worry in favor of a more loving and compassionate approach to life and death. Spirituality encompasses a consciousness-based worldview that supports all human beings on their journey to awakening in unconditional love and kindness. Their decisions and behavior are not guided by fear of punishment, but rather by the desire to end suffering and create a peaceful and loving world for all.
As you can see, there are notable differences between spirituality and religion; However, these comparisons are not meant to be absolute or an attempt to polarize one against the other. Religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs differ in the way they are practiced. However, each exercise serves as a vehicle to bring you closer to the truth you seek. Whichever path or combination of the two you follow is the personal and subjective expression of your awakening journey.