What is the Difference Between Religion and Spirituality?

‘Religion’ has the following elements:

  1. A God for worship. In case of Hinduism, it is a personal God of your liking (Siva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Devi, Rama, Krishna etc)
  2. A belief that the God (‘my god’) is the supreme power, who is the creator, protector and destroyer.
  3. Formal worships, visiting temples/churches/Mosques, following rituals, celebrating religious festivals, chanting stotras/ hymns/ mantras, taking up simple vows (e.g. fasting on Ekadasi days for Hindus)
  4. Praying god for money, wealth, comforts, solving problems, removing ill health, seeking long life, punishing enemies, seeking heaven after death
  5. If a Hindu, worshipping different gods for different purposes (For removing hurdles pray to Ganesha, for good education pray to Saraswathi, for wealth pray to Lakshmi etc). In a more evolved status, believe that my Ishta (personal God) will give everything because He/She is the only supreme God and all other Gods are subservient to Him/Her.
  6. Enjoying worldly life in every way with a mindset that God is providing everything for us, just like parents taking care of the comforts and wishes of children
  7. At times blaming God when things don’t happen as per our wishes!
  8. Advising others that the sect I follow, my way of worship, my religious practices and chanting are the best and nothing more need be done to get divine grace
  9. Arguing and fighting with other believers who say that some other God is the supreme one.
  10. Having staunch belief in whatever the holy books of that religion says is correct and true (reading and understanding them is not mandatory!)
  11. Visiting holy places
  12. If a Hindu, Generally following a traditional family Guru and paying visits and respects to him
  13. If a Christian or Muslim, trying to convert others to their religion (particularly targeting weaker and meeker sections of society in other religions)

‘Spirituality’ has the following elements:

  1. A sense of discomfort in the way religion is being practised by majority (after following a religion and its formalities for some time); wondering whether the ways and beliefs as followed by the common religious folks are indeed showing the right direction to progress
  2. Getting disturbed by deeper questions about meaning of life, purpose of life etc and earnestly trying to seek better answers from within the religion.
  3. Reading deeper in to one’s own religion’s holy books (Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads/ Bible/ Koran). Trying to read more and more of the explanations and different interpretations by different commentators in order to get better clarity.
  4. If a Hindu, reading the lives and teachings of great Mahatmas/ spiritual masters/ Avatara Purushas
  5. If not getting satisfactory answers from own scriptures, trying to read, understand and grasp scriptures from other religions or to compare and get better clarity and understanding about own religion.
  6. If a Hindu, in communicating with God, trying to understand “I” (self/soul/ Atman) and the relationship between “I” and “you”(God) better.
  7. If a Hindu, gradually understanding the need and purpose of surrendering to a Sadguru for initiation and proper guidance in the quest of higher Truth but not sure enough or humble enough for that surrender yet.
  8. Gradually losing interest in materialism and in enjoying sensual pleasures
  9. Gradually losing interest in praying to God (or multiple God forms) for material and physical comforts and instead trying to pray for a better wisdom to know God.
  10. Getting a better understanding of the concept of Maya and the truth of duality existing for ever (light-darkness, good-bad, dharma-adharma, joy-woe, health-sickness, wealth-poverty, positive-negative, wisdom-ignorance etc)
  11. Developing viveka and vairagya (discrimination and dispassion)
  12. Trying to understand better the form and formless aspects of God
  13. Getting a firm conviction “Ekam sat, vipra bahuta vadhanti”— there is only one truth which is explained differently by different seers/ religions.
  14. No longer interested in arguing and fighting with others saying “My God is the only true and supreme God”.
  15. No longer afraid of not going to the temples and not following the rituals
  16. Learning and practising meditation
  17. Surrendering to a Satguru (a realized master) with humility for spiritual guidance. Truly grasping the importance of the Satguru’s grace in attaining true wisdom.

    Sadguru Mata Amritanandamayi Devi with her Sanyasi Disciples. They were well educated youth of yester years who came to Amma in thirsting for spiritual guidance

  18. Properly ripening in the relationship with God — starting with Dwaita (“You are my lord and I am your servant”) to Vishitadwaita (“You are my indweller — the soul of my soul”) and to Advaita (You and I are one — Aham brahmasmi) in Hinduism.

 

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