Why the Hindu brand of spirituality is beyond science, religion, politics and secularism
Spirituality is a much used and abused word. It’s meaning has been dirtied by association with narrow-minded faiths.
What Aurobindo or Swami Vivekananda or for that matter any doyens of Hindu nationalism meant by spirituality is far different from what the west perceives it to be.
The Hindu brand of spirituality is far different from religion. It is the means of centering oneself. It is a means to know one better and go beyond the body, mind and the intellect. Spirituality may be an article of faith for the Hindu society but the practice of spirituality has little to do with faith. It is as much a secular exercise as it is a mystical exercise.
The Hindu brand of spirituality is evolutionary and has two forms. They are (1) Yoga and (2) Tantra. They represent the Yin and Yang of human consciousness. While the former stresses will power, the latter streses devotion and surrender. While the former is male (active), the latter is (female) passive. Both the treatises --Patanjali Yoga Sutra and theVighyan Bhairava Tantra -- have listed practical manuals to enable an individual to go beyond himself.
For instance, the Yoga Sutra lay down the eight limbs – Yama (Rules), Niyama (Regularity), Asana (postures), pranayama (breath), pratyahara (withdrawal of attention), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption in the universal consciousness). On the other hand, the Tantra texts put forth 112 techniques of meditation that enable a person to get rooted in himself.
Unlike Abrahamic faiths -- which are built around belief systems and offer inducements of after life paradise and merrymaking -- the Hindu spiritual texts only teaches us how to deal with the present moment. A study of Hindu spiritual texts makes a man stoical rather than a fanatic (as in the case of Abrahamic or for that matter any other faiths).
Ramana Maharshi – the Sage of Arunachala – never gave any belief systems to the seekers who visited him. He only told them to go deeper into themselves by asking themselves the question: “Who am I?” There was no question of change of faith. It was only about self-knowledge. J Krishnamurthy – another proponent of the non-dual version – preferred to call it awareness. Both Ramana and J Krishnamurthy – in a long line of Hindu seers – were against belief systems and urged the seekers to drop their beliefs and look at reality in the face.
As Swami Vivekananda rightly said: “Every soul is potentially divine” The challenge of spirituality is to manifest the perfection / divinity that is already in man. The Hindu brand of spirituality only aims at manifesting the perfection which is assumed to be the natural state of man.. The Hindu brand of spirituality is beyond religion, science and politics as it is more experential. While science, religion and politics are in the outer domain, spirituality is in the inner domain. While science is exact and verifiable, the experiences of spirituality are relative and unverifiable.
The critics of spirituality : For the postmodern leftists, spirituality is bourgeoise culture.. Their allegation stems from their thinking that religion is the opium of the man. While it is true that religious (a form of belief system) can be the opium of the masses, practical spirituality should liberate the masses rather than enslaving them. The left fails to make a distinction between religion and spirituality.
Postmodernist authors like Meera Nanda claim that the Hindu concepts of advaita, moksha et al are as much misleading as the Abrahamic faiths. What Nanda fails to realize is that Abrahamic faiths are belief systems, while the Hindu spiritual systems are designed to enable a person to shed his illusions. Hindu spirituality does not encourage beliefs, it advocates dropping of the belief system and enables a person to perceive truth / reality in an objective manner. Disciplines like Zen, Tao et al are also on the same line.
Meditation and Neural Fireworks: There is another school of thought which claims that meditation only alters the human nervous system as does alcohol or for that matter any other drug. While it is true that mystical practices like meditation and tantra do lead to variations in the human nervous system, it would be wrong to limit these practices to a few chemical changes in the body. Mystic practices like Yoga and Tantra changes not just the chemical combinations of the body. It changes the entire make-up of the persons from attitudes to energy levels. It also results in the dawning of wisdom that no scientific instruments have been able to measure to date.
While the negative traits of Hindu nationalism is to contain the four demonic ideologies of the Mullah-Padre-Comrade-Corporate brigade, the positive trait of Hindu nationalism is to spread the message of spirituality. I am not saying this. These are the words of the doyens of Hindu nationalism – Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo.