I'm Spiritual (Not Religious)

What is the difference between religion and spirituality? We say that he is spiritual and she is religious, but what does that really mean? In this article we'll take a close look at what religion and spirituality are and how they differ. Towards the end of the post, I will clearly spell out why I'm spiritual and not religious.

What Is Religion?

Religions are often times based on spiritual wisdom. That means they share the same roots, however, this is not always the case. There are religions that have been cooked up by creative or deceptive individuals.

Spiritual wisdom is abstract by nature, so religion is steeped in culture to make it easier to grasp. That can be in the form of religious imagery, symbols, statues, practices, ceremonies and rituals.

Many devotees go to their local temple or church to receive a blessing. It's believed to purify and protect you.

Religion is thought based. This implies that learning and deepening your understanding of the teachings, involve theoretical studies and possibly thought-based prayers. Further, you are encouraged to believe in everything you learn, another word for it is blind faith. This obviously doesn't work for everyone, in a modern world where our mindset is colored by critical thinking.

In addition, questioning these so called truths is categorically frowned upon. Rather, you are asked to strengthen your faith or trust in the divine teachings, that are believed to have been handed down directly from God.

All religions impose rules onto their followers. Certain moral codes can be helpful, as long as they don't require you to give up healthy common sense. What is more, some religions dramatically restrict your person freedom by forcing you to practice, not allowing interfaith marriages and not permitting you to change religions. How about threating apostates with hell.

That obviously contradicts any form of wisdom and can only result in unhappiness. Many religions are known for controlling their followers, which is downright ugly.

Historically, some religions have greatly misused their power by punishing those who didn't learn the scriptures or did not attend the religious services. The list of wrongdoings is long...

Who Seeks Out Religion?

Aside from those who are born into religious families, individuals who are looking for meaning in life and are after guidance, reassurance and hope may seek out a religious community.

Religion also appeals to those who want to become a better person and have suffered physically or mentally. That includes drug and alcohol abusers.

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What Is Spirituality?

Spirituality is about exploring ultimate reality, also referred to as objective reality. Another way of phrasing it is to say that spiritual practice is about investigating the way it is, as opposed to what it seems or appears to be. Without the first-hand experience, insight or knowing, there is little progress along the spiritual path.

Spiritual teachers encourage their students to find out for themselves and thereby verify that the teachings are true and real. In other words, they are reminded not to readily accept or believe in any teachings.

Unlike religion, spirituality is not thought based. Rather, awareness which is also called pure awareness is used to explore truth and reality. Pure awareness is consciousness without thought. Awareness is cultivated through meditation and is the main tool used to develop wisdom and to connect to the spiritual worlds.

It's a common misconception that it's spiritual to light incense and bow to religious statues.

Another central point is that spirituality is free from blind faith, religious practices and dogma.

Morality plays an important role in spirituality. Just like a seed needs water, nutrients and light to grow into a healthy plant; the spiritual seeker won't make significant progress without developing her morals to a certain degree. This is a spiritual law.

Spirituality is also a way to experience yourself and human nature. Since meditation is very healing, both physically and mentally, it's most cleansing. For example, mastering continuous mindfulness practice effectively does away with stress and makes for a calming and soothing mental state, leading to a higher quality of life.

Who Seeks Out Spirituality?

Those who yearn to discover truth and reality, connect to the spiritual worlds, pursue enlightenment and lead a meaningful life.

Individuals that are or have been going through intense suffering are also drawn to spirituality, in hope it may heal the pain. In my experience, the more you have suffered, the more driven you are to practice compared to someone who is merely curious about spirituality.

Why I'm Spiritual

When I first set foot on the spiritual path, I was mainly interested in healing my depression; I've always been drawn to truth and reality though. Once the depression had dissolved, I focused on truth and reality, connecting to the spiritual worlds and observing the beings that inhabit them.

After having spent years round Southeast Asia, which is a religious region, and at Buddhist monasteries where you literally bathe in religious beliefs and practices; I couldn't possibly be religious. In fact, I've developed an aversion towards blind faith, religious traditions and dogma.

My meditation and morality practices have made me a calm and harmonious person. I've also become more grateful, joyful and selfless. Not to mention how mindfulness makes it easier to let go and accept every moment as it is. These are the fruits of spiritual practice.

Both religion and spirituality fill important functions in the world, yet in very different ways.

I suggest you follow your heart. In other words, do what is right for you. If that means being both religious and spiritual, one of the two or neither religious nor spiritual, that is fine. Give yourself time, and you will know where you stand.

Best of luck!

Related:   Living For Spirituality   Spiritually Torn   Religious Fear

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