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What is spirituality? The answers are as diverse as the individuals we ask.
Spirituality can refer to living a life of service, living an ethical life,
having a transcendent experience or an altered state of consciousness,
faith in and growth of relationship with a higher source, or even a belief
and trust in nature and science. It can refer to the basic moral intuition
for the pursuit of goodness, truth and beauty. It may or may not be
practiced in a religious institution. It can mean a literal belief in a
religious text and a closing off to alternative paths, preventing universal
For everyone it is a subjective impulse that urges us to evolve towards
eventual wholeness. It is a source of healing and support for suffering and
a motivation for world service. It is a force that shatters the ego and
conditioned reality, breaking through to new stages of evolution.
Enlightenment is viewed as a natural development of consciousness that is
available to all; a merging into a unified field beyond space-time
conditioned reality towards the reality that mystics of all religious
persuasions have proclaimed as our true destiny.
Visionary leaders are calling for a coherent moral vision that can
undergird the fast growing perils and possibilities of technological
achievements and bring our fragmented cultures together. As historical
realities shape our future, a dramatic shift in priorities and a radical
change in consciousness are required.
Spirituality for the new global era encompasses the whole of life and
embraces the full spectrum of development. Individuals and groups express
it in global activism. An increasing number of people embrace and aspire
towards a universal spirituality. It begins with the interfaith movement
whose goal is the tolerance of all religious paths. Then we are moved to a
larger principle and deeper dimension of reality that embraces all
worldviews – the dimension where our separative limitations are overcome
and where we have access to the generative energy of our common source.
Religions are now challenged to release this new spiritual force, which
experiences the oneness of the human community and puts spirituality to use
in solving our planetary problems. This shift in consciousness may be the
most important event of the times in shaping our global future, says Ashok
Gangadeen, Founder of the World commission on Global Consciousness and
The Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II call us to a moral renaissance if we
are to avert the disastrous directions towards which we are headed. In a
recent article in the New York Times, the Dalai Lama said,
“The calamity of 9/11 demonstrated that modern technology and human
intelligence guided by hatred can lead to immense destruction. Such
terrible acts are a violent symptom of an afflicted mental state.
To respond wisely and effectively, we need to be guided by more
healthy states of mind, not just to avoid feeding the flames of
hatred, but also to respond skillfully. We would do well to
remember that the war against hatred and terror could be waged on
this, the internal front, too.”
But how do we master our baser instincts and develop our more refined
potentialities? The practices that originally developed in ashrams and
monasteries for this purpose are now available to the secular world. Their
benefits can help prepare us to be co-creators of our global future. Freed
from the limits of cultural conditioning we can now identify with all
humanity in all its diversity.
Meditation. Scientific evidence confirms the numerous benefits that can be
derived from the ancient practice of meditation. These include decreased
stress, increased recovery from negative reactions of anger and fear,
increased awareness and mental alertness, and even physiological changes
and improved immune systems. It leads us away from splitting the world into
us-versus-them mindsets and towards inclusive respect and compassion. It is
a method to develop inner guidance and sensitivity, and a compassion that
feels and embraces all life. “There is a hidden order and it is in our
supreme interest to align with it,” says William James.
Beauty and Inspiration. For some the way to the infinite is through the
kind of art that moves us to the sacred and the universal within. We fall
in love – become one with its depth and mystery – as John Daido Loori does
(See Spirituality & Reality, Fall/Winter 2003). The Earth becomes a sacred
planet to be honored and celebrated rather than to be harmed and polluted.
Images have a multitude of perspectives depending on how we see. Art
generated from a deep source within inspires and elevates the artist and
the viewer. Beauty is the soul of life, delicate and mysterious, bringing
joy and even ecstasy – a falling in love with the infinite that brings good
will into our surroundings. When we are elevated to this state, loving all
life is natural.
Silence. Silence is not “simply the absence of turmoil or noise around us.
Nor is it only the serene display of nature’s beauty. Peace reaches the
inner being in silence. It whispers to the mind new thoughts filled with
meaning and strength. From inner peace grows a family of values that brings
lightness to our life. When peace expands from an individual state of being
to a collective experience, it becomes a village of peace and a new step
towards World Peace.” (Peace Village Learning and Retreat Center.)