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The general trend among humans has always been about living in groups. The dawn of civilization came with a multitude of systems and beliefs centered around the individual in the society. That was the need of the hour. For the identity-less human, the group became a part of his existence. Religion, culture, and community were the qualifiers of the self. These systems sought to answer a lot of unknowns. Religion, too, came with the idea of identifying oneself as a part of something greater. The basic belief was the fact that our souls belong to a greater force, to God. And so, everything became about getting closer to God. Letting go of the needs of the individual and selflessly working towards attaining something greater than our current existence was a commonality. Those who successfully relinquished their core human desires were considered great. Over the years a beautiful concept emerged- let go of yourself and find the greater force. Become one with God. The crux of spirituality/ religion was just that. Every single ritual, method, practice became focused on this very aspect.
But, a lot has changed since then. Scientific developments have helped figure out a lot about the workings of the universe. We have grown intellectually. Individualism has taken prominence over communism. We still live in the same society, but our thoughts run free. We are now free to create an identity of our own. We no longer need the tags of culture, religion, or community. A lot of us have questioned the logic behind these beliefs. Spirituality and religion have become totally separate concepts. Nope, they are definitely not the same anymore (but that’s a different topic).
After the second world war, spirituality became increasingly more about personal experiences. The New Age of thought emphasizes the individual and his/her feelings. Importance is given to personal growth and autonomy of the individual. This modern spirituality, in no way, denies the existence of a higher power. In fact, this way of living focuses on finding that higher power within ourselves. Life experiences, our thoughts, and beliefs become the source of all spiritual matters. Ergo, spirituality translates into doing what your desires want you to do. It is about experiencing every single thing you’ve always wanted to experience. It is about finding happiness in all the experiences, even in the sad ones. It is about understanding the deeper meaning of every single experience rather than shunning it altogether. It is about finding the light within ourselves. Philosophers like Osho have drawn a lot from these beliefs- “Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.”
Another interesting concept of this modern-day take on spirituality is the fact that the body, the mind, and the soul are equally important. One merely cannot separate the body from the soul (a concept similar to the Purusha and Prakriti). A human is viewed as an individual and not as a collection of different parts. Accordingly, spirituality becomes more about nurturing your entire self. Instead of running around doing the things society expects of you, doing the things that your “gut” tells you to do will bring you closer to yourself. The closer you are to yourself, the closer you are to the ultimate power. The concept of “true-self” becomes very important here. Your “true-self” is often hidden. We are so used to mask our identity to fit in the society that we have forgotten who or what we actually are. The modern-day spirituality seeks to answer this question by focusing on the individual as a whole and not by separating the soul from the body. The body and the mind play significant roles this way. For the modern spiritualists, the body forms the base of all our desires, the mind rationalizes and keeps a reality check, whereas the soul is considered to be our moral compass, our divine self. Harmonize them and find yourselves happy inside out. Similar concepts can be found in Freudian psychology where the id resembles the body, ego the mind, and superego the soul. Freud has always said that a balance between the three is always necessary. One simply cannot give one factor more importance than the other. Doing so often leads to unwanted psychological complications. Spiritually, if there’s no balance, we will never find our true happiness. And if there is a proper balance, a certain life force is created- something harnessed by the universal energy. This ‘vital life force’ generates the energy required to lead a life full of energy, pleasure, health, and wealth.
New-Age spirituality also encompasses the belief that an individual is free to choose his/her own spiritual path. With the development of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ concept, a huge number of people have started renouncing the traditional belief systems for more modern and eclectic practices. People are free to choose their life-path from a “free spiritual market.” Everyone is free to explore their options and adopt a mix-n-match kind of a world-view. Some of them might choose to explore the essence of a particular religion, while others might leave out the religious aspect totally. Some might even explore the darker paths i.e., satanism. Whatever we decide to do, we are free to explore and follow the path that makes us happy- the path that leads us to our personal growth. By being picky and choosy, we are destroying the dogmas associated with spirituality. Besides, personalized things are always better.
And while at the core of spiritual individualism is the individual alone, compassion and love aren’t concepts foreign to this particular movement. The only difference is that instead of being completely altruistic, one focuses on their own needs before the others’. Basically, if you are happy, only then are you capable of making others happy.
With Ganesha's Grace,
The GaneshaSpeaks.com Team
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