A CONTINUOUS NEED FOR SPIRITUALITY
SPIRITUALITY is a subject which we need to keep pondering upon continuously. The reason being that the materialistic culture keeps beckoning the human being constantly from all quarters. If one fails in the task of keeping the spiritual nature polished, the materialistic attitude and negativity will make room in one’s thinking resulting in an underdeveloped personality.
First we need to expound the reasons why we need spirituality? Can we not be satisfied with the materialistic things and feel a sense of fulfilment in them? Let us answer this question taking into consideration human nature and the scheme of things devised by the Creator.
According to the creation plan, the scope for material fulfilment in this world is limited, while the scope for spiritual fulfilment or intellectual development is so vast that only the word ‘unbounded’ can describe it.
If your aim is to achieve a state of fulfilment in the material world, you will soon discover that here the scope for this is very limited. Food, clothes, fame, married life, entertainment— all these things are all too often eventually marred by boredom. Even going on a holiday does not necessarily give you any sense of fulfilment. A person may go on holiday with high hopes of enjoyment, yet return with a feeling of “holiday stress”. This sense of a lack of fulfilment pertains to your physical being, whereas your spiritual being is untrammelled by all such constraints.
It is only spiritual achievement that can give you a sense of fulfilment. Material fulfilment is seldom achievable, but spiritual fulfilment is achievable to the ultimate extent.
Man has a dual personality—physical and spiritual. In physical terms, a person’s body most often has its limitations in terms of height, girth, health, muscularity, athleticism, etc. Due to these limitations, a person frequently becomes dissatisfied as far as his physical prowess is concerned. On the contrary, his spiritual or intellectual being has no limits to it. The realm in which the mind travels is vast and eternal, like the space stretching throughout the cosmos. The mind travels by thinking, and there are no boundaries to the thinking process. Traversing all kinds of frontiers, it continues unhindered on its journey.
Therefore it is only spiritual achievement that can give you a sense of fulfilment. Material fulfilment is seldom achievable, but spiritual fulfilment is achievable to the ultimate extent.
When one takes a conscious decision to live as a spiritual person, one must train oneself to this end. Tokens of spirituality are scattered all over the world. In fact, every part of nature, great or small, is invested with spiritual content. People see the signs, but pass them by without detecting them. One who has a prepared mind, however, is able to recognize them and then turn them into objects of contemplation. It is ‘discovery plus contemplation’ that adds up to spirituality.
One who has neglected to prepare himself will never be able to draw spiritual nourishment from life’s experiences. In the midst of spiritual abundance, he will continue to remain spiritually starved. What is preparation? Preparation cannot be achieved by means of taking some external course. It is an exercise in selftraining through contemplation. Only those who are ready to engage in self-training can enjoy spirituality. Those who do not, can never develop themselves as spiritual persons. There are many aspects of self-preparation, for instance, the capacity to discern the relevant and the irrelevant aspects of any event, so that an appropriate course of action may be taken; an acute sense of what is significant and what is not is essential, for, without it, man can never experience spirituality.
High thinking is the result of simple living. This is an essential ingredient in our endeavour to be spiritual.
To train oneself spiritually, in the arena of materialism one should live as per needs and not as per desires. The simple principle to adopt is ‘simple living and high thinking’. One of the teachings of the Prophet is “Simplicity is a part of faith”. On a close examination of this Hadith, one can question the wisdom behind considering simplicity as a part of faith itself; that is a part of the belief in God. Let us first consider, what is the absence of simplicity? Absence of simplicity is characterized by the complex methods which require greater resources, time and effort that we adopt in conducting our daily lives to satiate our superficial pursuits. Such complex methods require the use of our intellectual faculties only for material benefit, while they could have been rightly used instead in the pursuit of knowledge, personality development, spiritual growth and the promotion of global peace.
Man is considered the ‘crown of creation’ by virtue of being endowed with the power of thinking. This blessing of God can be used either for the most mundane things or for the higher things of life. It does not befit us to use this blessing for the sole achievement of our worldly or material needs, which in any case will be fulfilled with lesser effort. However, this is possible only when one makes a conscious endeavour to keep life simple. If we do not take a conscious decision, things will get complicated and we will create a web of frivolous goals that will ensnare us in the bonds of materialism. Our focus will shift from a spiritual life to a materialistic existence.
The Prophet had predicted that material wealth will be the cause of much evil amongst his followers. The only way of saving ourselves from such evil will be to adopt simplicity in everything. If we adopt simplicity in our lives, we will save ourselves from many distractions. Only then will it be possible for us to use our faculties for higher thinking. High thinking is the result of simple living. This is an essential ingredient in our endeavour to be spiritual.
With reference to spirituality in one’s thinking, we should understand that spirituality is not a state of ecstasy. It is not a trance-like state. It is rather marked by a high level of acute intellectual development. It is a form of intellectual awakening. It is associated with contemplation. It encompasses the qualitative aspects of nature so that, within its scope, the things of a spiritual nature are brought to light, just as the honey bee extracts honey from flowers.
Spirituality is not a state of ecstasy. It is not a trancelike state. It is rather marked by a high level of acute intellectual development. It is a form of intellectual awakening associated with contemplation.
Flowers are the greatest concern of the honey bee. For a honey bee, its whole world is a world of flowers. It never wastes its time on other things. It concentrates on flowers, takes the nectar from them and returns to its hive. The same is true of an awakened mind. For an awakened mind, the whole world is a world of spirituality. It extracts spiritual content from everything. The awakened person thus enhances his spirituality until he grows to be a spiritual giant.
Spirituality in the area of one’s interaction with people does not refer to seclusion from society. Spirituality being an inner quality has to be applied, if its external actualization is to take place. Practically, there is a vast difference between the spiritual person who lives within society and shares his spiritual experience with his fellow men and the one who dies in solitude without ever having benefited others.
Spirituality fosters the development of all kinds of constructive qualities and in so doing, makes one a complete person. An individual endowed with such qualities is one who is desired and needed by his society and his nation. He will be wasting his spiritual treasure if he leaves his society and goes away to live alone in peace and tranquillity. This is of course a manifestation of spirituality, but in a very narrow form, and living like a hermit means a serious under-utilization of the gifts of a spiritualized person. In fact, the spiritualized person is a most desirable individual when it comes to establishing a better society; a better society being nothing but a collection of better persons. And, it is true that spirituality turns one into a better person. It makes one more mature in terms of character and honesty; duty-consciousness and mental preparedness. As such, the guidance the spiritual person can give is of a superior nature and he is, therefore, the best qualified to steer the engine of social existence along the right lines.
Man is considered the ‘crown of creation’ by virtue of being endowed with the power of thinking. It does not befit us to use this blessing for the sole achievement of our worldly or material needs, which in any case will be fulfilled with lesser effort
It is such spirituality that is referred to as ‘applied spirituality’. In the basic sense, it is a personal asset, but in its expanded sense, it has many applications. It is not only others who benefit from applied spirituality, the spiritual person also benefits. When such a person devotes himself to sharing his spiritual training with others, he adds a whole new dimension to his own spirituality. Without wisdom, spirituality is incomplete. Spirituality plus wisdom gives rise to the emergence of a superior state of being. This superior state makes one a true well-wisher of humankind. It results in adopting the highest values in conjunction with one’s fellowmen in society.