The failure of spirituality

Spirituality has failed us completely. It has not served the purpose for which this disciplines stands for. In a large part spirituality nowadays only serves two purposes. The first one is that spirituality serves as an intellectual exercise. The other is that it serves as a quick fix for our problems in life. The real purpose of serving humanity is not there at all.

We, as human beings, are so fascinated by terms like the atman, gunas, sattva, Brahman that we  simply love to juggle with these esoteric ideas in our minds. We feel pretty smart in dabbling with these terms. To us we just feel clever intellectualizing about these esoteric concepts. There are others who prefer Zen kaons s for e.g. “where were you before you were born?” or “does a dog have Buddha nature? When we play with these questions or concepts we feel we are having understood the mysteries of the mind.

There are others who to whom spirituality is a panacea for all of daily problems in life. People feel that just pondering on concepts like God, Supreme consciousness and truth will somehow magically spirit away all their problems in life. To some extent these people just hypnotize themselves into believing that they are contented. They do achieve a certain amount of temporary relief.

Spirituality is neither an intellectual exercise nor is it the cure of the troubles of mankind. The message of Hinduism is “to perform one’s duty selflessly while maintaining dharma”, for Christians it is the “message of love”, for Muslims “brotherhood of humanity” and Buddhists “overarching compassion”.

With these simple lessons of the religion man’s purpose in life is to serve humanity. The pursuit of religion is neither an intellectual exercise nor a cure for our problems. It is not the real purpose of why we are here in this world.

Fortunately there are a few great luminaries who stand as beacons in this world of ours who devoted their life to humanity for e.g. Mother Teresa,  Sathya Sai Baba, Gandhiji. There are quite a few still living among us who have bequeathed their fortunes for the  eradicating of diseases, improving education of the underprivileged etc like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Azim Premji and Tatas.

The issue of spirituality these days is that message of service to humanity is lost in the spiritual jargon.

The Many Faces of Suffering

Suffering is inevitable in life. There is no escape from pain and misery. We may wish it away but we cannot get rid of it. Suffering comes to us in many forms. This article looks at some of the most common types of suffering.

This piece does not try to provide any great solutions to the problem of human suffering but is an attempt to look at the many face of human sorrow.  It is hoped that an understanding of the cause of our suffering will allow us to take control of our lives and lessen the pain of suffering.

Suffering is generally of 3 types.

Personal: This is the most common of all type human suffering. We are all prone to this type of suffering. We feel hurt when somebody passes a rude comment about us or insults us in anyway. This is because our pride is hurt and we feel unhappy. Personal suffering also occurs when we don’t get what we desire. We may want that promotion in office, or we may expect praise from our friends. When this does not happen we feel let down. Personal suffering is largely of our own making. To some extent we can control this suffering if we keep our egos in check and moderate our desires in life.

Relational: This is the next type of human suffering. This happens because of the bonds and relationships that we develop with family and friends over time with our family and our close friends. When our family members or friends are hurt we feel hurt also. The pain is because we truly love them and have strong emotional ties with our family and our close friends. If these bonds are affected in any way we feel deeply hurt.  There is no way to lessen the pain of this kind of suffering. It occurs because of the strong bonds we have with people. We may try to adopt a philosophical outlook and try to reason or rationalize this pain. But this is a reality of life and we just have to accept it. However, where we can help out we should take appropriate steps rather than rationalizing the sorrow we feel,

Societal:  Most of us are immune to this type of suffering. Societal suffering is the sorrow that is felt by a person because of the inequities of society and the poverty, pain and suffering in society. Very few people really feel this. We are so engrossed in our own self-centered lives that we are not even aware that suffering exists in the world. Most of us have a “it does not concern me” attitude. Then there are others who just conveniently explain it away as the karma of the people in the society.

Those who really feel empathically for society at large are the real and true noble souls. We do have a Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or a Bill Gates who are able to feel the misery of others and take steps to alleviate the pain and suffering of others. These people who put others above themselves are the really enlightened souls. While we cannot rid the society of all its problems we should make an attempt however small it may be.

I am reminded of the story of the little boy who kept repeatedly another stranded starfish from among a millions of starfishes stranded on the sea-shore. When the boy was told that there were millions and millions of such starfishes, the little boy remarked “at least I will make a difference to this one”.  We should help in doing what we can for others with the thought that “little drops make an ocean”.

Suffering is an integral part of our life. As a human being who lives an active life in this world we have to learn to accept adversity as a part of lives and simply move on.