Great is the tenacity with which we cling to life, to love, to beauty and youth, to power and wealth; yet there comes a time in all our lives, when we realize that none of this is for real, that everything that we see in the material Universe whether it be the sun or the moon, plants or animals, even our bodies, is transitory. Each has a beginning and an end in time. Death is the goal of everything.
“This universe is formed out of both consciousness forces and matter.
While the study of matter has been the domain of traditional science, the study of Consciousness is the science of spirituality.”
– Shriram Sharma Acharya
Slowly but surely a day will come, when the world as we know it will vanish and be gone forever. Standing on the brink of this precipice, beyond which is the infinite yawning chasm, we are compelled to ask in despair: “In this fleeting world, is there anything that is permanent? Is there anything that escapes death? Can there be more to this world than what we perceive with our senses?”
Even in the remote past where recorded history cannot help us, in the mysterious light of mythology, back in the dim twilight of civilization, we find the same questions being asked: “Is life a mere act of chance? Does it have no purpose? Why does the Universe put in so much energy into this play of life, only to let it all vanish in a moment?”
Spirituality begins with these questions and ends with the answers. Like science, spirituality too is the quest for truth – the quest for unity amidst apparent diversity – the search for the Ultimate Reality underpinning this evanescent Creation.
Where did the Universe come from?
Modern science tells us that the Universe arose in a big bang. But what was there before that? Science has not yet found the answer, but it does tell us that something cannot come out of nothing. Where science has not yet tread, spirituality steps in to illuminate the path.
The ancient sages of India, in their deepest states of meditation, witnessed the Ultimate Truth. In their elevated states of consciousness they came upon the realization that before the big bang, from which sprang our Universe of matter, was the Ultimate Reality, the Absolute Force. This Ultimate Reality is the source of not only the manifest Universe but also of Consciousness. We call this Ultimate Reality, God – the Universal Consciousness – the Supreme Soul.
“We are here to awaken to the reality of our true identity – that we are sparks of the Eternal Imperishable Spirit, who is the source of all Creation and the very essence of our being.”
– Shriram Sharma Acharya
Since space and time itself arose from the big bang, the Supreme Soul (God), who came before, is not limited by them. He is omnipresent (present everywhere) and eternal i.e. He has no beginning or end in time. In this Universe full of change, decay and death, God alone is the permanent unchanging reality.
Not only this, but, the Supreme Soul who is One, resides within all his creation as many. Within each of us is a spark of this Universal Consciousness, within each of us resides this divinity of God – which we call our individual Spirit or Soul.
Thus we are not just a body composed of the atoms of matter that is born one moment, only to die another; but we are a Soul. We are the Spirit which exists separate from matter, which survives the portals of physical death, which is never born, that never dies, never changes and never goes or comes. Without birth or death, eternal, ever-existing, free, unchangeable and beyond all conditions is this Soul of man – the real Self of man.
What is Spirituality? It is the Science of the Soul
“All spiritual progress is the growth of half-knowledge into clear illumination. In our inspired moments we have the feeling that there is a greater reality within us, though we cannot tell what it is.”
– Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Moreover, only for man can there be spirituality, for his existence is on two planes – the physical: dealing with the external world and the mental: dealing with his inner world of feelings and emotions. Spirituality is the process of reacquainting ourselves with this inner world – of discovering the greater reality that lies hidden inside us – of finding the one Being within us who never perishes; who is immortal; who is the source of infinite potential, knowledge, love and courage; who is an indivisible part of God Himself – the ever pure, the ever perfect – our true Nature – our real Self – our Divine Soul.
More importantly merely reading about or knowing these spiritual truths experienced by others is not sufficient – they have to be realized i.e. experienced first hands by ourselves. For what good is it to read about love, but never to feel it? What good is it to talk about courage, but never to be it? Can merely reading about fearlessness make us become it?
Spirituality thus, is not something that can be willed overnight, rather it is a process, it is a journey to expand our consciousness – to increase our awareness of the infinite treasures hidden within our very own selves – to bring to surface the God like qualities that lie dormant within us and make them a part of our everyday Nature.
This essay has been adapted from the teachings of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) one of India’s greatest and most beloved spiritual teachers. Many of the lines in this essay have been borrowed directly from his book, Speeches & Writings of Swami Vivekananda. This book is a powerful collection of his most profound discourses on spirituality, given while on tour of the United States. For those desiring to know more about what spirituality really is, this is one book that is sure to leave you spell-bounded!
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