Recently a friend asked me these questions on Facebook:
* What do people mean by spirituality and what is the goal of spiritual life?
* If a person honestly tries to seek spiritual knowledge for a prolonged period of time and attains nothing, is it not natural for him to loose faith in the so called spiritual practices. If that is so why is it that many return empty handed after so many years of sincere practice and become atheists?
* Why is the spiritual world (if it exist) indifferent to the sufferings of humans?
Here is the answer I wrote to him:
Spirituality is identifying myself as the “spirit” and not as the body or mind. In the initial stages, “spirit” means “me as the self willed entity, who uses the body and mind as instruments, and who is responsible for my actions”. In later stages, “spirit” means “me as the subject who can never become an object of perception or thought”.
The goal of all life is to be free from sorrow. In reality, my happiness and sorrow do not depend on any external objects, people or situations. Under any condition, if I decide to be cheerful and peaceful, nothing can stop me. Happiness and sorrow is a mere choice of attitude. This conviction does not get deep and becomes a part of me because of my mistaken identity with the body and mind. A right understanding of my identity will result in the full conviction of the fact that my happiness is my choice under any situation. To get this knowledge of the self, which will result in this conviction, which will free me from all sorrow permanently, unconditionally, here and now, is the goal of spiritual life. There is no postmortem goal. The goal is here and now. However, it may take several lifetimes to realize the goal. It is the “discovery” of the intrinsic freedom which is always mine. It is not something to achieve in future. It is the discovery of the potential for “unconditional” happiness, here and now.
Spiritual practice is not meant to change the situation. It is meant to get a clear understanding which will make the person be able to be cheerful and peaceful independent of the situation. There is no material benefit of spiritual life. People who think situations will change because of a spiritual life are mistaken. In Gita, Krishna pities such people saying, those poor people have lost here and hereafter – meaning, trying for something impossible, they are not enjoying now also.
The goal of life is not pleasure from material comfort, nor freedom from pain caused by material situations. The goal of life is wisdom, which will give emotional independence from the material world. The world is and will always be full of dualities – hopes and disappointments, success and failure, birth and death, health and disease, wealth and poverty, profit and loss, etc. It is the effect of our own past actions that bring us to the present condition. There is no external entity that decides our lot. Our present actions will decide our future condition. It is a simple natural law in action. We get what we deserve. It is duty of the people who are well off to help the unfortunate ones. This positive action will help both the person helping and the person being helped. This is the way forward for both. We need not and should not be negligent of material pursuit and achievements. But we should know that happiness and peace will come only from within and not from outside.