Understanding Spirituality Better
What is Spirituality
Deriving from the old French word 'esprit', meaning 'animating or vital principle in life', spirituality has grown to develop a wide spectrum of meanings, all distinctly different from each other in essence. In simple terms, Spirituality can be defined as a 'worldview' that suggests that there is something beyond what our bodies and minds can physically perceive.
Spirituality is about accepting that there is much more to our life than what our physical senses perceive, more to the universe and our presence therein than can be explained by futile scientific laws and methods, more to our consciousness and awakening than the electrical impulses in our brain. As one of the greatest minds in spirituality, Sadhguru, stated in one of his articles, spirituality is not a practice, it's a certain way of being.
Spirituality is not definite in nature. Typically involving a search for meaning in life, it is a universal human experience, experienced by all of us at some point or the other in our lives. Since there are as many ways of experiencing a single phenomenon as there are human beings, your definition of spirituality may change with the passage of time, adapting to your changing views, experiences and understanding of human relationships.
Spirituality is, thus, versatile. While for some, it may feel like a deep sense of interconnectedness to the universe, for others, it may feel intricately linked to their association with a church, temple, mosque or synagogue. Many people treat spirituality as a healing balm for their wounds, anxieties and other disorders, while for some, it is just a mode of answering humanity's deepest queries, what is life after death like, where do we all go, what is my purpose in life and the quintessential 'who am I'.
Spirituality vs Religion
While traditionally, spirituality finds its roots in the religious process of Reformation and following strict practices to deepen one's connection to God or 'The Higher Being', its modern counterpart has outgrown this restriction, adapting to include all deep experiences that make an individual aware of a connection with the universe. Today, spirituality may include everything from a belief in the supernatural realm, personal growth, a quest for one's purpose in life or an encounter with one's own inner dimension.
Modern interpretations and widely accepted understanding of spirituality have only widened this gap. Many spiritual seekers and teachers define spirituality as openness to explore, learn and grow. Hence, neither a full-blown atheist nor a theist can be spiritual in its truest sense. While one believes in the existence of God, the other vehemently do not. Thus both belief in something they do not know. A spiritual seeker is more like an agnostic, who accepts that he does not know and is ready to explore and seek what he needs.
Belief, which is a spiritually aware person's life may be treated as a blessing or a path can be considered nothing less than a vice in the case of a beginner. A strong belief may blind the seeker to other possibilities or different ways of looking at the world, thus nullifying his spiritual journey.
Thus, unlike religion, spirituality is required to be first explored and then practised with belief and conviction.
Types of Spirituality
While getting in touch with ourselves is one of the core principles of spirituality, there exist various paths to achieve just that. Here is a list of a few most popular methods used:
- Intellectual Spirituality: Knowledge forms the core belief behind this type of spirituality. Intellectually aware people persevere to gain knowledge of spiritual theories and then analyze this information sans bias. Such sources of information may or may not include religious scriptures and most probably would require a deeper study of theology.
- Social Spirituality: There are as many personality types and preferences for doing a particular activity as there are beings. Many individuals practise spirituality in groups. Social spirituality revolves around such practices. Any group-related activity that leads to spiritual awakening - be it exercise, nature-related activities or meditation can be counted under this type.
- Service Spirituality: Service spirituality revolves around attaining spiritual awakening while serving/helping others, without expecting anything in return. One of the oldest practises to date, it is also the most commonly practised form of spirituality.
- Mystical Spirituality: This type of spirituality finds its roots in the belief that there is a greater unity to every experience in life. For example, people who practise the same believe that everything happens for a reason and are more capable of exercising the intuitional parts of their soul.
- Authoritarian Spirituality:
As the name suggests, authoritarian spirituality is all about believing in a set hierarchical structure or in authority. People practising this type follow a set of rules and strong restrictions. Spirituality of this type aligns most with religious sentiments, where an inability to abide by the rules may lead to conflict.
Authoritarian spirituality lays a framework for a form of fundamentalist belief system, a fundamentalism that tends to stick to their belief most strongly.
Benefits of Spirituality
Makes Life Simpler
With the advent of technology and decreasing human interaction, life has only grown more complicated. We have begun to live globally and the constant interaction with technology and hyperactivity has only led to a reduction in our capacity to untangle, detach and in times like these, where societal ethics, principles and moral values have grown complicated and much harder to understand, spirituality is a remedy which makes life easier to live.
How does spirituality do that? By indulging in contemplative practices, a person can learn to focus his energies on one point, concept or sensation. This alone helps the person to develop a more clear-headed mind, capable of handling problems more fruitfully.
Regular practitioners of spirituality have all experienced a certain clarity of mind, thought process which alone boosted their self-confidence and resilience to go through their day-to-day routines.
Spirituality is easy to follow too. Feeling overwhelmed or suffocated? All you need is a quiet spot and you can begin to introspect or chant a few mantras for a couple of minutes and regain your state of calm and equilibrium.
Reduces Health Problems and Daily Stress
While COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns led to an increase in a work-from-home lifestyle, the boundaries between work and home have clearly blurred. This dissolution of boundaries is what led to a greater number of people experiencing stress and anxiety. As people were forced to handle both their family responsibilities alongside work-life responsibilities, a large population turned to spiritual practices to find a solution.
Numerous studies conducted since 2020 suggest how mindfulness-based activities have been the most impactful in reducing stress among both sick and healthy people. Yoga, which traces its roots back to the birth of spirituality, also offers exercises and activities that provide relief from stress, anxieties and other mental disorders, apart from reducing blood pressure and heart rate. Recent research conducted by the American Cancer Society shows how spiritually inclined patients have much better health, with fewer treatment requirements and show a natural enthusiasm for life.
Pain is an inherent part of life and may come in various forms. While mental turmoil can have an adverse impact on physical well-being, physical pain can lead to mental imbalance. Practising spiritual methods and traditions not only helps battle these but also maintains a certain equilibrium across all systems. Whether you suffer from psychological, physiological or emotional pain, spirituality offers a permanent resolution to all issues. Since spirituality is a way of being', a lifestyle in its own way, it is a much better alternative to treating oneself through temporary, toxic medicines with many side effects.
Spirituality has also been successful in treating severe cases of depression, a mood disorder that causes extreme feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Often treated with medications and talk therapy, mindfulness meditation, prayers and yoga, as studies suggest, can also reduce its effects, by almost 75%.
Offers a Fresh Perspective on Living Your Life: Personal Growth
People are so embroiled in their day-to-day struggles that looking beyond life and contemplating one's existence and meaning takes a back seat. Spirituality allows you to do that by taking control of the rest of your life's aspects. With a better functioning brain, improved physiological health and a calmer emotional state, you can easily focus on such contemplative questions and grow spiritually as a person. Many people, even beginners, have reported a strong sense of connection, meaning and purpose in life after practising spirituality over a sustained period of time.
Whether you practise spirituality in a group or alone, you will be able to experience this feeling of interconnectedness within yourself, with others and with the universe at large.
While better emotional health helps you handle your relations more effortlessly, good mental and physical health allows you to perform well in various aspects of your life like work, family, etc. Above all, when most segments of your life are looked after and all your relations reach a certain state of equilibrium, you can easily focus on other important aspects of your life.
Top 10 Books on Spirituality
Here, we have curated a selection of the top 10 most popular and famous books on Spirituality. These books can be read, understood and relished by people from all backgrounds irrespective of where they stand in their spiritual journey.
The selection spans the most widely read authors across cultures, one or two of them being centuries old. While most focus on helping the reader gain a fresh perspective on life, some strongly overlap with the current times, offering small pointers that can be directly implemented in a hectic work routine.
1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Authored by Eckhart Tolle, one of the most famous authors on spirituality, the book strives to make the reader aware of how preoccupied we are with the future, or burdened by our past, but never bothered about our present. Through this book, Tolle prompts us to go beyond our mind's consciousness, to let go of the mental insanity and embrace our first steps towards connecting with our true self.
Meant for beginners as well as people with some experience in spirituality, it is an excellent read for spiritual seekers. The book has also been reported to be quite a help for people with depression and anxiety. The core of The Power of Now has to do with walking readers through self-sabotage and developing hindsight to make better choices on their behalf. The paperback edition of the book is available for ₹ 170.00 on Flipkart.
2. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
One of the most prominent books ever written on spirituality, The Secret explores the laws of attraction and their impact on our daily lives. After the death of her father at an early age, Byrne struggled with depression and it was only after her daughter suggested a spiritual book did she come across the power of positive thinking. Through this book, Byrne compiles her understanding of spiritual awakening and guides the reader on how to use these laws in their daily lives. The book emphasises on the power of your desires and how you can achieve anything you want if you just focus your energy on it. You can check out the hardcover edition of the book on Amazon where it is available for ₹ 244.00.
3. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
Originally meant for experienced spiritual seekers, the book is an in-depth analysis of various facets from psychology, Buddhism and the art of self-exploration. The book will help you distinguish between your thoughts and yourself, and strives to make the readers realise that while it may seem likely that we are our thoughts, this is a gross misconception. We are not our thoughts and separating the two helps us to understand our true selves.
Michael Singer has championed yogic philosophy and tangible meditation for years, especially through The Untethered Soul. Singer offers the groundwork to find mental peace and quiet every single day, even amid stressful routines. The paperback edition of the book is available on Amazon for ₹ 199.00.
4. New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
“Every ego wants to be special. If it can’t be special by being superior to others, it’s especially happy with being miserable.” Eckhart Tolle.
An easy spirituality book for beginners, Eckhart Tolle implores us to analyse humanity's current state and pursue our potential for change. Unlike any other self-improvement book, Tolle's book does not provide any small tasks but instead guides the reader through a surreptitious discussion about ways in which an individual can explore his inner and outer conflicts and discover their life's purpose. The book revolves around letting go of one's ego in pursuit of greater pastures. You can check out the hardcover edition of this book for ₹ 1,498.00 on Amazon.
5. Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
An Austrian neurologist and philosopher, Victor Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy, which treats a search for life's purpose as the central human motivational force. This book is his memoir and details his time in a Nazi concentration camp. Being a proficient psychiatrist himself, Frankl pairs his psychiatric understanding of the human mind with his skills for spiritual survival in order to explain to the reader, what constitutes 'meaningfulness' in life. The paperback edition of this book is available on Amazon for ₹ 190.00.
6. The Art of Happiness at Work by HH The Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler
Known all over the globe for his work on Spirituality, the Dalai Lama believes that the purpose of life is happiness. The Art of Happiness is his take on the subject and along with the insights of psychologist Dr. Cutler, he explains how to achieve this purpose and lifelong consistent happiness. This book is available on Amazon and the paperback edition costs ₹ 337.00.
7. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in an Ever Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu
Authored by two of the most prominent spiritual gurus of the world, The Book of Joy is a recap of a friendship that dealt with different approaches to fear, stress, anger, illness, grief and death only to end up deepening a singular spiritual approach. The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, through this book, strive to educate the readers about their Eight Pillars of Joy and their daily practises that helped them grow. A must-read for spiritual seekers, the book also offers some practical approaches to dealing with life's hardest struggles and pains. You can get the hardcover edition of this wonderful book from Amazon for ₹ 474.00.
8. Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue by Neale Donald Walsch
Authored by Neale Donald Walsch, the book is an entirely new take on what God is and meanders on the fine line differentiating between spirituality and religion. Starting by tackling the most common questions in life about money, love, success and why the world is the way it is, the book goes on to explore how the reader can understand and fulfil his purpose in life. Meant for spiritual seekers at any and every stage, the book offers tips and techniques to lead a more fulfilling lifestyle and might turn out to be truly life-changing. You can buy the hardcover edition for ₹ 1,299.00 on Amazon.
9. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Undoubtedly one of the oldest scriptures to have existed on spirituality, Tao Te Ching is the only Chinese book on the list. Written in 5th century BC by Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, this book revolves around detailed descriptions about Taoism, the Chinese version of spirituality, dishing out lessons that are relevant to this day.
Taoism revolves around living in harmony with 'The Way', i.e. nature, human nature and the natural flow of life. The book seeks harmony and strives to enlighten you on the caustic effects of greed, lust and judgemental thinking. Tao Te Ching has been written in a poem format and since it has been translated from Chinese, it’s not your typical bedtime read. Try this book out on your next road trip or better still, on your way to a long vacation. It is available for ₹ 1,650.00 on Amazon.
10. Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia
Ikigai is a Japanese word that roughly translates to 'the happiness of leading a fulfilling life. Born out of a hundred interviews in Ogimi, Okinawa, the book starts with a simple question: “What do Japanese artisans, engineers, Zen philosophy, and cuisine have in common? Simplicity and attention to detail.” Japan is one of those very few countries with one of the lowest mortality rates and the highest number of centenarians and supercentenarians. In this book, the authors compile the reasons behind these people's long lives and good health and explain the same through the centuries-old concept of Ikigai.
The book describes what Ikigai is, its principles and how readers can incorporate the same in their daily lives. Each person's Ikigai is thought to be different and must be explored individually. The hardcover edition of this book is available on Amazon for ₹ 317.00.
So if you have found your path to this list, welcome, and we hope that you have found what you were looking for. If you wish to recommend any other books on spirituality, please share with us in the comment section below and may joy and peace find you every minute of every day.