Religion is a path to God. Spirituality is also a path to God. However they have differences in approach.
The essence of religion:Fear God and obey God.The quintessence of spirituality:Love God and become another God.
- Sri Chinmoy (1)
1. Past vs Present. Religion tends to take great inspiration from the past. It reveres the ancient religious texts, as the way to achieve salvation. Spirituality is not so concerned with the past.
Spirituality believes in the eternal now. To attain liberation we need to live in the present. It is not the past or the future that gives us liberation. We achieve peace of mind only when we concentrate on doing the right thing here and now.
2. Fear vs Love. Quite often religion takes the approach of fearing God. Religion is a reminder to do the right thing so will not suffer in the future. The spiritual approach to God is through the path of love. Spirituality teaches us not to fear God, but approach him through the path of love.
3. Where is God. Often religion talks of God as being high in the heavens. At times God can seem far from the reach of aspiring humanity. Spirituality shows us that God is omniscient and omnipresent and can be felt as a living presence in our own heart. Furthermore not only is God reachable but we can attain the inner realisation of God.
4. Universality. Many followers of religion feel that only their path can lead to salvation. They have tremendous faith in their own religion, but at the same time they feel other religions are wrong and cannot lead a seeker to God. Spirituality feels that all religions are valid. Spirituality knows there are many paths to the same goal. Spirituality embraces all the world religions, but at the same time, is not constrained by any religious dogmas or forms.
5. Outer worship vs Inner Worship. Religion places great emphasis on outer forms and outer rituals. These are helpful for giving a sense of formality to the worship of God. But spirituality is not concerned with outer rituals. Spirituality says that what is important is a seeker’s inner attitude. Through practising spirituality we seek to develop an inner shrine in our own heart.
Religion and spirituality have their differences but at the same time Religion can embrace spirituality. Through following their religion great saints have attained the fruits and realisations of a mystical approach to God. This includes Christian mystics such as Teresa of Avila, St Francis of Assisi. Sufi Saints like Rumi, Hafiz and Attar. In fact each religion has produced spiritual seekers of the highest order.
(1) From: Ten Thousand Flower Flames by Sri Chinmoy
Richard Pettinger is a meditation student of Sri Chinmoy. He writes biographies of Spiritual personalities at Biography Online. http://www.biographyonline.net
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