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Spirituality vs Religion

Human Religion and Divine Religion: Religion vs Spirituality

Religion can be an instrument of the divine. Religion can also be interpreted purely for the benefit of its believers. When religion is used to promote man's selfish ends, it is no longer divine, but a human creation. In its purest form, religion is pure spirituality, and can take a seeker to silent communion with God; at other times, religion can be used to justify man's selfish actions and give a false sense of moral superiority. When is religion spiritual? and when is it only human interpretation?

1. The Paths are Many the Goal is One

Human religion feels that there is only one path to God. Human religion feels that only by believing in the tenets of a particular religion can a seeker attain salvation. Furthermore, human religion quite often feels that other religions and spiritual paths are completely false, and can offer nothing to its practitioners. Spirituality knows that the only real religion is the love of God; although, the outer forms may be different, the end goal of religious paths is the same.

"One must learn that truth may be expressed in a hundred thousand different ways, and that each of these ways is true as far as it goes. We must learn that the same thing can be viewed from a hundred different standpoints, and yet be the same thing ...."

2. Whom to Please.

In human religion we place great emphasis on outer form and what other people think of us. Religious observance is often motivated out of desire for social standing, to please our ego, or to please others. In its divine aspect, religion knows that outer forms and appearances are unimportant; at least they cannot fool God. Divine religion is concerned with our inner attitude. In divine religion the only person we have to please is God. When Jesus Christ said:

"But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" [2]

he wanted his followers to do religious acts without any appreciation or acknowledgment from the world. Jesus wanted to teach that, the only thing that matters is the inner attitude, not the outer form.

3. Mind vs Heart

Human Religion deals primarily with religion from a mental perspective. It reduces religion to philosophical debate; the point of religion becomes to believe in the right interpretation of ancient scriptures. Divine religion takes inspiration from the scriptures, but, at the same time feels that the heart of religion is far beyond the domain of the mind. Divine religion seeks to experience God through silence. The divine approach to religion says that, spiritual experience cannot be quantified by the mind; spiritual experience involves inner quiet and being receptive to the Higher Power.

"True religion is spiritual religion, it is a seeking after God, the opening of the deepest life of the soul to the indwelling Godhead, the eternal Omnipresence."

Sri Aurobindo [3]

4. Inner Conversion vs Outer Conversion

Human religion quite often feels the necessity of converting others to its particular brand of faith. In this desire to convert others to our religion, there is often a a sense of egoism; we feel others must convert to our superior religion. Divine religion concentrates only on the seeker's own spiritual practice. Divine religion does not wish to conquer others; it only exhorts the seeker to conquer his own weaknesses and ego.

5. Past and Present

Human Religion puts the greatest emphasis on what happened in the past. Divine Religion puts the greatest emphasis on what happens now. Realisation and salvation can never be attained by focusing only on the past. True Religious experience involves living in the eternal now.

"We need religion because we want to go beyond the finite in order to commune with the Infinite.... Religion is a spontaneous experience and never a theoretical knowledge. .."

Divine religion encompasses the multifarious aspects of yoga, spirituality and man's conscious aspiration for the Highest. Within each religion we see numerous Saints and spiritual teacher's, which show that religion can be a vehicle for leading a man to God. At the same time, the experience of the Saints and yogi's show that spiritual realisation is not the monopoly of any particular religion; these inspirational saints show us that what is important, is not our intellectual understanding, but whether we have a sincere, burning aspiration to please God in His own way.

By: Richard Pettinger


11th May 2007


[1] Swami Vivekananda "The Ideal of a Universal Religion"

[2] (Matthew 6:3)

[3] Sri Aurobindo on the Future Evolution of Man

[4] Sri Chinmoy: The Universality Of Religion


Spirituality vs Religion


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