By Dr Asha Goswami
Out of the varied values of Indian culture, those based on spiritualism have contributed a lot —harnessing the spirit of the Indians throughout the ages. With the result, the spiritual-minded Indians have succeeded in maintaining their Indianness which could not have been possible otherwise. It has been also possible due to the fact that the Indian life is dominated by the temperament which is well marked with spiritualism.
Consequent upon that, the Indians have developed various thoughts of philosophy and spiritualism and gave to the world maximum number of systems of spiritualism in the form of philosophical thoughts such as Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Yoga and Vedanta. The Vedas provide spiritual orientation to the Indians giving them the basics of spiritual and moral life. Hence, the Vedic rishis should be acclaimed as the earliest spiritual masters on earth as their mantras resound with the kernel of spiritualism, and the Indian nation as the cradle of spiritualism. In India, spiritualism is not an obsession of the human mind, rather, it is a heritage as well as a continuous tradition.
For, right from the Vedic times, India has enjoyed a rich spiritual tradition. The Indian scriptures also throughout covering a gamut of every human emotion and aspiration have made a sublime contribution to Indian spiritualism. Due to which, India has always attained reverent place in the world. The evolution of Indian spiritualism can be traced back to the vedic age, which was spiritually coded and the same spirit was further nurtured by great spiritual thinkers like Yajnavalkya, Maitereyi, Gargi and Nachiketas.
Thus, in this form, the Indian spiritualism be termed as a form of philosophy, darshana or sight, and the Upanishads be held as proper sources of Indian spiritualism. As, these representing the high Himalayas of Indian spiritualism determine the height of the country’s wisdom. As to the question what is spiritualism, the answer would be it is the inner quest; a pathway for reaching the higher truth in life; a composite thinking for enlightening the realities of life, for considering challenges of life, human values and their evaluation.
However, under the purview of spiritualism are also included queries regarding the nature of God, about the creation of the world; essential values of a human being and his ethics. The last constituent of spiritualism is ethics reflecting the fine side of Indian culture, which emphasises unity in diversity, and treating the entire universe as pervaded by one Almighty Brahman.
In the terminology of the Bhagavad Gita, it be called Buddhiyoga or the Samatvarupayoga. Some treat spiritualism as identical with religion, religious cults and practices. Spiritualism is also considered as an experimental aspect of religion and not merely a ritual or theological. Basically, spiritualism differs from religion. As the religion affirms a faith or belief about God’s supremacy over the beings and the matter, and also enjoins man’s faith in the rituals and cultic practices.
Whereas spiritualism exhorts his faith in the collective reality of the world and imparts knowledge of oneness of the God with the whole world. Hence, spiritualism should be treated as a theoretical approach to truth; and religion as the practical approach to the same goal. As spiritualism also deals with some religious practices, that way according to some, even the Fine Arts — music, dance and painting — are also part of spiritualism, since they also represent the experimental aspect of the religious spirit.
Spiritualism is also defined as the science of soul or adhyaatmavidya, the higher knowledge which helps man to rise above the worldly agonies; knowing which everything else of the world is known. It is also believed that a person bereft of spiritual knowledge can never bring any worldly activity to success. Thus, there is great importance of spiritualism in Indian life.
The Indians prefer spiritual pursuits to other pursuits of human life — artha and kama — which are much subordinate to it, as the same leads them to attain moksha, a state of existence of a jeevanamukta or a liberated soul. Hence, in India, spiritual wisdom, which has gained an upper hand over material prosperity, inculcates practising such attitudes that man is divine by nature, since the Vedas extol him as the offspring of divine — amratasya putra — that the divine being resides in every being high or low, big or small; that every human being carries within him divine potentiality.
Spiritualism in India is a complete philosophy of human life, the correct way of living and right way of thinking. A spiritual man is one who is detached from the dual effects of karma (success or failure); who is devoid of self-interest, egohood and sees God everywhere, permeated in all the beings; who keeps himself in continuous communication with God, and hence is messenger of God and the benefactor of mankind.
Spiritualism, a philosophy of values if adapted at large by people, would usher in civilisation that is socially just (satyam); emotionally integral (shivam); and aesthetically beautiful (sundaram). No wonder, if the age-long spiritual formula of India claiming creation is full so the creator, the individual is full equally, the absolute is full, turns out as the highest watermark of man’s spiritual speculations about the supreme power.
The writer is a noted Indologist and authority on Krishnaite Studies