Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Religion and Spirituality

"I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another--an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of meta-physical or philosophical reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or hell. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayers and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit--such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others."

"The unifying characteristic of the qualities I have described as 'spiritual' may be said to be some level of concern for others' well-being. . . . And when we think about them, we see that each of the qualities noted is defined by an implicit concern for others' well-being. Moreover, the one who is compassionate, loving, patient, tolerant, forgiving, and so on to some extent recognizes the potential impact of their actions on others and orders their conduct accordingly. Thus spiritual practice according to this description involves, on the one hand, acting out of concern for others' well-being. On the other, it entails transforming ourselves so that we become more readily disposed to do so. To speak of spiritual practice in any terms other than these is meaningless."  --The Dalai Lama in Ethics for the New Millennium

I like this definition of spirituality and how it differs from religion.  I would add the element of connection to self/soul to it, though.  My spiritual journey has that aspect as its main focus, and it's only then that I can be concerned with the qualities that bring happiness to others.  It goes back to that precept of loving yourself first.  We need, perhaps, to nourish our own self-worth, love, and kindness in order to be in a place where we can effectively give those things to others freely. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing Maryellen. I agree that connection to self/soul is an element that should not be overlooked. Personally, as I go deeper within my own soul, I find a greater sense of awareness that allows me the opportunity to then open more fully to the concerns of others' wellbeing.