What constitutes spirituality? A large number of people in the world do not clearly understand what spirituality is. Many confuse spirituality with religiosity. They believe that to observe religious practices such as prayers, reading scriptures, fasting, going on pilgrimage is spirituality. There are also those who are not religiously inclined but think that having good wishes for others, being kind and doing charitable deeds is what it means to be spiritual.
True spirituality, as the word itself suggests, has to do with the spirit or soul. The foundation of spirituality is the awareness that we are souls, not bodies. And it is not enough to merely know this fact. Millions who have read the Bhagavad Gita know about the soul and its immortality, but how many of them are conscious of being a soul while going about their daily lives? Do they act with the awareness that the soul is performing actions through the body? Do they look at fellow human beings as souls and interact with them with that awareness? That is what it means to be soul-conscious.
Being soul-conscious and having knowledge about the qualities of the soul and the role it plays, completely changes our perspective on life. It is the soul, the sentient entity, that feels all the happiness and pain that we experience. The body is merely the medium through which the soul gets these experiences. As the soul goes through the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, it also gets the fruit of every action it performs, whether good or bad. Since the soul carries a record of each and every action performed by it in every birth, it gets rewarded or punished for these actions over several births. A soul’s good deeds may not necessarily be rewarded in the same birth, nor may it suffer the consequences of its misdeeds immediately. However, the law of karma is inescapable. This knowledge makes a spiritual person very careful about his thoughts, words and deeds.
Everything achieved by a body-consciousness person is temporary and short-lived. Such a person would spend his life and energy acquiring money, status and means of comfort, all of which they will leave behind upon death. The experience of pleasure through the body is dependent on the sense organs. Excessive indulgence in such pleasures makes one a slave to the senses and this brings great misery when the body begins to decay with old age. Moreover, for a body-conscious person everything finishes with death, which can occur any time, because of which they live in fear and worry.
One reason why religious practices do not help the body-conscious achieve liberation is that being ignorant of their spiritual identity, they seek only worldly things through worship. They ask for more wealth, health, a good job, a child, grandchild and so on. When they get all this, their desires do not end; instead, they get more entangled in their world of physical relations and material possessions.
A spiritual person will know that it is wiser to acquire virtues and the blessings of others than to amass material wealth that one will leave behind upon death. This spiritual wealth travels with the soul life after life. A spiritual person will also not hanker for physical pleasures. Such pleasures are short-lived and are dependent on the sense organs, which are subject to decay. A soul-conscious person will also be free of the fear of death, being aware that the soul is immortal.
B.K. Geeta is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.