If one is religious but not spiritual, mental health is not enhanced—in fact it might be very disturbed. Religion that teaches or encourages judgment of self and others is often very disturbing to the psyche. Spirituality, on the other hand, would encourage compassion for self and others.
The moment man became religious, it should have been the end of all conflict. Unfortunately, religion has become the main source of conflict everywhere in the world. It has taken the maximum number of lives and caused the maximum amount of pain on the planet for thousands of years. This is because religion is essentially coming from a set of belief systems.
Where does belief come from? Belief means you do not know. If you know something, you do not have to believe it, you simply know it. For example, do you believe that you have two hands or do you know that you have two hands? Even if you have no eyes to see these hands, you still know you have hands. With hands, you know, but with God, you believe – why?
Religion has filled the gap between that absolutely blissful state that one can achieve in his own nature, and one’s present level of instability. If you are looking for solace, it is definitely needed. Most people are looking for solace, not liberation. Solace is like a tranquilizer – it puts you to sleep. We have to choose whether we want to go to sleep or come alive with a new possibility in our lives.
The Difference Between Spirituality and Religion
Somewhere, at some point, all religions started as a spiritual process. But in their eagerness to organize, they lost the fundamentals. Religion is just spirituality gone bad. Let us understand the distinction between religion and a spiritual process. The moment you say you belong to a religion, you call yourself a believer.
The moment you say, “I am on a spiritual path,” you call yourself a seeker. What is the difference between believing and seeking? You can seek only that which you do not know. Or in other words, the fundamentals of seeking are that you have realized that you do not know the essential nature of your own life.
You do not know the source of this creation. You do not know who you are, what you are, where you came from, and where you will go. You are seeking to know. When you are in a state of “I do not know,” you cannot fight anyone.
The first and foremost thing in the spiritual process is to be absolutely sincere with yourself and be willing to see, “What I know, I know; what I do not know, I do not know.” It does not matter who said what – whether Krishna, Jesus, Buddha or anyone else said it – maybe they are telling the truth, but with all due respect to them, you do not know – you have not experienced or seen it. Why not be sincere that you really do not know?
From Religion to Responsibility
This is the first time in the history of humanity that so many human beings can think for themselves. In the past, it was your priest, pundit, guru, or scripture that thought for you. You were not allowed to think for yourself. Now you can think for yourself. Thinking for yourself means that unless something is logically correct, you cannot swallow it. The moment you start thinking logically, questions will arise in your mind. If you ask three penetrating questions, all the scriptures, religions, and heavens will collapse.
The core difference between religion and spirituality is that religion presents you with a set of beliefs, dogmas, and “holy men” as intermediaries between you and Spirit (however you may name it); while spirituality promotes your individual autonomy in defining and connecting to Spirit as it fits your heart and mind.