In our previous articles we have discussed the meaning of religion in a spiritual perspective. Let us now examine briefly the difference between religion and spirituality and how far or to what extent their methods are scientific.
Religion and Spirituality
The word “religion” is derived from a latin word which means “to return”. So religion in its essence a quest for and return to the spiritual source of our being and the universe from which we seem to have somehow strayed away. The spiritual source of all major world-religions is a spiritual intuition, experience and realization of this divine source of our being, revealed to a prophet or sages, which was passed on to their immediate disciples and later written down or codified in a Book. The popular religion is a further dilution of the original spiritual inspiration into fixed belief and dogma, derived from the scripture, organized into ritual and custom, church and the priest. This popular religion is satisfied with an idea and belief and an external piety.
The path of spirituality goes back to the original meaning of religion¾return to the divine source of our being. But unlike popular religion it is not satisfied with belief and dogma. It aims at a direct, experiential contact or union with the divine source of our being. Thus the difference between popular religion and spirituality is like that of looking at a photo or caricature of a person and coming into direct contact with him and embracing him!
The Spiritual Path and the Scientific Method
Spirituality in its methodologies uses more or less the same approach of modern science. Science is not based on belief but on knowledge, a rational understanding of the laws of Nature, and applying these laws for harnessing the forces of Nature for the material, economic and social development of humanity. Science proceeds by unbiased and objective observation of Nature, (within the bounds of the Hseinbeg’s principle!) rational analysis of the data obtained through observation, forming the hypothesis and testing it by experimentation. The eastern spiritual path follows more or less a similar approach. Just like the scientist or technologists tries to understand, apply and harness the forces of Nature for the development of the outer life, the spiritual man and the yogi tries to understand, apply and harness the laws and forces of our inner nature or consciousness for inner psychological and spiritual development of our soul.
However spirituality is in its essence an intuitive quest for a suprarational Reality. So spirituality depends mainly on Intuition as its instrument of knowledge. Faith is a part of this intuitive quest for truth. For spiritual faith is not mental belief but the intuition of our deeper and inner being which has not yet become conscious and organized experience or knowledge at the surface levels of our being. This spirituality is an intuitive quest for the inner and deeper truths of consciousness which exist beyond our rational mind. Eastern yogis and sages are masters of this immortal science of consciousness. They explored the inner heights and depths of consciousness with as much scientific rectitude as the modern scientist explores the world of Matter. This is now recognized by many progressive thinkers in modern psychology. For example, Ken Wilbur, a well-known exponent of transpersonal psychology, states:
“These eastern disciplines such as Vedantha or Zen not theories, philosophies, psychologies or religion,—rather they are primarily a set of experiments in the strictly scientific sense—-To refuse to examine the result of such a scientific experiment because one dislikes the data so obtained is in itself a most unscientific gesture.”
Reason and Intuition
This brings us to the role of reason and intuition in spirituality. As we have said earlier, a supra rational intuition is the main power of spirituality. But spirituality doesn’t reject reason; it uses reason with a clear understanding of its role as well as its limitation in the spiritual path. Until the higher suprarational intuition is fully established, the spiritual seeker uses what is called in Indian thought as Budhi, which may be roughly translated as “Value Intelligence”. Budhi is a wider and more comprehensive faculty than scientific or logical Reason. It is at once an intellectual, ethical and aesthetic intelligence with a sensitive insight into higher values like truth, beauty, and goodness. The role of Budhi in the spiritual path is four-fold: first is to check, control and purify the infra rational part of our nature; second to channelise whatever higher intuition or aspiration we receive from the suprarational layers of consciousness into all the other members of our human nature; third is to express spiritual intuition in rational and logical terms; fourth is to act as a mediator between spirit and life and organize spiritual knowledge for action.