Ram Mandir – Does spirituality need religion?

Spirituality refers to personal devotion to God without any desires for wealth, health and other forms of material well-being. It consists of studying about God, singing the glories of God and remembering God. The rituals are often done at an individual level and in small groups and largely consists of simple worship as stated in BG 9.26. Religion on the other hand refers to worship of God primarily for wealth and material well-being. It often consists of gorgeous and opulent offerings to God and mass rituals like constructing huge temples and mass fire sacrifices called yajnas.

The purpose in spirituality is attainment of God. The purpose of religion is accepting God and fulfilling material desires. Spirituality is not against religion. Spirituality is against making religion as purpose of life. Materialists and atheists may as usual call the opening of such a huge temple as a waste of money and effort while the strict and rigid spiritualists call it as a distraction from the real purpose and dilution of principles. Let us now discuss how religion and spirituality interact with each other and how religion acts as a bridge to spirituality.

Religion prepares one for spirituality

Religion helps one understand the supremacy of God and acknowledge our dependence on God. It also helps one gradually understand our real identity as a spiritual being and our multi-life sojourn in this material world. It inspires one to align with the ethics given by God to the human beings. It brings them closer to God (BG 7.16). Religious rituals also involve charity and penance. Religion in this way gradually bestows spiritual knowledge and worldly renunciation and reverence for spiritualists. In this way, religion makes one favorable for focused spirituality as and when they come across it. Religion is relatively easy for most of the masses as it requires less sacrifice and less demanding in terms of regular practice.

Religion complements spirituality

Different spiritual practitioners practice spirituality at different intensities. Many cannot practice spirituality at the highest level – relinquishing everything and fully depending on God. Many of them have to engage in worldly occupations to earn their material needs and maintain families. Then religion provides the necessary framework for these spiritualists to act in the world in a way that their spirituality does not get compromised. Religion provides the necessary set of ethics and regulations so that one is not distracted from the spirituality. These spiritualists who also outwardly act in the world are likely more effective in attracting the masses to spirituality than those who fully renounced the world.

Religion acts as a fallback to spirituality

Practicing spirituality in a world of disruption and distraction is an uphill task. Going against the material desires and impurities within and temptations without is challenging. Whenever a spiritual practitioner experiences a setback, religion can act as a safety net. The spiritual practitioner need not lose much and still stay under the shelter of God (BG 6.41). If there is no religion, then the spiritualist will fall down to materialism and atheism which are diametrically opposite to spirituality. In this way, the fallen spiritualist can recuperate and renew the spiritual sojourn where it was left.

Therefore, a greater promotion and practice of religion indirectly helps in increase of promotion and practice of spirituality. It also ensures a greater support to spirituality. Therefore, opening of Ram Mandir which can potentially increase practice of religion is very much welcome.