Spiritualism [of which spirituality is a prime attribute] is in fact the science of self-realization. It is also known as self spiritual science. Vyasa from India, along with other great scholars, also defined it minutely in the Shanti-Parva [book of peace] of the Mahabharata.* Analyzing the state and action of mind, heart and senses, he has particularly mentioned about the superiority of self [soul or atman]. Besides illuminating its importance and role in life, he has scrutinized its effect on human deeds or practices.
From the word meaning viewpoint, we clearly observe spiritualism to originate from the word spiritual, which again is made of spirit. Spirit is derived from Latin spiritus, which generally relates to self or soul; it is the atmatatva. Moreover, if there is a wish to define spiritual and spiritualism in brief, that too having the atmatatva in the centre, it is the search or realization of self and thus grows to being familiar with the reality of life.
In the Eastern World, India has been for centuries, and still is, the spiritual mentor [Guru] of the world. Spirituality, as mentioned in the context of Vyasa, from ancient times has been the most important aspect of Indian philosophical tradition. It is the main subject in the teachings of the Vedas. This aspect is found in other Vedic-Hindu treatises, the Upanishads in particular. Indian seers and saints, scholars and thinkers of repute from ancient, medieval, contemporary and modern periods including Vardhamana Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Guru Nanak Dev and Swami Vivekananda spoke at length on this.
In the Vedic–Hindu tradition spirituality is generally associated with the monotheistic belief system –“Ekam Sad Viprah Bahuda Vadanti Agni Yama Matarishvanam Aahum”**, which is further connected to Dharma. Dharma is duty-bound righteousness. The concept of Dharma is quite broad. It is worth adopting –Yatoabhyudaya Nihshreyasa Siddhi Sa Dharmah!*** For, it has also been said, “Dharmo Dharayate Prajah.” It does not matter if different methods of meditation, yoga, prayer and worship are linked with it. Dharma is above a religious community.**** It is the means to bring harmony in life. It is the pathway to connect the self with God –ataman with Paramatma. Spirituality, categorically calls for identifying and realizing the self and detaching it from the body. Thereafter, the first stage is to proceed with righteous acts and efforts to attain self development and then to dedicate to the welfare of humanity as a whole.
Spirituality is, thus, the treasure house of Dharma [righteousness, duty-bound deeds], self-identification and self-realization. Thereby, it is above the Dharma as Dharma itself is above a religious-community. Even the first step towards spirituality, or in other words experiencing or processing towards this goal, paves the way to self-progress, and simultaneously it harmonizes with the idea of universal welfare. Not only this, it inspires for concrete action. Further, if the highest state of spirituality is achieved, its result will not only be astonishing, but definitely matchless. The examples of Tirthankara Mahavira, Shakyamuni Gautama and Aadi Shankaracharya are well before us. Therefore, raising any question about the necessity and importance of spirituality in man’s life, as a whole, is needless or useless since spirituality associates simultaneously to human welfare.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa has rightly pointed out that spirituality stops all former feelings and, thus, brings the mind into the state of rest that is necessary, because a restless mind cannot think uninterruptedly. Making the mind free of outer sensory emotions [indriya-vishyak], spirituality fills the brain with fresh and virtuous [full of sadaguna] feelings [sanskaras], which are undoubtedly the basis of self-development; they help pave the way to ascertain the wellbeing of the world.
Further, having spirituality as the nuclei, Paramahansa has also said, “In the state of solitude [which is itself an important and the best point in the process of spirituality], a human being makes himself free from hundreds of those desires or lusts, which continuously try to surround him…***** It makes him alert, gets realized of his hidden personality and leads him to self identification... It calls for performing noble and righteous acts, and thus, paves the way for self-progress, and ascertains man’s indulgence in the wellbeing, progress and liberation of others.”
This is the reality of spiritualism to prove its own significance in the rise of individual and the universe!
*The Shanti Parva is the twelfth among the eighteen Parvas of the Mahabharata. It consists of three sub-Parvas and the whole Parva is regarded as the most important and timely as it brings one hundred messages from four interrelated sources –the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Mahabharata. Moreover, it deals with world peace; how peace in the world could prevail.
**Meaning there by, “There is, but only one Truth [God] –Sages however call it by different names such as Agni, Yama, Vayu…”
***As Rishi Kanaad has rightly expounded in the Vaisheshik philosophy.
****As Hinduism of today, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism etc.
*****In this regard it has been pointed out, “Kshudh Trirt Aashah Kutumbinya Mayi Jeevati Na Anyagaah! Taasaam Aasha Mahasaadhvi Kadaachit Man Na Munchati!! Meaning thereby, “Hunger, Thirst [Trut] and desire [Aasha] are like man's three wives. Until he is alive these three will never leave him or go elsewhere. In comparison of the three, desire [Aasha] is a Mahasaadhvi, because it never ever leaves the man. Unlike hunger and thirst, which disappear for some time after eating drinking, desire is the thing, which never disappears from man's mind!”