When people ask me why I love India, one of the things I like to mention is the spirituality that underlies life here. It’s really an essential characteristic of the land itself. The majority of people have a pretty strong spiritual side, whether they will say so or not, though there are certainly many people who exhibit extremes of both spiritual and non-spiritual qualities simultaneously.
There was a recent article in “The Speaking Tree”, a Times of India Sunday supplement, that related the results of a survey among college students in several of India’s metros. Although many felt it wasn’t cool to visit places of worship, even more felt that being spiritual is the “new in-thing”.
The results showed that a majority believe in God and either very spiritual or moderately so, though about 40% tend to hide their spiritual side. I’m inclined to ascribe this to the influence of foreign cultures where it is considered unfashionable to discuss such things. Unfortunately, India tends to copy the worst that the West has to offer, and this is certainly a case in point.
Of course, spirituality and religion are not the same thing and it is entirely possible to be religious without being spiritual, or vice versa. There are many different ideas about what constitutes spirituality, but the fact that so many people do think of themselves in these terms is really encouraging.
The results were a bit of a surprise for many people, but it really shouldn’t be. After all, spirituality is something that is deeply ingrained in the culture. This is certainly not new, but every generation has to discover things for themselves and create their own viewpoint.
From my point of view, the ancient Vedic tradition is the ultimate source of the spirituality that permeates the land. I like what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said about the Vedas (this is from a small booklet called “The Vedas, Source of the Subtle Science”, that was published nearly 45 years ago, which appears to be a transcript of a lecture): “This is the whole aim of the Vedas: that no man engaged in the field of diversity–field of diversity means field of death, field of change–no man engaged in the field of change should ever be allowed to remain there all the time. He should be given the opportunity, his body and mind should be cultured so that imperishable state of eternal Being permeates all these changing phenomena in the relative world.” Of course, this isn’t so widely recognized these days, but I’ve personally found great truth in these words, both from my studies and my own personal experience.