What is Spirituality?
Anand Amaladass S.J.
The first issue of this Bulletin presents a few dialogical perspectives on spirituality. But first we need to clarify what we understand by spirituality. Spirituality is the answer to the questions: what for, by what, and how does a human being live? Spirituality is how someone lives; it is the way, how life’s goal expresses itself in one’s lifestyle.
Philosophically seen, spirituality is an attitude of mind, which is manifested in the way one relates to oneself, to others, and to what transcends them both (viz. the supernatural world). This attitude could be based on or shaped by any religious belief, or a philosophical position or an ideological conviction.
For instance, the world outside is neutral and the physics of life are the same for all: the sun, the moon and the stars, the rivers and mountains are the common factors of life for all. There are no Christian vegetables and Hindu coconuts. But if one is brought up as a Catholic Christian shaped by the values of the New Testament, then the common factors like birth and death, the sun and moon, are for him or her not just physics of life, but have a meaning, provide a specific perspective.
These perspectives are guiding lights that sustain the concerned people to face realities as they come across — sometimes painful, inexplicable and oppressive. But people do not easily give up. They struggle to make sense of reality, as it confronts them. That inner spirit which takes them across the vicissitudes of life is what matters.
People are usually very resilient while facing life’s challenges. They are patient hoping for the better days to dawn. So many wait at the doors of the government offices, railway stations and at the airport. If it does not happen today, it may happen tomorrow or the day after. The farmers know well: If it does not rain this year, next year surely it will. This inner dynamism of hope is inbuilt within the human beings. They will endure any hardship for the sake of the loved ones. Waiting is also a sign of inner strength. Siddhartha recounts his strength to Kamala: “I can think, I can wait and I can fast.” (H. Hesse) Are they not virtues of any spiritual person?
What people need is the motivation. They look for a meaning in life. Nietzsche would say: If you have a ‘why’ in life, you will put up with any ‘how’. A mother would take medicine to cure her sick child. Those who have not found a goal or a cause to live for, face frustration and depression. Now what motivates people in life? Religion is one of the major meaning providers. Human beings are ingenious in creating networks of survival, as it happens now during these days of corona crisis.
This issue of the Bulletin tries to share some thoughts that might provide some inspiration to any open-minded person.
About the Author:
Anand Amaladass S. J. after his Ph. D in Sanskrit (1981) started teaching in Satya Nilayam Faculty of philosophy, Chennai. His publications include a book on the Dhvani theory in Indian Aesthetics (1984), and five books in German: one on the Vainava tradition, two on the God of Dance, Shiva, the fourth one, on the Goddess phenomenon with a translation of Abhirāmi Antāti and the fifth one on Art and Religion. (2020). The Christian Themes in Indian Art (Documentation of how the Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians interpreted Christian themes in India) was published together with Gudrun Löwner (2012). His present research focuses on aesthetic spirituality and option for the least, Jesuit history in India and Tamilology.