There are five aspects of spirituality – the objective, the why of spirituality, the means for attaining the objective, who pursues spirituality and when.
Objective of spirituality is to transcend the limited bodily identity and experience the oneness of the single whole that this creation is.
Why should, or rather, why does, one pursue spirituality? We can start by saying that one gets a desire to pursue spirituality and hence goes ahead with it. Then comes the question, why does one person get that desire and why don’t thousands of others get it? The only answer to this question can be that the Creator wants it that way.
The means of attaining the objective can vary from one person to another. But they must essentially serve the purpose of transcending the physical world. And physical world and our bodily identity are two sides of the same coin. Many tend to argue that spirituality cannot be divorced from worldly living as spirituality basically entails living normally, albeit with an attitude that i am something more than the physical body. While this may make sense to most spiritual seekers, there is a danger that it will amount to nothing more than hypocrisy. One may continue to merrily indulge in worldly pursuits and simply keep telling himself now and then that there is a soul beyond the body. That will be self-deception. It is unlikely to bring any spiritual experiences to such a person.
Many believe that spirituality means living in a noble way – by practicing honesty, integrity, charity, selflessness and other such noble qualities. These are, no doubt, an important preparation towards attaining the ultimate objective. As gurus say, such ‘satkarmas’ lead to accumulation of shuddha punya, credit for good deeds. However, this is not the be-all-end-all of spirituality for it would confuse means with the end. If one falls into that trap, it may amount to walking on a tread mill when, in fact, one wants to reach a destination! Yes, he will get the side benefit of shedding some unnecessary fat. But he won’t be progressing towards the ultimate goal. Without vairagya or detachment, it might not lead to the ultimate goal of Self-realisation.
Now about the “who” part. Satkarmas leading to accumulation of shuddha punya are like a walk towards the gate to the ultimate destination. However, for the ultimate experience, one has to enter the other side through the gate. Now, it is Here an element of divine grace is required. The reason to bring in the aspect of divine grace is because how the selection is made is not known to us, nor can it be understood.
When does one go on to the spiritual path? It may depend on many complex factors, including past karma. So, an easy answer would be that it depends on the sovereign plan of the Creator.
Spiritual experiences cannot be had through one or more of our five bodily senses. They are the kind that can be perceived directly from inside in one’s consciousness. For this to be possible, one has to have a really intense desire for it. He has to switch the physical world off completely for as long as possible. Only then can he make himself eligible for receiving spiritual experience.
~ Kishor Kulkarni