Spirituality for Atheists
Lot of highly intelligent people in an intellectually-oriented field (like science, technology, engineering, etc.) tend to be atheists i.e. they don’t believe in the existence of God. This is primarily because their understanding of the term “God” is usually limited to some super-natural being(s) sitting in the heavens controlling the universe – as portrayed in many religions. Any person of reasonable intelligence might question the validity of such an entity without any proof, so their disbelief is quite understandable.
One huge mistake they commit though is to equate spirituality with religion. Spirituality is about discovering the absolute Truth or Reality that underlies everything and answering some of the most fundamental questions regarding life and existence, like who am I?, what is the purpose of life?, where did this whole universe come from?, how can I experience enduring and lasting happiness?, etc. Its very inquisitive and experiential in nature. Religion on the other hand is generally a belief system built upon spiritual truths and evolved in a way that makes it easier for the masses to practice. Spirituality serves as the foundation for many major religions in the world like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, etc. It usually starts with someone – like the great ancient saints of India, Vyasa, Buddha, Jesus, Sankara, Mahavir, etc. – discovering and experiencing the Reality through meticulous spiritual practices. They then, out of their unconditional love and compassion, share how others may also discover the Reality for themselves and experience unlimited peace and bliss that gets rid of all miseries and sufferings in life forever. Large number of people tend to follow the philosophy and teachings of these enlightened beings closely for some time and lot of them are able to realize the Truth. But as time passes, with the original teacher long gone, it turns into a religion of blind faith completely hiding, and sometimes even forgetting, its underlying spiritual core. And, since many people don’t dive deep enough to learn the spiritual basis of religion, they take religion to be baseless and stop believing in it and leave spirituality also behind in the process. What a terrible loss!
Spirituality is the science and technology of our internal world, the world of our mind (our thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, intelligence, ego, desires, aversions, tendencies, etc.). Even if you are an atheist, you are surely looking for one and only one thing in life – happiness. If you think about it, everything that you ever do is so that you can feel happy. And happiness exists in one and only one place – the mind. Just like we use mainstream science and technology to better understand and manage the external material world, we need to use spiritual science and technology to systematically understand and manage the internal world of our mind. Without that, its like groping in the dark searching for happiness in the external world and quite often getting hit in the head with various miseries and sufferings in the process. Its quite a pathetic state to be in.
Another common mistake is to equate mind and brain. Brain is a part of the physical body, an organ, that enables the mind to operate. But the mind is something subtle. We may cut open the head and monitor the brain as deeply as we like but we will not be able to tell a single thought, feeling, experience, memory, etc. of the person. We will only be able to correlate activities of the mind with activities in the brain. Hence the science of brain doesn’t serve as a science of mind. The latter needs a very subjective approach which is what spirituality provides.
One might raise a question as to why spirituality and not psychology? Various reasons. Psychology is primarily focused on curing mental illness (like depression, stress, emotional imbalance, etc.) and not on improving the well-being of a normal mind. A new branch of psychology called positive psychology has started exploring that front but its still in its infancy, whereas spirituality has been developed and practiced over thousands of years by innumerable people with incredible results. Moreover, psychology, like any other science, tries to understand the mind in an objective manner whereas there is a lot going on in the mind that is highly subjective in nature which cannot be objectified.
Although there are many spiritual philosophies and most of them can be quite effective, the best I have found is Advaita Vedanta. Its one of the most rational and comprehensive spiritual philosophies. Even some of the cutting-edge science like quantum mechanics, para-psychology, etc. is getting more and more aligned with what Vedanta has already been saying for thousands of years.
Here are few excellent videos that I highly recommend you watch to learn more about Vedanta and Spirituality in general. They shall be worth every minute of your time!
Please don’t let your intellect block you from diving into the wonderful world of spirituality. Instead, use the intellect as a tool to analyze and manage your mind through proven processes, and lead a much happier and fulfilling life. Innumerable highly intelligent people have been doing it successfully over thousands of years all over the world and so can you. I wish you all my best!
(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/146773002410/spirituality-for-atheists)