I first stepped on to my self-development path when I was 16 and miserable. Not that my sadness was anything extraordinary or heartbreakingly poignant, just a case of the teenage blues, I guess. I was bored of life and bored of myself. I started by reading self-help books, which is usually the gateway-concept of New Age Spirituality these days. These books told me that I was beautiful, confident and perfect just the way I am. So I believed that for a while, and I think that at the time, it helped in some weird way. Then I came across all the classic hallmarks of New Age Spirituality, like – The law of attraction, angels, spirit guides, animal totems, lucid dreaming, “the secret”, meditation, psychics, “intuition is a muscle bla bla bla”. You know, all the fundamentals. So after my “self-help” stage, I found myself moving into this “New-Age Spirituality” thing. Spirituality of the new age; a chance for the non-religious to explore spiritual issues without submitting to the old guy in the sky (God) and his rules. I was happy there; happy to be away from religion, happy to be able to make up my own mind about my intimate spiritual beliefs and how I saw the world, and proud to say that though I may not believe in God, I had found my own special thing to believe in.
So I started wading through the shallow waters of the self-help market, followed by the murky waters of New-Age Spirituality, and I just continued to go deeper and deeper. And what was I searching for? I was searching for knowledge and wisdom on how to live a good life and how to cultivate happiness. I began to gain more and more profound understanding of the laws of the universe, and I was so excited by my discoveries. I could see the horizon in the distance. Somehow, everything I was learning was slowly coming to an end and soon I would be at the beginning of the next stage, the next level of my pursuit for spiritual understanding. I was getting closer and closer. I wondered what could be more “true” than what I already deemed to be true. I could only imagine and ponder what could be on the other side of this meaningful journey I was on. What was behind that closed door? Finally I got there, at the beginning of the next leg of my journey. And what did I find?…dun dun dun…..
God and Religion.
Wooooah, wait a second…how can this be right? Wasn’t that the very thing I was swimming away from in my self-guided journey for “the truth”? How on earth did I end up here again? How can religion and God, that which I had previously decided was too harsh and contrived to be “true” – how can that be the next stage of my spiritual journey.
There’s are real reasons why religious people do religious things
But God and Religion looks different form where I am standing now. It doesn’t look the same as it did back then – where I saw it as a collection of hard and fast doctrines and dogmas, strange rituals, pointless traditions, old-school rules and expectations for a modern society, fantastical mythology, boring churches and empty temples.
Suddenly I started to see that there is a reason behind these rules. There lies spiritual significance as to why religious people do religious things. I came to realize that it actually comes from a deep spiritual knowledge that manifested into our physical world in the form of these rituals, traditions, boring churches and empty temples. There’s a reason why people go to these places. There’s a reason why people believe in the stories. There’s a reason why these stories were told in the first place. There’s a reason why many of the priests (and those who have chosen to devote their lives to God) practice celibacy or vegetarianism, or choose to abstain from the material world and instead to live a simple life. There’s a reason why they spend a lot of time in prayer or meditation, why they dress the way they do, why they wake up when they wake up. And it is not only because “God said so” but WHY God said so. You see, there are real reasons for that. There are spiritual and psychic benefits of following certain principles in life – and those who devote themselves to God and the spiritual nature of life, before long, realize that they need to live by them. And so they do.
God: a turn off
The word “God” can be a real turn off, even, and at times, especially to new-age-spiritualists. The person who says the word “God” can sometimes appear as fundamentalist, too old-fashioned or pushy to other peoples. But I guess everybody has their own idea of who or what “God” is, and everybody either accepts or rejects other peoples ideas of that “God”.
God is not very important in New-Age Spirituality. You can kind of make do without “him” there (this is of course not the case for religion). You can use some other words like “Source”, “Energy”, “The Universe”…anything but “God” because it appears it turns people off. For the purpose of this blog post, I will be using the word “God”.
Religion encourages you to work on your character, new age spirituality does not
Religion teaches it’s devotees to build character and I like that. That is to say, that all religions have a guide to how to be a good person. They have all the good traits and qualities explained and written down. They focus on that. If you look into any religion, you are going to find a lot of information on what kind of person you should be.
There is nothing like that in New-Age Spirituality. It is all about self-love (and at times; self-promotion) rather than self-development. It tells you that you are “worth it” and you “deserve it” and you go around the rest of your life with an exotic ego disguised in “spiritualness”. New-Age spirituality also majorly lacks in the resources that tell you how to become a good person. Sure there is some emphasis on things some things (like for example, ‘practicing gratitude’ is often encouraged in NAS) but there are deeper traits to cultivate than gratitude – traits that in fact must be cultivated first for your gratitude to be genuine and sincere.
Religion teaches you to be humble because in religion – God is always greater, so you have no choice but to be humble. New age spirituality and the self-help market tend to try to make you feel good about yourself, try to make you feel better – and in that process, forget to teach us how to cultivate humility.
New Age Spirituality tends to focus more on psychological elements of life. It deals with the certain quirks of your psychology and mind, whereas religion offers explanations for the quirks of your soul.
Another misleading concept of the New-Agers is the belief that anybody can talk to God. Yes, anybody can. But can you or should you talk to God without first purifying your consciousness first? Nope! Purifying your consciousness is very important, as without first doing it, you cannot be sure who you are really talking to in the first place.
The search for a guru
In new age spirituality we are not always encouraged to look for a guru. You can pretty much learn it yourself- as it is a journey of self.
Well, some New-Agers do look for a guru. I think it’s a very important thing – to find a guru that you can serve and learn from. A guru who you choose to be your teacher and whom also chooses you as their student. It has to go both ways.
In religion, spiritual gurus are appointed by the institute itself. So in Christianity, a priest is a spiritual guru. They are the ones who are supposed to be conforming to the specifications of a guru, which is: to live benevolently, to be well versed in knowledge of the spiritual nature of life, to have purified their consciousness, and to be humble by nature. But unfortunately it is not always the case – and you cannot be completely sure that the priest is following these things. This is why you must pick your guru carefully. No matter what religion or non-religion you are in.
New Age Spirituality is all about things like meditation (where you usually ask your angels to bless you, to bring happiness into your life – rather than blessings and happiness into the lives of others), expensive energy healing treatments, and positive thinking. It promotes the belief in angels and miracles, but forgets about God. There is also a tendency to pray for other people and even pray to other people, but not pray to God. It is very closely connected to the self-help market instead of the self-development market. We want to be HELPED, not developed. It deals with with modern day psychologists rather than the saints and sages who have found happiness.
Our inner voice who doesn’t always tell the truth
One of the biggest aspect of the New age philosophies is the importance of our inner voice. And of course I believe in “the inner voice”, but I will only believe in it when i know that I have first done my spiritual work to purify my consciousness – so that I can actually trust this voice when it comes. But unfortunately, we are not taught how to do that, and we end up in a belief system where your inner voice will rarely tell you what you don’t want to hear. It is the force that shows you the signs you want to see and allows you to ignore the billions of other signs throughout your day that point you in the direction you don’t really “feel like” going in. It is the reason why you flip a coin to answer the question “should I leave my job because I am not happy there and it is difficult?” and keep flipping after you get the answer that you don’t really want to hear.
A truly wise person who has attained purification of his consciousness does not need to ask for signs from God, because his mind is already connected to the mind of God, and so he already knows what must be done in every given moment.
The laws of society Vs the spiritual laws of nature
But rules mean responsibility and duties. And you can’t ignore rules. No matter what side of the coin you flip. And the rules you follow should be the spiritual rules and laws of nature and the universe and not just the laws of society. The laws of society are strange at times, and often not built to cultivate happiness. The laws of society say “Don’t kill” or “Don’t have extra-marital affairs” but it is our spiritual responsibility to understand the spiritual and psychic implication of these rules. Why shouldn’t you kill another person? If you don’t understand why you shouldn’t kill, the spiritual reason why you shouldn’t kill, then it will be easy to find exceptions to this law of society. People find exceptions to this every day. That’s why people keep killing for different reasons (Kill in the name of god, kill if your family is endangered, don’t kill humans but kill animals, don’t kill adults but have abortions). But if you understand what is happening on a spiritual level when you are taking LIFE from someone – the exceptions become few and if not any. Similarly “don’t have extra marital affairs” – why not? Because if you do, your partner can legally fight in court to keep the house, keep the car, keep 50% of the finances on the grounds that you were unfaithful. Is that really the only reason why you should not have extra marital affairs?
What if the person doesn’t care about the house, or the car, or 50% of their finances? Then is cheating okay because they don’t care?
What about the karmic implications of infidelity, and the dharmic implications of commitment? If you believe in that – there will be more than a mortgage and a car keeping your marriage together.
If you believe in societies laws of marriage, then you can stay together and be unhappy or be apart and be unhappy. But if you believe in the spiritual laws, then you actually create opportunities for happiness in your relationship.
Religious Rules Vs your Inner Voice
Religion focuses more on rules – whether you want to hear them or not, whether they suit your circumstances or not. Rules cannot be argued with. Your inner voice, however, can be both persuaded and persuasive, shaped and unrefined, ignored and obsessed over – and it is rarely found it it’s unmanipulated state. Sad, but true. It’s a finicky thing. New age spirituality tends to live in hindsight – allowing us to say things like “Oh I just had a feeling that it was not a good idea from the beginning (but did it anyway – because I make the rules.)” Whereas in religion, you don’t make the rules. God made the rules. So whether you follow the rules or you break the rules, you know the rules from the beginning – and they are hard to ignore, when you have a conscience.
Does that mean there are no other paths and routes in life? That you can never change direction? That once you get onto a path you are destined to walk that same path forever? Of course not – that’s not how life works. We all know that change happens all the time. What we should do however is try to fulfill our duties to the most complete level that we can in our given circumstances. And then, if we are worthy of more, or deserve less – that situation will quite simply present itself to us, and we will take it. Life has a funny way of working out like that.
Should I leave my husband/boyfriend?
If you are asking “Should i leave my husband?” you have already left him in your mind. Now you will see more signs that you should leave than the signs that tell you to stay. You can call that a fact.
Other small differences between religion and new age spirituality
Religion encourages the development of your conscience while new-age spirituality encourages the development of having positive expectations for yourself.
Religion encourages purification of your consciousness while new-age spirituality encourages the purification of your past through healing rituals, emphasis on letting go of the past and focusing on the future.
Religion encourages the development of good character traits while new-age spiritual encourages the development of self-confidence and self-love.
Religion believes that a sense self-worth is created through our ability of bringing happiness to another person, while new-age spirituality believes that a sense of self-worth is created through our ability to bring happiness to ourselves.
Religion beliefs are centered around a belief in God, while New-Age spirituality believes in angels, spirits, ghosts and miracles.
Me and my sins
I am not a self-proclaimed guru. I have a desire to share what I learn, and sometimes that desire becomes strong, and I understand that is something I need to change in myself. Because when my desires become strong, so does my pride. And pride- is the deepest sin, because all of our other flaws are rooted in pride. The proudest people are the easiest people to manipulate.
So I don’t want to chase fame either. In fact, these days I am a little bit scared of it. The idea of fame used to be appealing to me, but I realized my quest for fame should be the first thing to go if I ever wanted to live a humble life. I think you have to be a very spiritually developed person to handle the gift and curse of fame. I’m not there yet, and I know that it would spoil me.
And have I sinned? Do I have flaws? Have I done the unjust thing? Yes, absolutely, and I am not proud of them. I am ashamed of them. I don’t even want to say something like “Yeah well my mistakes are part of who I am, I am me, and I am proud of that!!” because I truly am sorry for the times I have indulged in myself, for the times that I have bought pain, and wronged people. But I believe that I have my lifetime to learn from my mistakes and to continue to work on perfecting myself, one spiritual trait at a time. I can begin my journey of eliminating my bad qualities and developing my good ones. Because these traits and qualities are accessible to anyone and everyone if we work at them. But they are not cheap.
The mistakes I have made in my life were due to a lack of knowledge. I just didn’t know better. So I do not write this blog and share with you these benevolent life-lessons from the premise of “Look at me and my good life” because I am the first to acknowledge that I have done bad things, I have said bad things, I have thought bad things. And I believe that every sinner has the opportunity to be a saint, just as every saint has the opportunity to be a sinner – all we can work on is who we will be today.
Im so grateful that I get a chance to read your thoughts and so many of your posts have inspired and helped me. This internet thing is really something.
Thank you so much. What is your name?
I’ve been reading your posts, never commented before. But this one really, it was a beautiful and thoughtful post 🙂 Rules are something we, or at least I struggle with, my reaction to rules was something akin to the general reaction to the usage of the term god, but in a sense wandering away from it a little, sometimes, is the first step in getting you closer to it. Sometimes. 🙂
I’m glad you decided to comment today! Rules are not so bad when you figure out why they were put there in the first place.
I agree with both comments above, I am really glad I was able to read this post today. I have been engrossed in a book by Susan Christopher called Reconnectiong With Your Soul, it’s a book/workbook and it’s very good. About getting back to your “God-Self” and then being able to manage the more powerful and transcendant energy. I picked it up at http://reconnectingwithyoursoul.com, and I have found it very insightful. Thank you again for this post, very well done!
Thanks very much for organizing your thoughts and writing them out. As someone who came from a Monotheistic religious background, did a /lot/ of studying on my own, and has through experiencing life slowly and trended towards more spiritual and less religious (probably not mystic, probably just confused), I find your words very encouraging. It’s like your words show some of the path over the bridge that goes in the other direction, and it makes both directions seem a little clearer. Thanks.
I am actually a believer of God and do not conform to any religious acts only out of love for God. I see your message here and I am very Happy to see you dont stay in one place you dont conform, you actually allow yourself to be unique and yourself as you desire. Kudos to you!
Well done, Malavika. You have expressed many things that I have more recently given consideration to. The study of ancient sacred text, such as the Bhagavad Gita can be deeply satisfying to the soul and is completely focussed on the improvement and evolution of consciousness. Thank you for your excellent blog.
Arlene, I am so happy to see that you are still reading my blog! I agree with you. As I discover more of the ancient vedic teachings, I find that there is such a richness of knowledge and information there that is so unlike anything I have seen available on the “market” today. Thinking of you.
Malavika, that was beautiful. You really have a special gift with words. As the the las bit of your blog…I definately think that we are our own harshest judges and that it is probably easier to forgive others for their mistakes than it is to forgive ourselves for our own.
Thank you Laura. It has been something I have been thinking about for a while, and I am happy that i was able to express these thoughts. See you soon girl!
That first paragraph is exactly me right now. Very nice post!
Yay, enjoy the rest of your journey! You may be surprised with what you find.