Time and again I hear people say, “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.” Their words are usually tinged with some fear or even disdain at being labeled as religious.

Some people explain that because they don’t have the time or inclination to go to a place of worship such as a temple, church or mosque to pray, they don’t consider themselves religious.

Others tell me that since they don’t adopt all the religious teachings and practices of their faith unquestioningly, they are not religious.

Yet others prefer to follow their own inner guidance, beliefs and traditions when connecting to, and worshipping the divine higher power

The truth is, a spiritual person may also be religious; and a religious person may be very spiritual.

You can practice your personal blend of religion and spirituality by living spiritual truths within the parameters of your own religion.

Here’s how Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa did this. . .

Merging Spirituality with Religion

Mahatma-Gandhi-imageMahatma Gandhi was a devout Hindu with a spiritual vision. He found strength, courage, and wisdom in the teachings of the holy book called the Bhagavad Gita.

Using it to guide his life, he fought to gain India’s independence from British rule while holding fast to the spiritual ideal of nonviolence.

Keeping in mind the fundamental spiritual truth that we are all one, he understood that there is no need to harm others even as he struggled to stand firm on his goals and principles. He said, ”My religion is based on truth and nonviolence. Truth is my God. Nonviolence is the means of realizing Him.”

Mother Teresa image in black and white

Mother Theresa once said, “I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.”

Her vision was spiritual (Oneness with others and therefore, love and serve all unconditionally) and her love for Christ came from her religious background.

So being religious and spiritual can, and do go hand in hand.

Religions Stand on Spiritual Truths

We often don’t agree or accept some of the religious beliefs, rules and practices. If they are not understood or explained incorrectly, we tend to let them go.

But by focusing on the outer aspects of religion we are forgetting that spirituality provides the fundamental principles underlying all religions.

When we seek out a deeper understanding of the spiritual philosophy, the purpose, the science, and even the cultural and historical backdrop of the teachings and practices, we may be able to better appreciate the reasoning behind them.

If the people who follow and preach religion are not able to answer our questions, or the practices and observances curb our freedom and seem arbitrary, we could do a little research on our own. Then we can decide whether to adopt the religion and its practices or not.

If we move away from religion because of an aversion to following the prescribed practices, or even to the people who practice them, we may be throwing the proverbial “baby out with the bathwater.”

In other words, we could be rejecting what is good and useful along with the practices and observances that we don’t like, or that don’t make sense to us.

Religions have served a vital role in the lives of people for generations. We may need to upgrade our understanding and hold onto the spiritual truths they stand on, while continuing to question blind adherence to certain religious beliefs and practices.

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Manisha Melwani

Manisha Melwani is a teacher and the author of, "So You're a Spiritual Being–Now What?" She offers spiritual and wellness solutions for life and stress management. She teaches classes in personal growth, stress management and meditation. She is based in Richmond Hill and Markham, Ontario. Contact her for more information or to have her speak to your group or organization. She also offers private counselling sessions in person or on-line.
Manisha Melwani

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