Spirit literally means that which gives life to a system. In terms of quantum physics, spirit is energy that fills each and every atom, and it is conscious, aware, and ‘can think’. In spite of its vastness, it functions as an indivisible and inseparable single field of energy. It is known by various terms: Universal Consciousness, Higher Self, and Infinite Self. In most religions, it is called God. Since it is present in all beings, Universal Consciousness perceives all beings as its inseparable parts and hence wants all beings to be happy. This is love. Its love is unlimited and unconditional. Spirituality is the state of being one with the spirit. Spirituality involves an inner transformation: a shift from our current identification with the physical body or matter to the identification with the spirit or energy. As we become one with the spirit (Universal Consciousness), we gain access to its love and become better human beings with unconditional love.
Recent discoveries in quantum physics, consciousness studies, and studies on near-death experiences suggest that our brain does not produce consciousness as previously believed but receives it from the Universal Consciousness. Research in neuroscience reveals that unconditional love, a unique quality of the Universal Consciousness, is hardwired in our brain. But, the brain’s neuroplasticity allows our likes and dislikes to be soft-wired in the brain and makes us self-centered. The soft-wired self-centeredness prevents us from being guided by the hardwired love. However, the good news is the self-centeredness is soft-wired and therefore can be changed. From this perspective, spirituality means re-wiring the brain or dissolving the soft-wired self-centeredness. It is an inner transformation which makes us better human beings. Once it is done, the hardwired love would be liberated and could guide our life, our relationships with fellow human beings and nature.
How could spirituality promote our professionalism? To promote professionalism, we acquire more knowledge and skills that are relevant to our professions, and there are many organisations and institutes which provides educational programmes for professional development. However, if spiritual transformation has not taken place within us and our thoughts and actions are guided by the soft-wired self-centeredness and greed, we are most likely to use professional knowledge and skills for our own advantage rather than for the well-being of society. Hence, professionalism needs both outer changes—acquiring knowledge and skills as well as inner-changes—developing the capacity to use the knowledge and skills for the well-being of society. This is where spirituality becomes important for professionalism. It enables professionals to perform their profession as a service. Thus, both outer and inner changes are equally important to enhance professionalism - like a bird needs both its wings to fly.
There is a common belief that human beings are designed to be selfish beings; we all are born as self¬ish beings and we continue to live as selfish beings unless we are trained to behave otherwise. If this is true and if we are designed to be selfish, selfishness should be rooted in our inner reality. If so, selfishness should exist within us as a permanent characteristic. If it appears only transiently it cannot be considered as a part of our design. Likewise, this characteristic would be sustained within us independent of external factors. If selfishness is expressed only in the presence of certain objects or under certain circumstances, it cannot be considered as a part of our design. Furthermore, if it is a part of our design it would contribute to our survival and growth. If detrimental to our survival and growth, it cannot be considered as a part of the design. These arguments suggest the following three criteria to critically assess the validity of the belief that we are designed to be selfish:
(1) Is our selfishness permanent?
(2) Does it sustain independent of external factors
(3) Does it contribute to our survival and growth?
Is ‘I’, or self, a permanent entity within a person? As stated by Hanson and Mendius (2009, p 211), a neuropsychologist and a neurologist, our everyday feeling of being a unified self is a thought-created illusion. In the brain, every manifestation of the self is impermanent. Being a creation of our thoughts, the self is continually constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed.
Spirituality literally means being one with the spirit. Spirit, in general, refers to an ultimate reality which exists beyond the material realm. It cannot be observed or experienced directly through our physical senses. All religions claim to be expressions of spirituality. The religions dominating our society today originated well before the emergence of modern science. The founders who claimed to have experienced the spiritual reality either directly or through messengers, preached what that spiritual reality was like and what individuals should, and should not do if they wish to be one with the spirit and benefit from it. However, there was no way for them to objectively verify what it was. Therefore, for many, spirituality remained mystic, and is still taught in organized religions as a mystical phenomenon.
Most of what is being taught, e.g. God, soul, spirit, heaven, hell, karma, life after death etc, are presented as mystical phenomena. Most are inconsistent with modern science and rational thinking. Hence, to accept and practice what is taught as spirituality demands a blind faith, a faith in God who is said to be seated in a mystical space called heaven and therefore is incomprehensible to the scientific mind, a faith in scriptures of questionable authenticity, a faith in theories which have not been tested and proved by scientific means, a faith in various metaphysical elements which are unobservable, unscientific, irrational and illogical, and a faith in the preachers who do not practice what they preach.
Being spiritual means different things to different people, and the term spirituality is also variously defined. However, it is widely accepted that the ultimate goal of spirituality is a transformation within individuals: an inner transformation which reduces our sense of ‘I’ and makes us less self-centered, less greedy, more loving, and more generous, kinder, and compassionate beings. All religions are different pathways towards this goal. Apart from religious pathways, there are various non-religious pathways to achieve this goal. Some of the non-religious spiritual pathways widely known in the Western world include spiritually oriented professional services such as psychotherapy, counselling and coaching, music, charity and service activities, meditation, meditative reading of spiritual literature, attending spiritual talks and conferences, and taking part in spiritual workshops. Latest findings in neuroscience, neuropsychology, and transpersonal psychology reveal that our sense of ‘I’ is not real but an illusion that can be reduced by religious as well as non-religious therapeutic means. Currently they are developing such means. Some modern scientists, philosophers and spiritual teachers consider spiritual transformation as the next step of the human evolution in which we shed the last remaining animal-traits in the mind and become true human beings.
Interfaith harmony is conceptualised here as harmony between groups of people who have different faiths or in other words, who belong to different religions. Achieving interfaith harmony is widely accepted to be an absolutely necessary task mainly because the interfaith disharmony prevailing in the contemporary world has been a key source of conflicts, violence and peacelessness, posing a serious threat to the future of humanity. It is unfortunate that the religion which is meant to be a source of peace, harmony and happiness has become a source of their very opposites. This paper is an attempt to search for the root-cause of this misfortune, and to find out what we can do to mitigate it as members of a group that is committed to achieve interfaith harmony while sticking to, and practising and promoting our own religions.