main

The Purpose of the Book


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 of the religions who claimed to have experienced the spiritual reality either directly or through messengers, preached what that spiritual reality was like and what individuals should do and not to do if they wished 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 it is still taught in organized religions as a mystical phenomenon. Most of what is being taught in spirituality, e.g. God, soul, spirit, heaven, hell, karma, life after death etc are presented as mystical phenomena. Most of them 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 which authenticity is questionable, a faith in theories that have not been tested and proved by scientific means, a faith in various metaphysical elements that are unobservable, unscientific, irrational and illogical, and a faith in the preachers who do not practice what they preach.

In the modern scientifically trained human mind, such blind faith is almost non-existent. The modern mind tends to question everything before accepting and putting into practice. Therefore, millions of men and women with such a ‘scientific mind’ in modern society are deprived of the potential benefits of spirituality, benefits which could make their lives more successful, peaceful and happier. However, the good news is that recent discoveries in modern science, especially in quantum physics, biology, neuroscience, transpersonal psychology, and scientific studies on consciousness and near-death experience, are now beginning to shed light on the field of spirituality and de-mystify some of its key elements. This book is based on such scientific information and presents spirituality in scientific terms in a way the modern mind can grasp and accept. It is expected that an understanding of spirituality in scientific terms will generate a new form of faith that is based, not on beliefs, but on clear understanding. Such a faith is strong, firm and stable. Those who have such an unwavering faith are free from the heavy burden of the unnecessary beliefs, rituals, traditions, customs and ceremonies performed by many others who are driven by blind faith. Being driven by faith based on scientific understanding, they know the meaning of each and every spiritual practice, how they work and how they contribute towards achieving their purpose of life. They can choose the practices that are really necessary and drop others. As long as spirituality remains a mystery and the seekers depend on organized religions for spiritual understanding, they can easily be misguided and misused by the leaders of one religion against another. This is evident in many parts of the today’s world. Hence demystifying spirituality can contribute to achieving world peace. It will also reduce the huge power of the leaders of some organized religious who misuse their power to achieve personal interests and to secure political, financial and social gains. Clear understanding of spirituality in scientific terms will enable many people to see all religions as different pathways to the same goal and to transcend religion and become global citizens, members of the global human family and an integral part of the universe. Thus, demystifying spirituality is a prime need of this era.

Summary of the Content

The English word spirit has come from the Latin word spiritus, which means breath or that which gives life or vitality to a system. Spirituality literally means the state of being with spirit. This implies that currently, we are not one with the spirit or remain separated from the spirit. Chapter one ‘Understanding Our Reality’ begins with an inward microscopic journey which carries the reader into her body in search of inner reality. The journey ends up with the realization we are nothing but energy constantly emanating from the quantum reality which is the ultimate source of everything. Everything around us – the air we breathe, the food we eat, the people we associate with, the plants, birds and all animate and inanimate things are composed of spinning and vibrating energies, subatomic and atomic particles. Our sense organs recognize things around us at the energy level; it is the brain which processes the information it receives from sense organs and recognizes things as objects. Drawing evidence from quantum physics, this chapter reveals that what we conventionally call spirit is the energy which fills the whole universe; this is prime energy which is aware, conscious and ‘thinks’; it is called the universal consciousness. In spite of its vastness, it functions as a single unified field in which there are no divisions or separations. Though we perceive ourselves as separate individuals, our ultimate reality is one. From the perspective of the universal consciousness, we all are one.

Based on evidence derived from recent discoveries in neuroscience and cell biology, chapter two ‘What Are We Designed to Be?’ describes the connection between the universal consciousness and our brain. According to recent discoveries in neuroscience, qualities arising from the oneness of the universal consciousness such as unconditional love, compassion, altruism are ‘hardwired’ in our brain, and so we are designed to think, speak and act not as separate individuals but as integral parts of the universe. Some neuroscientists and cell biologists hold the view that the cells of our body and the brain function as receptors which receive signals from the universal consciousness. Since the universal consciousness is one; brain and cells want us to act as one. This evidence suggests the oneness of the universal consciousness hardwired in our brain guides us (1) to perceive our fellow human beings as ourselves, to feel their pain as our own pain and act to reduce their pain and to make them happy; and (2) to perceive all other living beings, plants and the whole nature as parts of us, to treat them with love and compassion and to live in harmony with them. It is the oneness of the consciousness that manifests through our brain as love; it is our innate tendency to be one with others and with nature.

Drawing evidence from recent discoveries in neuroscience, chapter three ‘Why are we Not what we are Designed To Be?’ points out that our innate tendency to be one with others is overridden by culturally constructed individuality, the sense of ‘I’ or self that is soft-wired in our brain. It is this individuality which blocks the hardwired oneness. With reference to the theory of neuroplasticity and attachments, this chapter elaborates in neurological terms how our sense of self or individuality is built up and how it overrides the hardwired oneness. Sense of oneness is strong during childhood, but as we grow the new neural connections developed in the brain in response to self-centeredness, competitiveness and insecurity, give rise to a sense of separateness and individuality which eventually overrides the oneness. In our life-long struggle to live in a competitive society, these new neural connections get further strengthened and established. However, recent scientific discoveries in neuroscience, neuropsychology and psychotherapy suggest that the sense of separateness and individuality soft-wired in the brain can be dissolved so that the hardwired oneness can emerge. With the support of scientific evidence, this chapter points out that if we free ourselves from the influence of the soft-wired brain we can be selfless, altruistic, and happier people. Liberating ourselves from the soft-wired brain means spiritual growth.

To liberate ourselves from the undesirable influence of the false perceptions soft-wired in our brain, we should either dissolve those false perceptions or replace them with true perceptions. Chapter four ‘Becoming what We are Designed to Be: Pathways to Spirituality’ provides a comprehensive account of conventional and non-conventional pathways available to us to achieve this goal. For living in this material world we need the soft-wired brain. But we should not allow it to be our master. We should be the master and use it as an instrument. To achieve this goal, ancient oriental classics identify three pathways; (1) the path of wisdom (Jnana Yoga), (2) the path of action (Karma Yoga), and (3) the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). The path of wisdom calls for meditative intellectual discrimination between truth and untruth which helps us to differentiate the true self the universal consciousness from the false self, our sense of ‘I’ which is soft-wired in our brain. Realization of the falsehood in deep meditation will dissolve the neural circuits which form the false self. To achieve the same goal, the path of action emphasizes serving others without expecting reward. Our brain is wired to act for rewards. Serving others without expecting reward will slowly re-wire the brain to make us less self-centered and more spiritual. The path of devotion is a path of love and devotion to God. Those who follow this path surrender to God and accept everything that happens to them as God’s will, believing God knows what they need better than they themselves. Instead of seeking what they like, they willingly accept whatever is given. Practising this way of life gradually dissolves the neural circuits that form our likes and dislikes and so dissolves the self. All religions are on these paths. Those who are spiritual but non-religious follow various unconventional pathways. Some of these pathways include meditation, psychospiritual therapy, past-life regression therapy, music therapy, spiritually inspired service activities, spiritual workshops, study groups, seminars, conferences and studies of new-age scientific literature.

Chapter five ‘Does Spirituality Matter?’ highlights the practical value of spirituality for achieving a successful and happy life. What grows within as us we evolve spiritually is love, the force which keeps us together in harmony. Today we live in a world in which there is no harmony. We are witnessing lack of love everywhere at all levels, in families, communities, societies, countries and among the countries. That is why spirituality matters to us. However, there is a general misconception that spirituality is ‘other-worldly’ and does not benefit us in this life. This chapter points out, with the help of empirical evidence, that spirituality benefits in numerous ways individuals and societies. With the support of empirical evidence, it highlights the value of being spiritual as a way achieving a higher level of happiness and inner peace at a lower cost. Scientific discoveries reveal enormous health benefits of spirituality. Incorporation of spirituality into business, administration, management, education, governance and politics are also highlighted with the support of empirical evidence.

Spirituality involves personal inner transformation. No one cannot transform another but can help others to transform themselves. It is possible for governments and organizations to help individuals to achieve their spiritual goals by adopting appropriate policy measures. Chapter six ‘Ways Forward’ provides such policy recommendations. Spirituality is no longer taught in formal educational institutions. Such institutions impart knowledge and skills necessary for living, but they do not impart spiritual knowledge necessary for life; how to live our lives in harmony with others and with nature. The significance of incorporating spirituality into schools and higher educational institutions is highlighted. Spirituality appears to be slipping away from contemporary religious institutions. Many of them appear to instil in the minds of their members religious egoism – ‘only my religion is true, all others are false.’ Instead of uniting humanity, institutionalized religions appear to promote division and conflict. Hence, it is necessary to adopt appropriate policies to re-spiritualize religious organizations. Some important services traditionally provided by religious institutions are now provided by professional secular organizations. It is recommended spirituality be incorporated into these organizations.

The world urgently needs a transformation, a spiritual transformation in individuals. The Epilogue emphasizes the fact there is no external force which can bring such a transformation to the world and points out the only way to transform the world is to transform ourselves.

The English word spirit has come from the Latin word spiritus, which means breath or that which gives life or vitality to a system. Spirituality literally means the state of being with spirit. This implies that currently, we are not one with the spirit or remain separated from the spirit. Chapter one ‘Understanding Our Reality’ begins with an inward microscopic journey which carries the reader into her body in search of inner reality. The journey ends up with the realization we are nothing but energy constantly emanating from the quantum reality which is the ultimate source of everything. Everything around us – the air we breathe, the food we eat, the people we associate with, the plants, birds and all animate and inanimate things are composed of spinning and vibrating energies, subatomic and atomic particles. Our sense organs recognize things around us at the energy level; it is the brain which processes the information it receives from sense organs and recognizes things as objects. Drawing evidence from quantum physics, this chapter reveals that what we conventionally call spirit is the energy which fills the whole universe; this is prime energy which is aware, conscious and ‘thinks’; it is called the universal consciousness. In spite of its vastness, it functions as a single unified field in which there are no divisions or separations. Though we perceive ourselves as separate individuals, our ultimate reality is one. From the perspective of the universal consciousness, we all are one.

Based on evidence derived from recent discoveries in neuroscience and cell biology, chapter two ‘What Are We Designed to Be?’ describes the connection between the universal consciousness and our brain. According to recent discoveries in neuroscience, qualities arising from the oneness of the universal consciousness such as unconditional love, compassion, altruism are ‘hardwired’ in our brain, and so we are designed to think, speak and act not as separate individuals but as integral parts of the universe. Some neuroscientists and cell biologists hold the view that the cells of our body and the brain function as receptors which receive signals from the universal consciousness. Since the universal consciousness is one; brain and cells want us to act as one. This evidence suggests the oneness of the universal consciousness hardwired in our brain guides us (1) to perceive our fellow human beings as ourselves, to feel their pain as our own pain and act to reduce their pain and to make them happy; and (2) to perceive all other living beings, plants and the whole nature as parts of us, to treat them with love and compassion and to live in harmony with them. It is the oneness of the consciousness that manifests through our brain as love; it is our innate tendency to be one with others and with nature.

Drawing evidence from recent discoveries in neuroscience, chapter three ‘Why are we Not what we are Designed To Be?’ points out that our innate tendency to be one with others is overridden by culturally constructed individuality, the sense of ‘I’ or self that is soft-wired in our brain. It is this individuality which blocks the hardwired oneness. With reference to the theory of neuroplasticity and attachments, this chapter elaborates in neurological terms how our sense of self or individuality is built up and how it overrides the hardwired oneness. Sense of oneness is strong during childhood, but as we grow the new neural connections developed in the brain in response to self-centeredness, competitiveness and insecurity, give rise to a sense of separateness and individuality which eventually overrides the oneness. In our life-long struggle to live in a competitive society, these new neural connections get further strengthened and established. However, recent scientific discoveries in neuroscience, neuropsychology and psychotherapy suggest that the sense of separateness and individuality soft-wired in the brain can be dissolved so that the hardwired oneness can emerge. With the support of scientific evidence, this chapter points out that if we free ourselves from the influence of the soft-wired brain we can be selfless, altruistic, and happier people. Liberating ourselves from the soft-wired brain means spiritual growth.

To liberate ourselves from the undesirable influence of the false perceptions soft-wired in our brain, we should either dissolve those false perceptions or replace them with true perceptions. Chapter four ‘Becoming what We are Designed to Be: Pathways to Spirituality’ provides a comprehensive account of conventional and non-conventional pathways available to us to achieve this goal. For living in this material world we need the soft-wired brain. But we should not allow it to be our master. We should be the master and use it as an instrument. To achieve this goal, ancient oriental classics identify three pathways; (1) the path of wisdom (Jnana Yoga), (2) the path of action (Karma Yoga), and (3) the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). The path of wisdom calls for meditative intellectual discrimination between truth and untruth which helps us to differentiate the true self the universal consciousness from the false self, our sense of ‘I’ which is soft-wired in our brain. Realization of the falsehood in deep meditation will dissolve the neural circuits which form the false self. To achieve the same goal, the path of action emphasizes serving others without expecting reward. Our brain is wired to act for rewards. Serving others without expecting reward will slowly re-wire the brain to make us less self-centered and more spiritual. The path of devotion is a path of love and devotion to God. Those who follow this path surrender to God and accept everything that happens to them as God’s will, believing God knows what they need better than they themselves. Instead of seeking what they like, they willingly accept whatever is given. Practising this way of life gradually dissolves the neural circuits that form our likes and dislikes and so dissolves the self. All religions are on these paths. Those who are spiritual but non-religious follow various unconventional pathways. Some of these pathways include meditation, psychospiritual therapy, past-life regression therapy, music therapy, spiritually inspired service activities, spiritual workshops, study groups, seminars, conferences and studies of new-age scientific literature.

Chapter five ‘Does Spirituality Matter?’ highlights the practical value of spirituality for achieving a successful and happy life. What grows within as us we evolve spiritually is love, the force which keeps us together in harmony. Today we live in a world in which there is no harmony. We are witnessing lack of love everywhere at all levels, in families, communities, societies, countries and among the countries. That is why spirituality matters to us. However, there is a general misconception that spirituality is ‘other-worldly’ and does not benefit us in this life. This chapter points out, with the help of empirical evidence, that spirituality benefits in numerous ways individuals and societies. With the support of empirical evidence, it highlights the value of being spiritual as a way achieving a higher level of happiness and inner peace at a lower cost. Scientific discoveries reveal enormous health benefits of spirituality. Incorporation of spirituality into business, administration, management, education, governance and politics are also highlighted with the support of empirical evidence.

Spirituality involves personal inner transformation. No one cannot transform another but can help others to transform themselves. It is possible for governments and organizations to help individuals to achieve their spiritual goals by adopting appropriate policy measures. Chapter six ‘Ways Forward’ provides such policy recommendations. Spirituality is no longer taught in formal educational institutions. Such institutions impart knowledge and skills necessary for living, but they do not impart spiritual knowledge necessary for life; how to live our lives in harmony with others and with nature. The significance of incorporating spirituality into schools and higher educational institutions is highlighted. Spirituality appears to be slipping away from contemporary religious institutions. Many of them appear to instil in the minds of their members religious egoism – ‘only my religion is true, all others are false.’ Instead of uniting humanity, institutionalized religions appear to promote division and conflict. Hence, it is necessary to adopt appropriate policies to re-spiritualize religious organizations. Some important services traditionally provided by religious institutions are now provided by professional secular organizations. It is recommended spirituality be incorporated into these organizations.

The world urgently needs a transformation, a spiritual transformation in individuals. The Epilogue emphasizes the fact there is no external force which can bring such a transformation to the world and points out the only way to transform the world is to transform ourselves.