What is religion? Whenever any kind of an act or a pursuit or an expression is thought of, which is addressed to God or related to God, it becomes religious; any kind of an action, performance or pursuit.
What is secular? Anything other than religious.
When we get up early in the morning, people say it is not a religious act but when we take a beautiful bath and go to the temple or sit in the pooja room, we consider it to be religious. If we have to take bath, we have to get up. Without getting up, we cannot have your bath. So, getting up is a preliminary or part of the bathing process. So, is it not also religious then? Without having our bath and going to the pooja room, we cannot worship. So even walking from the bathroom to the pooja room; that is also religious. But somehow people are not able to think in this manner. So, they divide between religion and non-religion, religion and secular.
This division is actually wrong! If and when we are able to think of religion in such a manner, that the whole life is comprehended and contained by your religious practice, religious thoughts or religious outlook, that is the right thing. When the differentiation between religion and secular vanishes and we have a higher and a wholesome point of view, it is called spiritual.
The spiritualist never distinguishes between religious and non-religious acts. Every act is done by me, the actor. Whether I address the act to god or not god, it becomes my act and what am I? I am a pāṁcabhautika (the 5-fold matter-energy aggregate made up of earth, water, gases, enrergy and space) body animated by the spirit. The paṁcabhūtas became a bodily coordinate only because the spirit animates matter and energy. So, my own personality is not a dead body. It is a living body. The livingness belongs to the spirit and only when the spirit is animate, it animates the body, I become alive. So, my very life and personality are spiritual! And what about the world? This earth is not a manly product. Everything is created by God and earth also is His creation. Whatever is His creation and whatever is preserved by Him, how can I distinguish Him from this? Both are equally divine and godly. See, when our thoughts about god, thoughts about religion, and thoughts about ourself start becoming revolutionized, reformed and refined, then we will find everything becomes godly and divine.
What is the difference between a spiritual practice and a religious practice?
In religion everything depends upon and rests upon a God and this God is infinitely distant and invisible. He is not close. He is very very distant and he is invisible also. So, all the religious actions are addressed to an invisible and distant god. The entire focus is on such a goal, such an ideal. In spirituality that is completely eliminated. Everything that is done is focused on our own personality and the different levels of activity. How many levels of activity are there? The sensory and bodily level, then oral level, distinct in itself. The visible part is over. Now, we have a mental level where using the mind you can think and remember. Then there is a deeper level, a higher level called the intelligence level. So, in that intelligence level what do we do? Let us evaluate.
We do poojas, doing pradakshina, folding your hand, doing pranama etc. all these are physical. Chanting the mantras, that is oral. Now, there is something deeper. What is that? Mental – in the mind level closing our lips you start remembering, remembering or repeating things about God. It is mostly repetition and remembrance but when we come to the intelligence level, it is not so. The intelligence becomes active only when there is a specific effort and a need to know something. So, it is always in the way of an enquiry and investigation, an examination, an evaluation.
Is there any God? What is this God? What is this world? Who am I? Am I doing the right thing in the name of religious practice? What is called spirituality? Is there any religiosity without spirituality or is religiosity itself refined becomes spirituality?
If physical activity has digital benefit or result, oral activity has a hundred-fold effect, mental activity has a thousand and intelligential activity has got one lakh (a hundred thousand) fold effect. This is the comparison. Generally we find people working in the level of intelligence are few, that is why spiritual people are generally very few. Even those to take to austerity, the hardcore austerity, the physical and sensory levels, it is the most introductory form of austerity. At the oral level, it is a little advanced; the mental level become still higher. At the intelligential level if you can practice austerity, that becomes the highest and the best.
When we start thinking in this manner, we will find everything is equally divine and religious. The world itself is a creation of God. Therefore it becomes Godly. The earth is Godly, the denizens are Godly. Our body is itself Godly. It is Godly made, made by nature. The whole system is working not with your will or wish. There are a number of involuntary operations. If we ask, do you light a lamp and then the heart beats or the heart beats and then you light a lamp? Who makes the heart beat?
In our own books like Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā and others we find, ultimately the exposition is - the supreme spirit is present in the form of life in our body. As such he is called the Supreme Purusha.
namo bhagavate puruṣāya tubhyam - I prostrate before you the Supreme Purusha, who activates my speech, activates my sensory organs, activates my praanas, activates my buddhi, remaining present within my body and by virtue of the splendor, glory and magnificence you have, you are doing all this. I prostrate before you!
Where do we stand now? Which is the God that we are addressing, whom we consider to be distant? Is He distant or is He immanent in our body? As He is immanent, He is also around us, encircling us, He is transcendent also.
So, religion completely depends upon God; spirituality rests upon ourself. We try to go into our own physical, oral, mental and intelligential activities. Try to filter them, reform them, refine them, sublimate them, spiritualize them. Make sure that wrong things are avoided, undesirables are avoided, and desirables are incorporated. And this twin process of eliminating the undesirable and incorporating and including the desirable, it goes on, it goes on endlessly till the last breath. Once we start doing it, we don’t have to become particularly religious or ask God, or address God or remember Him. This is actually divinity manifested, divinity pursued, divinity in actual interactional life.