Have you ever stopped to think about why religions and societies around the world have promoted superstitions? Perhaps because when fables and fear-mongering stories came into existence, most people couldn’t comprehend the science behind these religious rituals and traditions.
Instead of teaching us why something is genuinely good for us, we’ve been fed fear to ensure we don’t do the opposite. The intention was right, but the method has become outdated.
In today’s day and age, we question EVERYTHING. We want logic, and we want science to back something before we can trust it. Unfortunately, we now discredit genuinely sacred rituals, because we no longer understand their importance.
And therefore, don’t find a need for them to be done.
So now, I want to throw some light on the spiritual nature of many day-to-day religious practices. I hope to inspire you to start doing them more seriously, knowing why they matter.
#1 – The tradition of burning incense sticks, camphor or lighting a candle at the altar.
In a traditional Hindu family like mine, we light a diya.
The spiritual essence behind such religious rituals, you ask?
We are Love and Light, as the saying goes. So lighting a candle is an extension of spreading our light in the physical dimension, thus omitting the darkness.
And if you’re familiar with the five elements of nature – earth, water, fire, air & ether; then burning incense sticks and camphor are ways to cleanse the energy of our surroundings at an ethereal level.
#2 – The tradition of folding hands, bowing down at temples, and touching elders’ feet.
The two deepest forms of humility are begging, and bowing down in front of others.
These small gestures are about acknowledging and honoring the Divine being in front of us. Once you do this, you omit any ego and resentment in the relationship.
Another metaphysical aspect to this, is preserving one’s energy. When we physically mingle with our surroundings, touching other people and objects, we create a ripple in our own energy.
That’s why renunciates like monks and sages are seen as reserved and withdrawn from human touch. They’re limiting the creation of new karma that occurs mingling or touching.
#3 – Ceremonies and rituals to remember our ancestors.
Religious gurus and pundits have made death a business. There are countless demands for providing clothes, food, footwear and whatnot for the pandit’s family. Apparently, our ancestors get that food and protection through them. Of all the religious rituals, this is perhaps the most strange one.
Because the spiritual significance is quite different.
Firstly, our ancestors have karmic bonds with the family, which we can help lift through prayer and service to their souls, especially at the time of their death. It helps them move on. Sadhguru’s book, Death goes into deep, deep introspection on the many rituals around dying.
But this doesn’t mean they need food and shelter. After all, why would a soul that’s outside the body have human needs?!
Second, after passing away, our ancestors also help us preserve the lineage from the spiritual realm, which most of us aren’t even consciously aware of. So to appreciate their tireless efforts and express gratitude, ceremonies have been created.
And third, it also helps loved ones and the departing soul accept that their time together is over in this lifetime. It brings a comforting closure for everyone, because we’ve bid someone farewell with utmost love and respect.
#4 – Religious fasting.
Well, fasting isn’t religious at all, I realized.
Though done in the name of dharma, traditions like not eating rice on a full moon, observing a complete fast during the eclipse, or disposing any leftover food during such an eclipse all have spiritual significance.
Science too is beginning to honor all this. I find this explanation a great introduction to all this.
#5 – Dhyan. Zen. Meditation. Whatever you want to call it.
There are many people that don’t meditate, because they believe it’ll take them away from their religion. But there’s absolutely nothing religious about meditating!
Back in the day, wise sages were said to meditate for years on end and acquire special powers. But they weren’t special! Meditation is a powerful tool to become self-aware and gain sense of the infinite wisdom within.
We don’t need to go to sages to get their blessings, which they acquired from said practices. We can equally manifest that for ourselves and become powerful creators of our lives.
I highly encourage you to reconsider your relationship with meditation, and give it another try. I run an Online Workshop to help people design a Meditation Practice that works for them.
Additional Reading Material : Meditation 101 : Tips, Tricks & Resources
#6 – Yoga.
While a part of the world is going crazy by remixing yoga with other exercise forms, and trying to keep the practice exciting for the masses, the one thing spirituality taught me is that yoga isn’t about poses.
It is the art of becoming in absolute alignment with your body. It’s about yog, or union within.
This works in beautiful harmony with meditation because while meditation is oneness with self at rest, yoga is oneness with self in motion. Of course there are various types of yoga asanas, but the essence is far deeper and sacred than we can imagine.
I haven’t attained that yog yet, but I’m getting there, one suryanamaskar at a time!
#7 – Prayer.
I used to wonder, what’s the point of praying? Until chanting the Lotus Sutra literally manifested meeting my now husband overnight.
It’s a fun story, which I talked about in my post, Is Prayer Religious or Spiritual?
#8 – Ringing the bell/gong at temples.
As a Hindu kid, I enjoyed when my parents would lift me and help me ring the huge temple bells. What’s the essence of this tradition?
Sound vibrations are known to move away stagnant energy, and are a powerful way to clear the energy of a space. This is also explained in great detail by renowned western energy clearing teachers such as Denise Linn.
#9 – Traditions to honor food.
Christians offer a prayer of thanks for every meal on their table. Hindus have festivals like Lodhi which give thanks for the successful winter harvest.
Another noteworthy religious ritual is offering food to God, called prasadam. The tradition goes that you aren’t allowed to waste the food now, because it’s blessed by God. And in old times, it was a practice to offer every meal to God.
Thereby minimizing any form of food wastage.
Such food is still served in temples today, which ISKON devotees call ‘feast’ and Sikhs call langar.
Lately, I’ve been thanking the grains that go in my belly, for they’ve crossed fields, farmer’s hands, markets and my mother’s loving hands, before they reached me.
#10 – Using precious stones, gems and crystals for energy protection.
Latest to my list of realizations, is the value of healing minerals and crystals.
It was after I bought my own Rose Quartz crystal, and my heart started pounding every time I sat to meditate with it, that I realized – these things do have some powerful vibrations!
My understanding was deepened further once I read Autobiography of Yogi by Paramhans Yogananda, in which there was an elaborate discussion of wearing stones and amulets to rid oneself of sickness (or even death….woah).
My grandmother always tells me that our saints were highly evolved beings which created the ancient scriptures for us, but we didn’t take care of them.
And to extend her thought, it is my belief that now our knowledge is expanding across the globe. Divine Intervention for sure, in hopes for survival and preservation of humanity.
This isn’t just true for Hinduism. Think about the Dalai Lama spreading his works in the western countries. Or the suppression of Tibetan Monks and their migration to other countries, thus bringing awareness.
Think of all the other Tribal and Native folk that are tirelessly working to keep the flame burning for their ancient traditions.
I’m sure every religion was made for a purpose that was profound, but over the centuries, has been tampered and contaminated.
So, I encourage all my readers to dive deeper into their respective religions and rediscover the Light that can help everyone’s spiritual evolution.
In fact, recently, I did this collaboration talking about the differences between religion and spirituality, and why we had the need for a religion at all. This might be a good starting point for helping you understand religion versus spirituality, and then find your own truth!
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