Religion and spirituality are often used as synonyms. While religion is more to do with rituals, spirituality is that which has to do with one’s Self or, the spirit. Anything done for its growth and advancement is spirituality. They are not opposed, but stem from one another. While religion is more organised and includes public rituals, spirituality is more private and personal. In India, spirituality and religion are part of everyday life. In no other country, perhaps, will you see a sadhu (a renounced ascetic or a practitioner of yoga)
walking on the street with just a blanket and his rosary as his possessions without attracting any attention. India is home to all the major religions of the world, thriving in harmony since centuries. Although we will discuss the predominant religions in the country, we begin with Hinduism since it is the dominant religion in the subcontinent. Hindu’s comprise 80% of the population in India.
HINDUISM To understand Indian spirituality, it is essential to understand the basic tenets of Hinduism. A rich, complex and deeply symbolic religion, Hinduism is, actually, called Sanatana Dharma or the eternal truth/tradition/religion. TheVedas are considered the Divine Revelations, revealed to sages and seers in higher states of communion with the One. They are believed to be the world’s most ancient scriptures. Hinduism is sometimes called polytheistic religion, but, actually, it would be more appropriate to call it henotheistic. The Hindu scriptures depict God both as a personal being (as in the Judeo-Christian religions) and also as a principle. The same Absolute is understood in three ways: as Brahman (the nonpersonal, all-pervading aspect of the Supreme), as Paramatma (the Oversoul or Supersoul, the aspect of God within the heart of all beings), and, as Bhagwan, the Absolute in the transcendent personal feature. All the world is an illusion, a mere shadow of the Reality, so believes the Hindu. It is only through turning inward, whether as an ascetic, a householder, a King, a beggar, that the Truth can be seen. The Hindu recognizes the difference between belief and faith. A belief may or may not be true. Faith is assurance or a guarantee. Although, faith is very often used to mean acceptance, this distinction is important to understand. For example, for a long time it was believed that the earth was the centre of the universe and the sun went round it. Now, we have the assurance that the earth goes around the sun. According to the Hindu, the key to faith is experience. This is central to Hinduism. It is good to have beliefs as long as one is "working" on them and testing their truth or untruth. Each individual is encouraged to develop a solid faith grounded in experience. The Sanskrit for the word "faith" is Visvas, which means "to breath easy" or "to let go." In other words, after a thorough testing of one's beliefs, one arrives at the relaxed state of faith or assurance.
For the traditional Hindu, the mother, father and the guru (teacher who leads an individual from darkness to light, towards God) are akin to God. Ahimsa or non-violence to all forms of life is a principle that is the reason for vegetarianism amongst the Hindus. However, not all Hindus are vegetarians. Broadly speaking, Hinduism believes in moderation in everything. Nothing is considered bad as long as it is within limits and the body accepts it. It is widely believed that excess in anything leads to sin. To sum up briefly, the Hindu believes in :
A one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
Karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. Karma is not fate, for man acts with free will, creating his own destiny. God does not punish, you reap what you sow. The time for the reaction takes several births and until all the debts are paid, we keep meeting those who owe us and to those we owe, whether good or bad. However, prayer and purity of heart brings Divine Grace. Man is not born a sinner. He is a spark of the divine who, based on his personal choices, creates his own destiny. Divine grace is equal for all. One only needs to have a pure heart.
Soul reincarnation, where the atma or soul evolves through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha or liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be deprived of this destiny.
Existence of divine beings in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion with these “Devas” or Gods.