Tuesday, May 14, 2024

By Sebestian Painadath

The Dynamics of Spirituality

    Spirituality is the universal experience of being gripped by the divine Spirit, the experience of being awakened to the dimension of Transcendence: it is the sense of the Holy, the orientation to the Absolute, the ultimate concern. In spirituality, one experiences the Divine as Spirit: as breath, as movement, as vibration. In spirituality, one resonates with the expansion of the Divine into infi nite horizons. The Spirit explores the depth of the Divine (I Cor. 2:11).

 Often one gets access to spirituality through faith. Spirituality is universal; faith is particular. Spirituality is the unfolding of the Divine in consciousness; faith is related to a concrete revelatory event. Faith finds expression through symbols, which are taken from particular cultures: symbol is the language of faith. Through the mediation of symbols, spirituality evolves as religion. Religious symbols evolve in four areas: creed, cult, code and community.

 In each area the believing community appoints authoritative persons: There is a constant struggle of the divine Spirit with these factors. This critique of the Spirit finds expression through mystics and prophets. Often mystics are silenced and prophets are killed by the authorities; every religion has a criminal history. Religious symbols in their function are ambivalent: they can open the way to the Divine, they may also block the way.

 In this article we focus attention on the encounter of two mystical traditions of the East and that of the West: concretely on the interfacing of advaita and theosis. The Spirituality of the Upanishads

 The Upanishads off er an authentic source of the Indian mystical heritage. They have been composed at diff erent times between 800 and 400 BCE. Though the Upanishads are not given the same revelatory value (sruti) associated with the Vedas, they are held in high esteem in the scriptural corpus of Hinduism for, these contain the recollections (smriti) of the sages who went into the depth of the unity of reality in the Divine. 

Upanishads uphold the absolute transcendence of the Divine (Brahman) as well as the deep immanence of God (Atman) in the world. The transcendent mystery of the Divine is revealed through its immanence in the world: Atman is Brahman – ayam ātma Brahma – this is a basic insight of the Upanishads. Five elements can be located in the mystical worldview of the Upanishads: The Divine is Absolute, Incomprehensible, Ineffable Mystery An abiding sense of the all-pervading, and all-transcending mystery of the Brahman vibrates in all the Upanishads.

 When speaking of the Divine the sage says: “There the eye does not reach, nor speech, nor mind: we do not know it nor do we know how to teach it. Indeed it is other than the known, and also beyond the unknown. Thus have we heard from the ancient sages who have spoken about it.” (Kena Up. 1.3-4) This being the case, the only way to reach out to the divine mystery is the way of negation: neti...neti...(not this, not this) (Birth. Up.4.5.15). “That from which words return along with the mind not attaining it - that is the blissful Brahman.” (Tait. Up. 2.9.) The Divine is “ungraspable, unperceivable, indescribable”, (Mund. Up. 1.1.6), “formless eternal silence” (Chand. Up. 3.15), “subtler than the subtlest” (Swet Up. 4.14). If asked what its form is, one should answer: “Its form is formlessness” (Swet. 4.19)

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