Contemporary Spirituality and the Thinning of the Sacred: A Hindu Perspective

By Vrajaprana, Pravrajika | Cross Currents, Spring-Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Contemporary Spirituality and the Thinning of the Sacred: A Hindu Perspective


Vrajaprana, Pravrajika, Cross Currents


The spiritual is not a diversion.

"Know that whatever exists in this changing universe is covered with God." [1]

So declares the first verse of the [bar{I}]sa Upanishad, one of Hinduism's oldest and most sacred texts. [*] For the past three thousand years the Upanishads have provided Hinduism its philosophical core. Another name for the collective wisdom of the Upanishads is Vedanta. The [bar{I}]sa, believed to be the world's oldest philosophical treatise, has consistently had a prominent place in Hindu thought since its bold affirmation of the world's divinity is repeated and emphasized by the scriptures which follow it.

Given the number of books published on the subject of spirituality, one might suspect that this verse had been assimilated into contemporary American culture. A quick glance at amazon.com reveals a total of 6,464 books -- ready to ship in 24 hours! -- dealing with the topic of spirituality. Indeed, "spirituality," our catch-all word for sacred-goes-lite, seems to have galvanized our secularized life. But has spirituality been assimilated or merely appropriated for quick consumption? Instead of seeing God everywhere are we only consumers of McSpirituality?

We have books on spirituality for women, spirituality for men, spirituality for relationships of every conceivable variety. We have bio-spirituality, cannabis spirituality, radical green spirituality. We have spiritual dreaming, spiritual healing, spiritual eating, spiritual sex. There are more varieties of Chicken Soup than there are imbibing souls. We have Spiritual Advice from the Vegetable Patch; we have Career Miracles: Create Career Happiness and Success Using Your Spirituality. We have The Age of Spiritual Machines--and let us not neglect Doing Nothing: The End of the Spiritual Search.

And that seems to be the point. Our contemporary search for the sacred has the air of a nonchalant diversion with all the rigor of an e-mail. Despite the ubiquitous topic of spirituality, we find ourselves in a society that is increasingly hyperventilated, increasingly wearied, increasingly inattentive. We're prosperous, informed, desperately efficient--taking perverse pride in being too busy and too much in demand. We refuse to acknowledge that the frenetic pace is simply another way to hide from ourselves. No matter how we talk and how much we talk, the reality of contemporary life betrays an inner emptiness. Do we feel that if we talk about spirituality more, it will become more real for us? If we are truly living in the sacred, would there be such compulsion to discuss it? If everything is sacred, then what makes the sacred, sacred?

From the perspective of this particular Vedanta nun, contemporary spirituality in the West betrays a lack of the groundedness that comes from a deeply centered spiritual life. While Western contemporary spirituality parrots Hinduism's most sacred precepts--karma, dharma, yoga, guru, nirvana--the talk remains just talk because there is no genuine spiritual effort to support it; like a Hollywood set design, the semblance of the sacred remains just what it is, a cheap facade. In this way Hindus have witnessed the blithe arrogation of their scriptures, their teachings cut from the root of a tradition heavy with discipline. Snipping from that tradition what is convenient or pleasant, the user too often neglects the root which has sustained the plant.

Case in point: I recently attended a book fair which included, of all things, a yoga demonstration. "Yoga," we were cheerily informed, "is about getting in touch with your body and having fun." Wrong. "Yoga" comes from two different Sanskrit verb roots and has two different but complementary meanings. One is "concentration" and the other is "joining" or "yoking" -- that is, yoking oneself to the divine. Yoga is not about having "fun" in the usual sense; it is about finding our true divine nature. Yoga is an ancient philosophical, psychological and religious system. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Contemporary Spirituality and the Thinning of the Sacred: A Hindu Perspective
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.