People who have turned “spiritual” need to consider this very important aspect.
By spiritual, I am referring to people who engage in reading spiritual books, going to a spiritual teacher, spending time at a satsang, joining a spiritual club or going for a meditation retreat and in general who think of themselves as “spiritual” not ordinary. There are people who engage in such activities on a regular basis and for whom it has become a part of life in terms of hanging out with similar individuals. Such people are always quoting some saying from the sacred texts, or something they have read or something their guru has spoken or sharing some of their “spiritual” experiences or simply complaining that the world is going to the dogs because of the lack of spirituality.
For such people, it is quite important to honestly clarify to themselves their true motivation for turning spiritual.
We can distinguish three contexts. First, there is the habitual spirituality, which is nothing but a habit learnt from childhood about following certain rituals and pujas. You see your mother and father going to the temple or church and you have learnt to do that. Some of you might choose different Gods and Goddesses to follow as you grow up, depending on your affinity, but it is a habit nonetheless. There is no thought behind that habit but just a belief. Seeking blessings from every temple you see while traveling is a sign of this habitual spirituality.
Second, there is the spirituality that emerges as a reaction to life. People, who have been deeply hurt in life due to certain experiences, turn to spirituality for solace and comfort. People who are living a hard life turn to spirituality with the hope of finding some happiness. Such people usually form clubs and groups where they can find similar people and get the opportunity to feel related. The interest in spirituality is sustained so long as the circumstances in life remain the same. Because life is full of suffering, people seek happiness through spirituality. They read books, memorize quotes from it, go to gurus and practice meditation. If the life was good, such people would not be interested in spirituality at all. People remember God only when life becomes a challenge. So this kind of spirituality is a reaction to life.
Genuine spirituality is not a reaction to life. It is a positive action towards living a life full of understanding and happiness amidst all the challenges and hardships. Genuine spirituality seeks to understand and act from that understanding. It is not afraid to be alone and does not seek comfort in a group. It does not run around from book to book or guru to guru to speak the latest fashionable truths. Genuine spirituality does not make a display of its genuineness or spirituality. Therefore, it is difficult to spot. A completely ordinary being can be the most developed spiritual person without anyone being aware of it.
The road to genuine spirituality starts from the inner recognition of our habitual or reactive spirituality. When we realize that we are only calling ourselves spiritual and want to be recognized as such by others, and when we see the utter un-spirituality of it, we are at peace with ourselves. Then we can be genuinely spiritual even while doing the most ordinary things in life and are able to handle the most difficult situations in life with ease.