The claim that one is “spiritual” but not “religious” has lately become so common as to be almost unnoticed. I first noticed this trend among students on college campuses but soon discovered that it was everywhere. It is found in all age groups (but more among the young and the middle aged than the elderly) and in all places (but more in urban settings than rural) and cuts across religious, social and cultural boundaries. The claim to be “spiritual” but not “religious” looks ludicrous at first sight, as if it is possible to have a religion without any spirituality, and to be spiritual without having to do anything with religion!
In this book the Dalai Lama champions the cause of interreligious understanding and harmony, a theme Vedantists will be familiar with. He begins by pointing out the dangers of religious extremism, and notes that the world is now so globalized that religions can no longer remain isolated, but have to come to terms with one another.
Prayer is the primary spiritual practice in the Western religious tradition embodied in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Westerners who come to Vedanta usually feel more comfortable with prayer than they do with meditation, because they’re more familiar with it. But prayer, japa, and meditation can be practiced together. One tends to segue into another.
Coming into the presence of Holy Mother, even for a second, for a moment was enough. You touch her feet and that is enough. This has been experienced by hundreds and thousands of people. And what happened? Their lives were completely transformed. If one is prepared, if one is ready, then the reaction to that transmission comes immediately. Otherwise, it has a delayed reaction. This is a truth, a fact, that whoever came and had her blessing; their lives were completely transformed. I have seen the sinner become a saint.
The life of Holy Mother has been written beautifully by many authors, and so I will not recount her life story. First, I will give you my own experiences that I had with her. I had the blessed fortune to meet her many times in my life. I shall also relate to you what I have heard directly from the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, and you will find how they looked upon her; as well as some stories I have heard from her attendant [Rashbehari, later Swami Arupananda], a brother disciple of mine.