Secular versus religious spirituality

Q: I heard the Dalai Lama say that secular spirituality is more important than religious spirituality. Do you think your teaching belongs to this category?

A: It’s a good distinction. Religious spirituality is usually associated with a long tradition and certain stories. Secular spirituality is basically this: It does not deny God or the transcendent, but it doesn’t mix God or the transcendent with stories that one needs to believe. Of course, you can have spirituality within a religion. You can have religion with spirituality, and you can have religion without spirituality – which also happens quite often. Religion without spirituality is just ideology, such as certain belief structures in the collective mind that one identifies with, and that’s not helpful. And then at other times, religion may still have its stories and rituals, and even beliefs, but they are no longer so dense that the light of consciousness cannot shine through. Religion can be an open door into the realm of the transcendent, or religion can be a closed door, depending on how it’s used. Then comes something relatively new, which I suppose is secular spirituality. We can call it that. Although he represents ancient religious traditions, the Dalai Lama seems to be moving in that direction. There’s no need to give up your religion as a result of this teaching, but you can deepen it.

58 responses to “Secular versus religious spirituality

  1. I only wish I could merge the two….Religion and spirituality…But, I no longer have faith in “traditional religions”. I’m not certain how this could be accomplished. I really do love many of the traditions in religion, however, I now know that they’re really only pagan holidays that religion took for themselves..I don’t know, I would enjoy finding a place of worship where I could attend and feel like they were legitimate….

    1. The time for religion is over, in the New Earth, we don’t need interpreters, priests, gurus, lamas, etc, to connect with the source (for me the correct name for God), the source is inside you, so the truth about religion, “religare” in Latin, meaning reconnection with the divine, is to connect with you, you are the divine.
      For the first 9 months of your life who was working for you to have the nice eyes you have, the perfect mouth, etc…? The source , the divine inside you and your mother. So relax, pay attention to the present moment using your breathing and use all the pointers that help you more and more to connect to the source in you. Reconnect constantly and consciously with your being human. Love, light and freedom, Atom

    2. It can be accomplished. How this happens is found over time, in the practice.
      Meanwhile, finding models of inspiration for what this merged state might look & feel like for you_ only requires your trust in yourself & the great mystery_ for the process of becoming that which you are seeking.

    3. The passes of reincarnation are the method continuating of Spirituality and Religion. During the develop of reincarnation is the process of the development from a Soul. The begun of first is maybe gracious perhaps the begin of religion type.
      Maybe the development moves into gratitude and then organized Religion. This is to begin the way of learning and following of religious of ideas of things ruled. A movement soon moves into the search of open God, its own exception of that process of development and soon the process of universal energy All of these form from Religion and then Spirituality. This can be like birth, early growth or kindergarten and then its own university and new decisions.
      This is the idea of forms which develop the growth to Soul development. That is then a develop of gracious, Religion and then to Spirituality. In this is a developed and continuation to Soul which has these all things, gracious, Religion and then Spirituality.
      All things then consider all the same. These are the growth of how a Soul is developed.


  2. Dear Betty,

    The only true religion is the religion of the Self. By Self I mean that which is aware of reading these words now, as well as experiencing whatever else is being experienced right now – sensations, perceptions, thoughts, emotions, feelings. This is who you really are. And it is ons with the Now. You are Everything. Not just where you are now reading this reply…but everywhere. One timeless unlocalized intelligence. Or it can be called God, Buddha Nature, Pure Awareness, Nothingness or whatever 🙂 YOU ARE HOME. YOU HAVE NEVER LEFT HOME. THERE IS REALLY NO INCARNATION, NEVER MIND REINCARNATION. THERE IS NOWHERE ONE CAN GO NOT BD HOME 🙂 YOU ARE NOW THERE, AS IF FOR THE FIRST TIME, KNOWINGLY. LET THE MIND GO NUTS WITH ALL ITS QUESTIONS AND THEORIES. REAL YOU HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. BRAIN IS A NON-PERSONAL MECHANISM, A TEMPORARY TOOL. DON’T BE ITS SLAVE.:-)

    1. The only true religion is life itself. That’s a notion I came to many years ago and that caused me to relinquish my religious affiliation at that time. Life seems to be designed precisely to enable “reconnection with the divine”. You can fake religion (it’s often quite a bit about form, which can be manifested without any underlying substance) but you cannot fake life (as life goes on, one’s disappointment with form can lead to the discovery of the underlying substance and ultimately of the essence underneath that). As M. Scott Peck and others have pointed out, religion has its place, but only as one of several stages of spiritual development.

  3. I find that contacting spirit is more important than what signs, rituals, books or words, get you there. when you contact spirit you see what is and you are free to take it or leave it or move it around, you see the beauty in a religion, any religion, as you see the beauty in a poem or a bird, or a cloud, or a patch of ground

  4. I agree totally with this. I don’t practise religion, but any individual can choose to find the spirituality within themselves and apply it within the practice of religion or without the practices of religion. Why not? It is all part of being and being’s expression.

  5. Isn’t secular spirituality just a very ‘simple’ form of religion? The dogma would be: there is something spiritual. Does ‘secular’ including believing in ‘something spiritual’?

    I’m generally in favour of the secular sprituality approach by the way, but from my point of view it still involves some faith.

  6. For the ones who have enlightened, there is no secular, religious, spiritual, and whatsoever. However, these names can be the pointers – directing us in the right path to self-realization.

    And it is US to judge whether we are on the right direction following the right pointers.

  7. I have enjoyed reading Eckhart Tolle which has helped me to refocus on my intimate personal relationship with Jesus-Christ who is not about religion but about the Incarnation of God Himself to save the world which means opening the door to Eternal life to every person who loves Him by obeying his commandments >It is a free gift from God which you can receive at anytime by your free choice.God loves you and so do I

    1. I agree, it has enhanced my walk with Jesus, I also have a clear mind while praying. I had a heavy pain body, even being a christian as I didnt understand how to be free from it. I am not totally there, but have overcome most of it! I am very thankful for that!

  8. I always knew it, ever since I was a kid. I knew I didn’t NEED to go to church because I knew God is in me. And I told people about it, which sounded strange to them.

    For me, religion and spirituality are a bit like university and knowledge. Yes you can find knowledge in university but knowledge doesn’t belong to any universities.

    Let alone the “knowingness”, which can only be found within.

  9. Religion, it has been said, is that thing that gets in between you and
    God. For me, I like to know a direct connection within myself to God (the Universe, whatever label) that leads me to care deeply about doing my best every day for myself and for others.

  10. I find myself watching the movie “Forrest Gump” over and over again. It is the quiet, unspoken, naturally and spontaneously expressed subtle kind of spirituality that keeps drawing me. The more I watch it – the more it reveals. My favourites are the following two questions posed to Forrest by two differnt people at two different times in his life – 1) “What is the sole purpose of your life ?” the drill Sgt. barks at him. 2) “Were you scared in Vietnam ?” – his wife asks him softly just before she dies of AIDS (presumably).

    You have to be very attentive to spot all the questions that has been asked of Forrest in the entire movie – or you will miss something very important.

  11. I find that we are just quoting words. What has come on earth is dead with words that the mind has grabbed. We’ve been given some great things on this earth, but we continue to deaden it with our minds. There have been healers, and people that have experienced great awakings, and I find every time, it’s either sold out for money or power. We are now moving into something new, I hope that we don’t kill that too.

  12. John 14:6

    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    There is no real truth or “spirituality” unless one embraces the message in scripture that Jesus provided us.

    Are you going to believe mortal man and interpretations of “spirituality” or the word of God?

  13. There are no enlightened beings to be found outside of Buddhism. Specifically, Theravada Buddhism.
    Without following the Noble eightfold path as laid out by the Buddha, there can be no enlightenment. Other traditions, (Christianity, Islam, Judaism etc), are following a 5fold path or a 3fold path. You need all 8 path factors to become liberated.

    No Samadhi = No enlightenment

    No real Samadhi outside Buddhism

  14. what is god? it can be everything and nothing at the same time. it can be in you and outside of you. What is world? it’s the creation of the mind, illusory. what is mind? another illusion. If my mind cleared and turned off, the world continued? the world continued in other’s mind, collective or individual. None is real, there are no you, no world, no mind, no god, or all can be god. Words are mind creation too. Matrix is a virtue world, the creator of matrix is an illusory figure too.

    1. That was my experience for sure. I jumped in the direction of a long time friend at 58ish only to discover no one else was there except infinite calm nothingness.

  15. I read the comments of Warren. I can’t recall seeing someone from a different religious, spiritual perspective, other than Christian, doing “a dumb and run” on a conflicting website that may not support there one ideas or views.

    Some Christians seem to feel some compulsion to do just that. The feelings of superiority that often come when one is convinced he or she NOW has absolute truth, and that any other view is hopelessly irrelevant, is most unhelpful.

    Ps: I say this as a Pastor.

    I doubt if Warren will come back and read all these posts or even attempt to engage in fruitful dialogue when you are RIGHT and all others wrong, dialogue is not needed.

    On behalf of all Christians please forgive our arrogance, contempt and KNOW IT ALL attitude not all of us think or act from a place of contempt, but realize that ALL truth is God’s truth.

    Thank you Eckhart, your books are very helpful, very insightful and liberating for that I am most grateful indeed.

  16. Life gets in the way of spirtuality. I’ve been on spirtuality trips(weekend trips…straight and drug induced) and you get that “high” from being with like-minded people, but then it goes away…..

    I think it has to do with genes/environment/life issues all rolled up into one; whether you stay on the trip of spirtuality or not….

  17. I like what Dan says! it is a perfect example of “closed ideology”…”I know….and you don’t! Mine is the ONE TRUE GOD”!(or enlightenment)the problem i have encountered with religions and other spiritual groups, is the tendency to project the belief that ours is the the best way, or even the only way. As Mr. Tolle points out,this is ego…not Love.

  18. Funny that Warren and Dan comment one after the other 🙂
    It seems that when some people have an insight into “what is ” they cannot help trying to fix it or codify it but this is the work of the ego and arises from a fear of losing the vision of joy and freedom they have glimpsed. It seems this is why some religious people go to extremes.

  19. Hi all, this is a different Warren from the one with the strong Christian point of view.

    My favorite description of God comes from Byron Katie (whose teachings are, as far as I can tell, completely in synch with Eckhart’s). She says, “I have a name for God, I call it reality.” That’s the only definition of God that has ever come close to working for me. Presence means complete awareness and acceptance of reality, and that is the only way I know of to experience God. I’m also perfectly happy to live my life without the concept of God, but don’t want to deny anyone else the use of that concept. But I do notice that often it is in fact quite counter-productive to true spirituality, as in the postings of Warren and Dan above, who seem to believe that they “know” things based on their religions traditions. I love what Eckhart has to say about the illusion of “knowing” in the sense embodied by those posts.

  20. Religious ideas are basically thoughts about things. In the communication of secular spirituality, it too is communicated through thoughts about things; as the only way that anything can be conceptually communicated. Both can be useful if they help point us to a new experience of ourselves, but only if they look to open that up. They can offer great practices that can be helpful as well. But, as Eckhart says, they can close doors too.

    A sometimes possible advantage for secular spirituality is that it doesn’t poison away those interested in this idea of another reality, with old ideas of a judgmental, vengeful and punishing God, which has and continues to turn many away from approaching this.

  21. Oh, well, why quibble? In any case…

    There is no place to go, nor anything to do…
    to abide in silence. Stillness is available anywhere and at anytime. Enter the portal of stillness in any manner whatsoever that works for OneSelf. Enter into the great silent Way and communion with Go(o)d. Within silence one’s pure awareness as unity with Go(o)d is assured. The Source is within.

    1. Actually I’ve read that silence visits whom it will and also I’ve read that unless one doesn’t blame you cannot reach it. So easier said than done.

  22. I like how Thomas said “Why quibble?”. Eckhardt has said that it is when we ‘stop thinking’ that the door opens for us to re-enter the peace, presence, awareness, consciousness, ‘God’, Beingness that we are. Any word that helps to point us to the ‘wordless’ is all that’s needed because it is NOT the word. Organized religion helped me through my turbulent years and served as a raft that brought me back to the ‘child within’, but now I push the raft back for another load of Beings that are ready to reawaken. It is also so nice to have other Beings through Eckhardt’s teachings to share with..Namaste

  23. To deny the existence of religion or to judge it’s purpose in life is equal to discualify the human condicion as a whole (in my humble opinion), we as a whole have not become to be what we are as a mishap of cosmic randomness… i believe that acceptance and respect towards all forms of human expresion is humbling, there is vast space to learn and feed off of the things that you ignore, i consider religion to be an escential part of the human experience… even if i do not agree with it.

    To disqualify the moment when Jesus on the cross asks God to forgive them for they do not know what they do is just not wise.

    Their is a lesson to learn and i love learning… and in this breif moment called life that we are allowed to observe, i decide to not credit or discard any manifestation of the human condition… Live, Love, Give.

    I love you all!

  24. Long tradition and STORIES? Stories? Haha.. Peter Pan is a Story, Transformers is a Story..

    Dinosaurs are not a Story, it is a fact, even though they are not around anymore..

    Jesus Christ walked on earth, and that is also a fact, and what he preached is a fact. There is a lot of historical discoveries that proove this. When he said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”, “I’am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet he shall live”?

    I mean come on.. I don’t know why people keep on challenging this fact, and making their spiritual path by their own rules and way, or the way they feel comfortable with, or by the ways another regular human being started to preach. Come on! Just embrace what Jesus said, don’t be ridiculous! There is nothing else that will keep you in a better stand when your spirit goes to what you like to call as the “source”.. which is the Father.

    Even Ghandi recognized this. When he was healthy, he said something similar as what secular spirituality does to you guys: “I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism, as I know it, entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being and I find solace in the Bhagavad and the Upanishads” And just before his death he wrote: “My days are numbered. I’m not likely to live much longer, perhaps a year or more. For the first time in fifty years, I find myself in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness. I’am praying for light.”

    So I hope his life filled with a great sense of spirituality helps you realize something: even though your senses feel satisfied, just as Ghandi felt, and even though you find peace of mind with all that “secular spirituality”.. by no means is more important than religious spirituality.

    I mean, sorry Dalai Lama, but Ghandi was having trouble at the end by thinking this way… Don’t make your peace of mind and your ease of senses fool you. Embrace the truth and “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling”! “for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

    That’s first, secular spirituality second.

    1. Rodolfo,

      I am going to post your comment this time, but with a caution. There are people from a variety of religious traditions posting on this site, including people who identify as Christians. There is no such thing as ‘fact’ when it comes to religious or spiritual belief, and instructing people as to what they should believe is not going to get you much support. If you want to comment in future, you will need to respect the variety of beliefs that are discussed here with more care. Please be cautious in your tone in future posts.

  25. I have studied the King James Bible for 40 years, seeking ardently to especially discern the true message of Jesus. I fell madly in love with the Tao Te Ching about 15 years ago. I’ve read Eckhart’s “Power Of Now” at least 8 times cover to cover. I find without contradiction they all take me to the exact same place.

  26. It amazing how much opinion it being stated for non have every proven – so this in reality this is all theory. For has anyone been beyond this life, returned to it to verify what is to come. So perhaps our statements should clarify opinion based on our own experience and what works for us. I agree with Lisa and another from April 25th that reading Toole has enlightened my perception of Jesus Christ. I have found a freedom and discovering an resounding peace. Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience.

  27. It took me a while but i found a way to embrace Eckharts teachings whilst still staying true to my believe in Jesus……i disagree with a lot i have read from people on this link however i respect their points of view……there can only be one god,not many variations…….we are in an age where people have created their own personal god….people may not want to hear this but you the person are not god……its not convenient for many people to believe in god because to do this means surrendering yourself to god……just because a person doesnt “feel comfortable” with the notion of a god doesnt mean that god doesnt exist…..i love eckharts teachings but at various points of his teachings i have to readjust to my believe in Jesus…..the prove of gods existence can be found in the historical record and the scientific evidense that their is at least an intelligent designer at play……you may choose to not believe in god and i certainly respect that decision but that doesnt mean god doesnt exist……i dont have the answers but i put my faith that god does.

  28. What is it with the Christians lately? It is as if they are feeling under threat and a need to resort to fundamentalism. Maybe it’s that they are being lead that way by their paid for “talkers to god”? Looks to me like the the masses are still happy to leave the responsibility for their lives to the priests. The fact that the priests are happy for that situation to continue is a sure sign that they are not suitable to lead a dance never mind a congregation. I am sure that there are many well intentioned people serving in every “religion” as proven by the comments of Bob Garbett on this page, however they should realize that they are being manipulated by their power hungry “superiors” and are thereby perpetuating division amongst Gods (who ever you see her to be) creations.

    1. Colin, I’m going to let your comment run this time, but please keep in mind that there are many Christians on this site that feel the same way that you do about organised religion. In future, please try not to paint everyone with the same brush.

    2. Funny isn’t it – at a communion lately, the minister said don’t idolize Justin the Beaver or Lady Ga Ga. The little girl reading with perfect pause,pose, intonation at nine, has Justin’s blanket on her bed.

  29. I think that secular spirituality is the feeling you get when you unselfishly do something to make the world a better place.

  30. I am one of a growing number of people happy to identify as ‘Christian’ in the sense that we find the wisdom of Jesus nourishing; it gives us an entry into consciousness that is there in our own cultural heritage. Much of the language, mythology and symbolism in the Christian tradition is very helpful. I also find, though, that I have moved ‘beyond belief’ as it were. Belief and beliefs have given way to a far more pragmatic and authentic spiritual practice that enables presence/consciousness. I agree with Eckhart’s statement that ‘religion without spirituality is just ideology.’ How true, even if the ideology is primarily concerned with righting social wrongs and reaching out to the oppressed, without the beating heart of spiritual connection such ideology becomes so easily the plaything of ego.

    1. Chris – you would be good for me to converse with as I have moved to beyond beliefs realization too within the last 10 years. That was a confusion as to how to for me but you put it nicely that it’s presence then. Cool. I’m one of those people who practiced Hatha yoga but had an eye on anything that rang with truth including the Bible or church.
      Or the Celestine Prophecy. Surrounded with energy the other day that defined so impersonally by it’s femininity on this earth level. The first major victory took 30 yrs and now it’s little bits..

  31. In my view, secular spirituality is an utopion. Because of spirtuality derives from the quest of soul of life. The realm of spirtuality opens by religous rituals. While secualarism means a kind of liberation from all type of religious activities. It raises after the french revoulution by rational ideas. So the to words queitly opposite of other. Hence, How can we integrate these to as a term?

  32. dear readers.
    Faith in God or religion make our life easy .But it requires trmendious courage to be secular spiritual even without believing in God. Secular spirituality asks Love and Bliss without cause what so ever; an unconditional love for all –living or non living ,say I love the sky not because its clouds showers rain and light but because it is loving and brings joy and bliss .I enjoy the novement od a baby as well as ths tiny ant .It means i am always full of joy and love witout anything in return ans I am the one of the most spiritual man on the earth or in the heaven that is again my mother earth (heaven for the rereligious men.

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