What is spirituality? The answer is often subjective. It may be sitting on a mountain top and meditating for some, while for others, it may be about connecting with their inner self wherever they are. Perhaps, for some of us, it could be service to fellow beings. How we choses to define spirituality is up to each of us. But one thing is for sure: spirituality is experiential. It can be achieved through any experience that brings the mind, body and spirit together in perfect harmony.
This realisation, however, did not come easily to man. Evolution was not an overnight affair. It took him aeons to evolve physically and intellectually. As he set out on the spiritual pursuit, man began contemplating the mystical nature of the world around him. This contemplation helped him understand himself better, leading him to frame a set of beliefs and guidelines for posterity. These beliefs were crystallised in scriptures and symbols that gradually became a part of his culture.
Over time, faiths began emerging across the world and bore symbols that represented their message. Some symbols transcended the barriers of faith and became universal. They facilitate the ultimate pursuit of spirituality. Soulveda explores the origins of a few such spiritual symbols, their significance, and what they represent.
According to Hinduism and Buddhism, lotus is a flower that is beloved to the gods. It is rich in symbolism in both the realms of mysticism and mythology.
According to ancient Hindu scriptures, when energy rises from the muladhara chakra at the base of one’s spine to the sahasrara chakra at the top of one’s head, one attains a spiritual awakening. Sahasrara is believed to be a thousand-petalled lotus. When the energy ascends to it, the lotus is said to bloom. This enlightened state is known as the Brahman–the pure state of consciousness.
In order to attain this enlightenment, a seeker chooses his own path. In Hatha yoga, it is believed that when a person practises padmasana (the lotus pose), he is on his path to spiritual enlightenment. The rise of a lotus from murky waters to become a beautiful flower perhaps can be likened to how consciousness evolves from mundane impulses to enlightenment.
According to Hindu mythology, Brahma–the creator–emerged from Vishnu’s navel in a lotus. The flower symbolises birth, growth and purity. In Buddhism too, a lotus is among the eight auspicious symbols. It symbolises enlightenment.
No ritual in Hinduism is complete without the chanting of Om. This represents the vibration of the universe. It is believed to be the first sound produced at the time of creation.
Om is the primordial sound comprising three sounds–Aaa, uu and hum. It is said that as one chants Om, prana (life force) moves upwards in one’s body, producing positive energy and expanding the mind. As the mind expands, it merges with the soul (tatva). Studies suggest that by chanting Om, one gets in touch with the infinite creative energy of the universe.
The symbol of Om is believed to have a deep, spiritual meaning. In Sanskrit, the visual symbol of Om has a dot, a semicircle and three curves. The curves represent the three states of consciousness. The bottom curve represents the waking state; the middle curve the dream state and the upper curve the sleeping state. The dot represents turiya, the fourth state of consciousness in which God is all pervasive. The semicircle that separates dot from the curves stands for maya, the illusion. Perhaps, it is the illusion that is an impediment for us to achieve turiya.
In the Celtic culture, the tree of life represents the combination of the forces of nature to create harmony and balance in the universe. It is a symbol of interconnectedness between the earth, the sky and the living beings.