The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
Question (Q): Acharya Ji, what is spirituality? What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Fundamentally there is no difference, no difference at all, but at a practical level a difference seems to arise and the difference is, that religion assumes an organized shape. Even spirituality can become organized but, religion is much more prone to organization. In that sense, religion becomes a condensed, frozen, very set pattern of beliefs, rituals, festivals, and such things. Spirituality, thankfully, is more free and fluid but essentially both are the same because the end of both is the same. Both are to take the mind to its Core, to Peace.
Spirituality assumes a much more open and accommodative route, religion gives a much more planned and organized route. So you could say that Truth or Peace is at the center. Spirituality is a small circle emanating from that center and religion is a much bigger circle around the same center. So spirituality and religion happen to be concentric and yet spirituality is much nearer to its goal than organized religion is.
Q: Acharya Ji, what is the universal essence of all religions?
AP: The universal essence of every religion is the universal thirst of every human being. Why do religions exist at all?
Religions exist for people.
Even if one religion or many religions say that they are based on the revealed word of god, to whom and for whose sake is God supposedly revealing his word? For the sake of the people, right? Even if God is sending down his prophets, messengers, books, and avatars, or even if his own son, it is for the sake of the people, the population, the men and women of this world.
So obviously, the purpose of religion has to be the same as the purpose of human life. The purpose of religion has to be exactly that which every single human being craves for. And what is it that we crave for? What is it that we ultimately want? It’s a certain rest, it is a certain closure. We want to come to a very secure sleep, we want to come to a point of relaxation. That relaxation, in different contexts, is variously described as freedom…