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Exploring the dimensions of spirituality

Interfaith spirituality

Building spiritual awareness through interfaith partnerships

The spiritual wellness dimension is highly diverse. Spiritual wellness can include a specific spiritual path that serves as a guide to how we journey through life. For others, being in nature, writing, painting, or playing a musical instrument can provide a spiritual anchor. Whatever the path, spiritual wellness can provide purpose, reflection, personal growth, values, resiliency, hope, respect, and gratitude in our lives.

Illinois State University’s campus is growing more diverse each year. This diversity can lead to rich experiences if we are open to taking the time to be curious, to learn, and to understand. Exploring spiritual diversity provides an opportunity for us to gain awareness and insights, discover commonalities, respect differences, learn about different celebratory customs, cultivate interesting conversations, and even grow our own spiritual well-being. Understanding culture and spirituality can also enhance travel experiences nationally or internationally.

Sometimes it is helpful to have a baseline of knowledge regarding different spiritual practices. This can help us feel more informed when we engage with a person who has a different spiritual practice. Below is an overview of the most common forms of spiritual practices around the globe. Keep in mind these are simply basics, as there can be differences within each spiritual practice, just as there are different language nuances and accents within a culture.

Buddhism hails from an account of a man’s spiritual path to achieve enlightenment resulting in the teachings and lifestyle cultivated from his journey. Buddhism at its core is the spiritual development of an individual and the achievement of profound insight into life itself. From the Buddhist perspective, the road to enlightenment is through developing morality and wisdom and practicing meditation. Buddhism sees existence as infinite resulting in the reincarnation of many lives. Another belief is there is no permanency to anything and to have such expectations is a central cause of suffering for humans.

Christianity is rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and is the Son of God who was sent to save humans from their sins and gave his life on the cross to do so. Often, teachings of Jesus included tolerance, compassion, mercy, and nonjudgment of others. Christians believe there is one God, but that God is composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians worship in a church and use the Holy Bible as their sacred scripture to learn from and follow.

Hinduism does not have a sole creator, a single scripture, or a set of teachings. With this, Hinduism can be referenced as a way of life. The central Hindu texts are known as the Vedas, which translates to “knowledge” in the Sanskrit language. Many Hindus do believe in a Supreme God who is made up of several deities that originate from him. Like Buddhism, Hinduism also believes in reincarnation with the soul continuing on into each subsequent life. The new incarnation is determined by how the prior life was lived.

Islam followers are referred to as Muslims, who, like Chrisitians, believe in one God, Allah. Muslims believe God sent several prophets to help humans understand the way in which they should live, including Jesus, Moses, and Abraham. Muhammad is believed by the Muslims to be the final prophet. The Muslim holy scriptures are the Qur’an and the Sunnah with the Sunnah being the applied teachings of Muhammad. There are five foundational teachings, called the Pillars of Islam, which include an affirmation of faith, praying five times throughout the day, contributing money to charity, fasting, and a journey to Mecca at least once. Muslims traditionally worship in a mosque.

Judaism is known to be the earliest of the three Abrahamic faiths, including Christianity and Islam. Moses is referenced as initiating Judaism; however, Jewish people identify their roots to Abraham. Jews also believe in one God, who they share a covenant with in adhering to God’s laws, whereby they seek to integrate holiness into every facet of their daily lives. The Torah is their central text. Jews attend a synagogue, and their spiritual leaders are referred to as rabbis.

Our campus is a community of spiritual pluralism, and as previously mentioned, a place where there is opportunity to learn about one another, but it also an opportunity to work side by side serving others. To selflessly give of ourselves in service of others is a central tenet many spiritual practices share. Different faiths working and serving together is known as interfaith work.

Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core was a guest on our campus in October discussing interfaith work with various administrative, staff, and faith-based student organizations. Patel focuses on building an interfaith bridge of cooperation, utilizing the concept of serving others as a framework to build the bridge. With this, we have the opportunity as a campus and community to strengthen the bridge.

Whether you are administration, staff, faculty, or a student, consider what steps you can take on campus, or in your community to enhance your spiritual wellness and build a bridge of interfaith cooperation where serving others together can enrich your life and those you serve. As Patel says, we are “better together.”

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Comments

Salutations to the Divinity within you and for a great article and project. I am a Christian, but live and traveled overseas for 20 years studying the different religions and cultures and they have all made me a better Christian.

There is no separation between consciousness, soul and spirit because they are everywhere enlightening our awareness instantaneously. Our mind is a door that can open so consciousness or the spirit flows through us, but close the door and the flow stops because we identify with what is in our mind. We play with what is in our mind, but it limits us with the filters of our identity because it can’t understand the spirit flowing through the entrance. The mind is intellectual forming different images that we identify with such as father, mother, daughter, son, doctor, patient or student, teacher. Occasionally we remove the filters of our mind and observe different realities in an altered state of consciousness that is different than the physical realm. The brain is not the creator of consciousness it is more like a switchboard operator that lets the spirit flow or not. The mind closes the flow when it has us identify with the images that it creates, the same way water takes on the form of its container, but at that time the water is not flowing. An open, minded, awareness reveals and brings to light who we really are by shifting our perspective from the images of the mind to pure awareness. Intellectual awareness is not enough for consciousness because the mind’s reasoning is linear, conceptual or intellectual; spirituality is beyond thought based knowing. The mind can do nothing except allow our source energy from the soul to flow through us as consciousness.

John Kuykendall

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