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