Spiritual but not religious?

“Spiritual but not religious” (SBNR), sometimes known as “spiritual but not affiliated” (SBNA), is a popular phrase and initialism used to describe a spiritual life perspective that does not see organized religion as the only or most valuable source of spiritual growth. Widely prevalent in the West, this concept is gaining momentum in the east also.

Historically, the terms religious and spiritual have been used interchangeably to describe all aspects of the concept of religion, but in modern usage, spirituality has come to be associated with the individual’s interior life, emphasizing the “mind-body-spirit” well-being, whereas religion refers to organizational or communal dimensions.

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Spiritual but not religious meaning

Religion means the ritualistic aspect of the belief system, whereas spirituality refers to internal transformative processes that take one to higher levels of consciousness. Spirituality deals with metaphysics and helps one attain ultimate peace. That the purpose of life is to attain immortal peace is an Indic discovery. Various systems have been developed and passed on from generation to generation that help people take to spirituality naturally. Some of these are eating habits, breathing techniques, chanting mantras, postures, and many other practising which enable one to progress spiritually irrespective of one’s faith.

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Please feel free to first take a look at TheCowherd‘s detailed article on spirituality and resume reading this blog.

Religious but not spiritual

On the other hand many blind followers of religion practice rituals for many years without even realizing the higher goal of attaining self-realization. They may go to a temple or church to get their wish fulfilled but still remain at the basic materialistic level of religion. They may be very sincere and pious devotees of their favourite god but they fail to realize the higher spiritual goal. These are the unfortunate people who are religious but not spiritual.

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Can you be spiritual without religion? Who is a spiritual non-religious person?

Religion typically faces a lot of opposition. Leaving aside the communal aspect of religion, most organized religions end up having methodical rituals and practices which sometimes cannot be scientifically justified. People have a natural longing for internal peace and happiness and they find religion insufficient to cater to their requirements. This is what gives rise to the new age concept of being spiritual but not religious.

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What is it called when you believe in God but not religion?

According to Eastern schools of philosophy, God is nothing but one’s real self. The self is not the body, not the mind but the inner consciousness which makes all these functions. When the concept of God is understood in this sense, there’s no need to practise any religion. Every religion or belief system appears to you just like a different approach to attaining the same goal. Be it devotion, yoga, meditation, or self-inquiry, it’s nothing but a method to attain godhead.

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Spiritual Prayers Not Religious

Any mantra from the Upanishads will serve as a good spiritual prayer. The Shanthi Mantra given below is found in the Taitriya Upanishad (2.1):


ॐ सह नाववतु ।
सह नौ भुनक्तु ।
सह वीर्यं करवावहै ।
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु ।
मा विद्विषावहै॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥

oṃ saha nāvavatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha vīryaṃ karavāvahai
tejasvi nāvadhītamastu
mā vidviṣāvahai
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ

Om! May the Divine protect us [Guru and Disciple],
May the Divine help us relish [in the learnings],
May we work with vigor,
May it [our study] fill us with brilliance,
May there be no hostility towards each other.
Om Peace Peace Peace.

Taitriya Upanishad (2.1)

In these prayers, there is no reference to any deity or personal God. Nor is any faith required. Upanishads are texts that discuss the ultimate reality of one’s self and consciousness and contain secular prayers. Considering the fact that these are some of the earliest and finest works produced by mankind, we must embrace and endeavour to know more about them.

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What does the acronym SBNR stand for?

SBNR stands for Spiritual but not religious.

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What does it mean when someone says they are spiritual?

In Indic parlance, when someone says they are spiritual, it means they are into some adhyatmic practice (method) to progress spiritually. It could be any method like Kriya yoga, Kundalini meditation, Chakra meditation, or Japa (chanting) of any mantra. These are powerful spiritual practices that elevate one’s consciousness levels gradually and help attain self-realization.

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What do you call a person who is spiritual but not religious?

Yogi would be a suitable word for a person who is spiritual but not religious. A Yogi would focus more on postures and breathing techniques to progress spiritually and lay less emphasis on ritualistic practices. Vedantin is another word. A Vedantin would emphasize on critical thinking, dispassion and rigorous self-enquiry to realise the self and lay less emphasis on worship and other activity oriented religious practices. But none of them would be fully correct because all these are different approaches to attain the same reality. Not having a religion can also be argued as a religion.

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How can I be spiritual without religion?

The Vedas can be divided into Karma Kanda (the section that deals with rituals or action) and Jnana Kanda (the section that deals with knowledge/realization). To be able to progress spiritually, one needs to develop Chitha Shudhi (purity of mind). The main benefit of religious worship or ritual is development of chitha shudhi. When one performs a daily puja, say for example, to his deity, gradually he surrenders his will power to the will of his god, gives up on rajasic qualities (affinity for spice food, action, restlessness, emotional turbulence, etc), and outgrows tamasic qualities (like long slumber, inaction, gloom, etc) and develops satvic qualities. Realizing that the purpose of ritual/worship is to gradually endow chitha shudhi, one may can replace this with any other suitable method to attain the same goal. Thus, one can be spiritual without religion.

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What is it called when a person believes in God but not religion?

Firstly, when you get the definition of God right, there is no need to believe in it. In the Indian world view, God is one’s self, the consciousness. We confuse this with personified godheads, or the deities that the devotees worship. If one doesn’t want to be religious, he or she can take up the path of Vedant or Yoga. Hinduism is full of methods to achieve self realisation. Depending on one’s appetite, one can select a method that works best for oneself.

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What is spiritual atheism?

Spiritual atheism is a concept in which people believe in a higher power but do not believe in personified God. In contrast to religious people, spiritual atheists do not believe in any “God.” They believe instead in a higher consciousness that cannot be represented by a physical body. They think that the universe is governed by the acts and intentions of its inhabitants.

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How do I start being spiritual?

The best way to start is by reading or listening to lectures on YouTube. It’s free, first of all. One needs to understand the basics first and then can enroll for courses. The popular brands may not be the most authentic ones.

One can start with understanding basic concepts of Vedanta, which will help lay foundation on the concepts of body, mind and God. Then one can explore the various oaths available, like that of bhakti (devotion) which deals with activities like worship and rituals, or Yoga, that involves working on your body or other methods.

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What does it mean to be a spiritual person?

The first and foremost quality of spiritual person is peace. A person who is truly spiritual will have the clarity that his goal is outside the relm of this material world. He will be clear on the concepts of Karma. That means, when an unfortunate event happens in his life, he would not blame circumstance or people, but rather take it as a stepping stone in his inward journey. When it is clear that the happiness and sorrow that we experience in this life is a function of a past Karma, there is no point in trying to change things around. Because this body is temporary. This life is limited. We are on a never ending cycle of birth and death. The ultimate liberation can be achieved only by realising one’s self and abiding in it.

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Is being spiritual and religious the same thing?

Yes and no. No, if you consider religion to be the activity oriented aspect of spirituality and consider spirituality the subtle aspect of religion, which is the case in Eastern religions. Yes, if you understand both in their deepest level of meaning or if you have a Western concept of both the terms, put forward by authors who have experience in neither.

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Spiritual but not religious book

A seeker needs to understand the Indic perspective on religion and spirituality. A good palce to start would be the Bhagavad Gita, which is a quintessential book that covers Indic spirituality in brief. Here’s a link to a small book on the Gita: https://istore.chennaimath.org/products/bhagavad-gita-as-viewed-by-swami-vivekananda/1309294000102342412

Leave us a query, if you need personalized tips on books/videos to begin your spiritual journey.

Published by The Cowherd

Your spiritual and wellness guide

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