Was it a ‘Spiritual Experience?’

I happened across one of the short reflections I wrote after my 2006 sabbatical in India. It seemed to fit with the focus for worship this Sunday, which is the goal of world community as articulated in our 6th Unitarian Universalist Association Principle, so I share it here.

Was it a ‘spiritual experience?’ This is what many people want to know about my six week journey to India. After all, I’m a religious professional and India is full of religions.

It was a spiritual experience, but not in the way people are usually thinking when they ask the question. They want to know if I studied with a guru, meditated at an ashram, or made a certain pilgrimage. I did not.  

I went as a tourist. I went to see India – all of India – or at least as much as I could soak up in my meager visit. I needed the overview, the broad strokes, the highs and the lows, the everyday flow of life in this subcontinent nation of over a billion people.

And so I saw the things that one must see – The Taj Mahal, The River Ganges. I walked through crowded cities and rode camels through beautiful countryside. I visited natural parks and technology museums. I slept on trains and talked with children. I wandered the foothills of the Himalayas and floated on the backwaters of the tropical coast.

I argued with rickshaw drivers and wondered at street sweepers. I choked on the filthy air and shook my head at the piles of garbage. Still, breathtaking views of the natural world stopped me in my tracks and the grandeur of the achievements of humankind throughout millennium stretched my imagination to its edges.

And you want t to know if it was a spiritual experience?

All I can tell you is that the invisible threads that connect the world became more visible – not just visible – but shiny and clear in an intricate pattern beyond my understanding. My world is richer, deeper, more complicated and more connected.

Though its meaning continues to swirl through my being and has yet to take shape, and though the words to express it escape me – it is no less real. That my heart is filled with awe and wonder – I would call that a spiritual experience.

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